10 Simple Steps To Make the Perfect Hot Dog

5 min read
hot dog

It’s that time of year again! Nothing says summer like the smell of char-grilled hot dogs wafting from the neighbor’s backyard, and we’ve got some tips for how you, too, can cook the perfect hot dog.

10. Choose the Best Hot Dog

nathans famous hot dog

The most important step in cooking the perfect hot dog is to start by choosing the best hot dogs the grocery store has to offer.

Some recommend buying Nathan’s Famous hot dogs — those delicious hot dogs they sell at Coney Island. And, yes, they are sold at the grocery store, too. These franks are all 100% beef and contain no by-products or artificial flavors.

Then, there’s the type of meat. Many people believe that all-beef hot dogs are superior to pork, chicken and turkey dogs. For example, chef Darryl Harmon of Clinton Hall in New York City said he prefers all-beef hot dogs because they grill better due to their high-fat content.

Another option is cured vs. uncured hot dogs. Curing hot dogs extends their shelf life and prevents bacteria from forming. But, on the flip side, those additives can potentially cause health issues.

Lastly, there are skinless hot dogs and hot dogs in natural casings. While franks in natural casings are harder to find, Joshua Bousel of SeriousEats.com thinks they are better than skinless franks because they have more snap factors.

Check out this article on the best and worst hot dogs to buy before you head out to the grocery store.

9. Thaw Them Thoroughly

thaw hot dogs

Make sure your hot dogs are totally defrosted before attempting to cook them. In fact, after thawing them in the fridge overnight, you should allow them to come to room temperature before putting them on the grill. Why? Because they’ll cook evenly.

When you put frozen hot dogs on the grill, the outside of the hot dogs will likely burn before the inside gets warm. The last thing you want to do is serve your guests a hot dog that’s overcooked on the outside and undercooked on the inside. Yuck!

8. Simmer Them Before Grilling

simmer, hot dogs, grill

Elias Cairo, owner and meat master Salumist of Olympia Provisions, told TODAY that he recommends simmering hot dogs in water for about 3 to 5 minutes before grilling. This gives them a bit of moisture before putting them on the grill heat.

And, for added flavor and to keep the natural casings from bursting on the grill, Cairo suggests simmering sausages in hoppy ale.

“If you really want to kick it up a notch, simmer it in beer first and then grill,” Cairo says.

7. Get the Temperature Just Right

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Getting the temperature on your grill just right is key to cooking the perfect hot dog. According to an article published by TODAY, medium or just under that is the right amount of heat. This is about 400 to 425 degrees.

If, however, the grill is cooling off, you won’t get good results. The same thing can be said if the grill is way too hot. Yes, many people like a bit of charring on their hot dogs, but they don’t want them so charred that they end up burnt.

6. Make Sure the Charcoal Has Turned White in Color

charcoal, grill

Before adding any hot dogs to your grill, make sure the charcoal has turned white in color. Once they’ve ashed over, spread them out using tongs and replace the top grate. You’ll need to let this heat up for a few minutes. Then, you can add your hot dogs.


  • Don’t cook your hot dogs over direct heat or an open flame.
  • Season the grill with a little bit of oil to ensure each part of the hot dog is grilled evenly.

5. Don’t Puncture Your Hot Dogs


Some people suggest making a few slits in your hot dogs before putting them on the grill to prevent them from shrinking. But, according to an article published by Nathan’s Famous, that’s the worst thing you can do.

That’s because puncturing the hot dogs before putting them on the grill allows the juices to escape once placed on the heat. As a result, you’ll end up with tough and dry hot dogs. You’ll probably end up with some very unhappy guests, too, if you happen to be throwing a backyard bash.

4. Move Your Hot Dogs Around


It is common knowledge to flip your burger patties. But, did you also know that you need to move your hot dogs around as well? Yep, it’s true. There are a couple of reasons why.

  1. Moving them around can prevent the casings from bursting (this will happen if they’re left in one spot for too long).
  2. You need to flip them to make sure you get even charring, a.k.a. grill marks, on both sides.

“It will take about 2 to 3 minutes to develop grill marks on one side of a hot dog. Once that’s achieved, turn it over and repeat. Then it’s fully cooked,” Men’s Health wrote on its website.

3. Add Butter


According to Men’s Health magazine, Joseph Rizza, executive chef of Prime & Provisions, recommends brushing a dab of melted butter (garlic butter, preferably) onto your hot dogs right before removing them from the grill.

Why? Well, according to Nathan’s Famous, a dab of butter (or a little bit of oil) gives the hot dogs a more decadent flavor.

ALL TIME TIP: This also works when pan-frying hot dogs on the stovetop. Instead of adding water to the skillet or frying pan, simply swap out the water for oil or butter.

2. Use the Right Toppings


When it comes to creating the perfect hot dog, toppings are everything. In fact, they can make or break an otherwise decent frank.

Depending on where you live, the “perfect toppings” can vary. For example, New Yorkers wouldn’t dare put ketchup on a hot dog (which is my favorite topping, by the way).

Instead, most of them will just add mustard, which perfectly complements the smokiness of the hot dog.

Another choice is the traditional Chicago-style hot dog. It’s topped with mustard, white onion, sweet pickle relish, sport peppers, tomatoes, celery salt and a pickle spear. And, of course, there’s the all-American hot dog, which is topped with ketchup, mustard, relish, and onions.

1. Don’t Forget About the Buns


Serving up the perfect bun is just as important as grilling up the perfect hot dog. And, there are several ways in which you can make your buns even tastier. Here are a few tips:

  1. Pop them into the microwave for 10 to 15 seconds. This will get them warm and fluffy.
  2. Gently toast them on the grill for about one minute per side.
  3. Brush them with butter and place them on the high rack of your grill for about 20 seconds to warm them up.

Claudia Sidoti, the principal chef at HelloFresh, recommends using soft potato buns for most types of hot dogs.