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Hot Dog It’s 2016

January 1, 2016

Multitasking. It totally sucks. It’s a great way of doing two things poorly. However, I’m constantly amazed by people who seem to be able to do it well. Maybe it’s generational, because I’ve had lucid conversations with people as they were texting. For me, I have a hard time texting without moving my mouth while I do it.

I keep saying that I’ll try to do less of it moving forward. But I’m off to a terrible start in 2016.

Do I really post every year on New Year’s Day? Going back to the archive, it looks like I do. Funny how I can’t remember writing those posts. And perhaps this year will be another one to add to the pile of forgotten memories.

Our New Year’s Eve celebration was a low-key family affair. It started with dinner at Taiwan Noodle, a rousing game of Catan, a viewing of The Lego Movie, and sparkling wine at midnight (cream soda for the kids) in front of the TV watching the ball drop in Times Square.

All of that partying made me hungry. So it’s off to the fridge for a late night snack.

We just came back from the family farm in rural Pennsylvania, and there’s a great little butcher shop outside Altoona called Holland Bros. Meats. That’s where I get my scrapple, and really where we get the entire parade of meats that makes up the semi-annual trips down to the farm.

This year, I brought back some of their house-made hot dogs. And yep, I’m cooking one up as I write this post. But this is the kind of multitasking I can deal with. Mostly because hot dog cookery is something I’ve mastered over the past couple of years. It’s a subject that I think deserves some attention, since so many people do it wrong.

My life isn’t filled with very many regrets, but the years and years that I’ve spent destroying hot dogs is pretty high on that list.

I can cook a hot dog and write a blog post at the same time for one simple reason. Hot dogs are already cooked. Don’t snicker. There are plenty of people who don’t realize this simple truth. Of course, there are those who may be worried about things like listeriosis, and that might be a fair concern, but I’m hard pressed to believe the risk of hot dogs is any greater than sliced bologna or deli ham. And if you aren’t preoccupied about pathogens in those foods, than undercooking hot dogs shouldn’t bother you either.

And that’s really the secret.

Hot dogs don’t need to be cooked. They simply need to be gently warmed. Those smokey tube steaks are filled with delicious fat. The key is to simply melt the interior fat while keeping the casing intact. If the casing picks up much color, your pan is too hot, or you aren’t flipping the dog frequently enough. Next time, turn it down a bit.

As I write this, I’m standing next to my cast iron skillet, which is on a burner set to 2 of a maximum of 9. Periodically, I’m reaching into the pan to flip the dog with my fingers. I can do that, because it’s not all that hot. And when I flip my weiner, I’m also squeezing it a bit to check its interior juiciness.

These Pennsylvanian specimens are made with a natural sheep casing. And that will tighten up as it cooks to give these a delightful snap. I’ll slather this with some mustard, so I get a bit of vinegar to cut through the fat. And I’ll top it with a spoonful of Ann’s Raspberry Farm Savory Brussels Sprout Relish, because I’m fancy that way.

Sure, in New Jersey, they’ll deep fry the dogs until they rip open under the intense heat. In Chicago they’ll char the crap out of ‘em before topping them with a salad. And in New York City they’ll warm franks in the beloved dirty water carts of my youth.

While all of these styles hold a special place in my heart, the best bet is a pan or a skillet. Something gentle. Something that will contain every bit of the glorious fat and flavor that the butcher put into the casing in the first place.

Let’s start off this year by fixing bad habits and learning new things. Look at me. I just multitasked like a boss. It helps when I have a full keyboard, and I’m not trying to type with my thumbs.

Happy New Year.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 1, 2016 12:40 pm

    In my mind, there are two options. You can gently steam the dog in a steamer mounted above a pan with gently simmering water, or you can make a hot dog sandwich by frying the dogs in a cast-iron skillet (you’ll generally need two dogs for that), with you’ll assemble everything with a little bit of good mustard and, if you prefer, a little kraut and/or relish. I’m a purist, I suppose, when it comes to hot dog preparation. I’ll have to try those hot dogs from Holland Brothers. Usually I’m partial to Evergoods when I’m out West or Kayems or snappy grillers here in Albany.

  2. January 1, 2016 3:36 pm

    I know you worked hard on that “flip my weiner” line. Heh heh. (That’s a Beavis and Butthead snicker.)

  3. Shawn permalink
    January 2, 2016 7:44 pm

    Hot dog warmed in a microwave, have you tried it? That is my preferred method if I don’t have a pan or grill already going.

  4. January 3, 2016 5:24 pm

    I don’t know. If you have a truly quality frankfurter sausage/hot dog, I would say the best way to experience it would be to gently warm it in water. Don’t get me wrong, I love me a griddle dog under a variety of circumstances.

    Your thing about “melting the interior fat” is weird to me. I’m no scientist, but the fat in a hot dog is in an emulsion. If you have a lot of fat melting out during cooking, that is indicative of an inferior sausage that has “broken.” What you are probably noticing is the release of water. You see this with hot dogs that have been on a roller for too long, they are in effect being dehydrated. I find this concentrates salinity.

    If you have a sausage maker who has spent much worry getting the salt percentage right in his product, simmer that dog to best enjoy his work. Or simmer it to temp and give it the barest of sears in a hot buttered pan. You want everything that is in that casing to stay in that casing.

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