Some of you may have read my original hot dog shootout, either in New Times or here at The Meatist, a piece to which I promised a follow up. Well, the weekend is here, and so is another hot dog shootout. So don’t say I’m not a man of my word.
I swung by my local purveyor of packaged meat products and picked up four fat packs of hot dogs, all of which are all-beef, and one of which contains the Hebrew National hot dogs that people complained weren’t included in my original shootout. Also in today’s comparo are Ball Park Angus Beef Franks, Oscar Mayer All Beef Franks (in light of the fact that their wiener – hehe – did so well last time), and Sabrett Skinless Beef Frankfurters, which were the brand of dirty water dogs from NYC that I remember most clearly.
As before, I cooked them two ways: grilled, of course, but this time, instead of boiling them, I busted out my 70s-era Presto Hot Dogger to electrocute them. Contrary to comments from certain people in my family, these devices do exist, and we did have one growing up. So before we get to the reviews, check out some footage of my hot dogs getting the chair.
Sweet, right? Here’s a bonus 30 second video of the pierced ends of each dog (and me burning my fingers).
After sucking on my fingers for a bit, I dropped them onto a plate and dug in, trying them plain, with mustard, and with mustard on bread. Obviously, since they were devoid of grill marks, the electrocuted dogs gave a more neutral platform for a taste test, but I was curious to see if grilling could elevate an otherwise back-of-the-pack dog to front runner status. It couldn’t: the results were consistent regardless of the cooking technique.
Oscar Mayer Wieners were (to me at any rate) a surprisingly strong finisher in part one of my comparison, so I had high hopes for their all-beef counterparts. No such luck. The beef offerings from the mighty Mr. M had a bite to them I didn’t like; sort of sour, and almost like the meat had gone bad (it hadn’t – I think – I’ll let you know though).
They were also way too salty, a fact that I confined by checking the salt content on the package after my shootout. These guys have 470 mg of salt in a 45 g serving, or 10.6 mg per gram. All three of the other contenders had about 10% less sodium per gram, which kept my tongue from puckering and let me know my palate isn’t total crap. Which is good news.
The upshot: stick with Oscar’s wiener – his beef just doesn’t stand up.
These are the fellows that I was taken to task for not including the first time around, and I understand why – they have a huge following, and they deserve it. But not necessarily because they’re the best tasting, and I don’ t know that they are.
Hot dogs have a certain “hot dogginess” to them that sets them apart from just being ground meat stuffed into a casing. It’s the combination of spices, and sometimes smokiness, that does it for me. And the Hebrew National has less of that hot dogginess than the other brands – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, because it tastes the most like meat, which is a good thing.
So it breaks down like this – it’s a very tasty tube steak that I wouldn’t kick out of my kitchen, with a unique blend of spices that set it apart from most other dogs and make it a bit less of a traditional tasting hot dog than you might expect. But they’re a delicious and solid choice if you’re willing to spend the extra cash on them.
Sabrett Beef Frankfurters
I had high hopes for these, as I’ve probably eaten hundreds of them from hot dog carts in New York. Sadly, they let me down.
I don’t know if I’m remembering them differently, or they just mass produce a different dog, but these are far, far greasier and far, far less delicious than I remember them being. Perhaps having them bob around in those hot dog hot tubs all day relaxes them and releases the grease, but I found these things to be almost gross, whether ‘cuted or grilled (though the grill marks on these gave more improvement in taste than on the competitors).
I’m actually irritated I have some left, because I neither want them nor want to serve them to my kids. A total disappointment, though I’ll try sitting them in hot water for six hours at some point, then serving them with dirty fingers and eating them in an exhaust cloud in an attempt to replicate the experience in NYC and see if they become edible. I’m thinking no.
Like the Oscar Mayer Wieners in round one, I didn’t expect much from these boys going in: I hadn’t tried them in years, and almost skipped them all together, so sure was I that they’d taste like those mealy budget dogs you get at crappy cookouts.
And again, like those round one wieners, I was wrong. These had the beefiest flavor of the bunch, and they stood up well to the bread and mustard application. They had a bit of smokiness that I liked: not to the point of being a sausage or a brat, but just enough to make me say “mmmm.”
In my notes I wrote that they tasted sweet, and a check of the label post-test gave one more (very) minor victory to my palate: they’re the only ones with a sweetener, though it’s corn syrup, which is kind of a drag no matter how tasty it makes them. But that slight sweetness makes them the ones I’m betting your kids will like the most. Thankfully, you’ll enjoy them too, because they’re really good.
Not too greasy, just the right density, and plenty of that beef flavor pushed these out front for me today, and they’re my number one choice in this group for a cookout due to the fact that pretty much anyone will like them, they grill up really nicely, and they’re extremely reasonably priced.
On a different day, in a different mood, I could see the Hebrew Nationals being my favorite. But they’re so stylistically different that I can’t pick a straight-up winner: my mood (or budget) would dictate my choice on any given day.
One last bonus note on the Ball Parks and the Oscar Mayers: both come in resealable packages, which is a nice thing. Just make sure you actually seal them properly before picking them up to put them away so you don’t pour hot dog water all over your bare foot. A drag, trust me.
In the end, this thing worked out great. I’m happy I have those Ball Parks and the Hebrew Nationals in my fridge, though the Oscars and Sabretts may be hitting the bin. (I’ll wait until my grease high dissipates before I make a final decision). Plus, with the Ball Parks on my “happy to eat ‘em” list, I have one more option in the budget-but-delicious meat category.
Of course, this means I’ll probably have to do a final dog-off between Hebrew National, Nathan’s (the round one winner) and Ball Park. Poor me.