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HOTDOG showdown

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I'm talking supermarket dogs that you can cook yourself. I thought this would be a good 'poll' of sorts, since there actually aren't all too many different brands. Although I'm sure there are variations across the country (I live in Los Angeles).

BALLPARK: used to eat these almost exclusively since childhood. Don't really know why, but this is certainly a national brand. I guess I just see these as the 'mcdonalds' of hotdog brands.

HEBREW NATIONAL: I really got into these after going for trying something new. I think I overdid it and got sick of these.

NATHAN'S: Tried these recently-- I heard that Nathen's where known for their 'snap' which I was looking for, but looking even at the packaging, it stated that they were 'skinless', and of course, they weren't particularly snappy when I ate them. I would assume these are pretty much identical to what they serve in their store(s), so I don't really know if people were just off the mark.

HOFFY: Never tried. See these all the time, noteworthy because they are stunningly CHEAP. I looked them up to see if I could find any info, and surprisingly found that these are what the famous LA hotdog 'mecca' Pinks serve (well, the Hoffy brand anyway). Curiosity piqued.

FARMER JOHN'S: Never tried. These may not be national-- but certainly you find them in LA. They are famous for making "Dodger dogs". You can find Dodger dogs in the supermarket as well-- in addtion to I believe, a normal variety.

OSCAR MEYER: Don't recall ever trying these.


Don't know if I'm missing any brands. Really curious to what y'all have to say, especially on the ones I haven't tried yet, like Hoffy (idea for this thread came while seeking info on this brand). Hope this topic hasn't been done yet, or at least not too recently!!

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  1. If you liked Hebrew National you might also check out Best Kosher or if you are willing to venture out of the supermarket try Jeff's Gourmet Kosher Sausage - http://www.jeffsgourmet.com/ - which are excellent

    1. My favorite has been Thumann's natural casing. Certainly not Kosher though as they are a pork product not beef. But they do have that SNAP as you bite into them.

      1. For the supermarket variety, I think the best are the Boar's Head natural casing. For some reason, most hotdogs in supermarkets, at least near my apartment in NYC, are of the skinless variety, except the boars head.

        2 Replies
        1. re: ESNY

          I second the Boar's Head natural casing.

          1. re: grampart

            We've tried Boar's Head several times, and though we loved the flavor we found ourselves experiencing digestive problems afterwards each time. No idea why, but we now avoid them.

            Nathan's makes a natural-casing dog that some stores carry. Some homesick New Yorker had a Coney-style hot dog place in Nashville for a while and served these, but although I loved them apparently not enough other people did...

        2. Cantella's Turkey Dogs (Trader Joe's) are yummy and have that snap.

          1. Are you able to get Sabrett dogs where you are? I'm starting to see Sabrett carried nationally. My favorite type of this brand is the natural casing. I second the reply that mentioned Best's. Those are my favorite.

            Oscar Meyer - BLECH!!! So salty and fake tasting. But I will admit that I loved them dearly during my childhood.

            I'm also fond of the Nathan's natural casing as well as Boar's Head Natural casing. Both of these are delicious dogs. The skinless are a little too salty.

            God, I love hot dogs so much. My doctor informed me that if I am to get pregnant, I need to cut down sharply on the dog intake or only eat organic dogs.

            1. I grew up on Hebrew National so that is still what hot dogs are "supposed" to taste like to me, but we've been eating Applegate Farms lately and they're really good.

              1. Try a natural casing beef frank from the deli...i find those the best.

                1. Around here, in addition to the ubiquitous Oscar Meyer (which I don't buy because they seem awfully expensive for what you're getting), we have John Morrell, Bar S (which is what I grew up eating), and Farmland. They're all about the same. There is an all-beef option available from Bar S.

                  But my very favorites come from a place called Fanestil's in Emporia, Kansas. They make these big "dinner franks" with casings. We would have them when my grandpa grilled in the backyard. When you cook them over charcoal (none of that gas nonsense in my family), the casings split open. Then you cut them in half and put them on hamburger buns and top like you would a hamburger (lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, ketchup, mustard and mayo). Absolutely fantastic. We bring back a few packages every time we go to Kansas, and put them in the freezer.

                  1. I really like Dietz and Watson all beef hot dogs. I think they're a philadelphia company (where i went to college), but i see them in NY. Nothing like one of those at 2 am...

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: MBShapiro

                      I second the Dietz & Watson dogs. Good flavor and great "snap." If I can't find those, Boar's Head are second choice. BH used to be my favorite, but I overdid it on those, so now I alternate.

                      1. re: Moonpie

                        I'm a fan of the Dietz and Watson dogs too...and Hebrew National (the reduced fat ones are tasty, but the 98% fat free ones really have an odd flavor that seems to linger in the mouth way too long...there's a package of those languishing in the fridge now that no one in the family will eat...I'll NEVER buy those again!)

                    2. Go back to the Ball Parks...franks not beef. They plump when you cook 'em. If you want some snap, put them in the oven at about 300 degrees until the skins get hard and split open. I've eaten many different brands, nothing compares to the Ball Park. I can't tell you how many times people have said to me: "These hot dogs are really good" when I fix 'em a Ball Park.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: BigSteve

                        I recently participated in a comprehensive hot dog tasting. See here: http://offthebroiler.wordpress.com/20...

                        Most of these hot dogs are available in supermarktes. They were tasted blind and evaluated. For a kosher style all beef hot dog, my favorite is Best's from New Jersey (not to be confused with Chicago). The natural casing version is only available at the factory or the hot dog stands that serve them. The skinless version you can get in supermarkets in and around N.J. The other main style of frank, the German style, consists of a beef and pork blend. It is mildly spiced compared to kosher style, without much (or all) of the garlic and paprika. The best in this style is Thumanns, which was mentioned earlier. Sahlens of Buffalo, N.Y. is also very good.

                        As far as brands that are available nationally or almost nationally, I would say that Boars Head natural casing all beef is the best that you can get in a supermarket. The day after sampling 32 hot dogs, I compared a Boars Head with a Nathan's. Both natural casing, both scored well. Although Nathan's was our winner, on this day I picked Boars Head. It had a very good snap, good texture, and outstanding flavor. The Nathan's was very good also, but a tad greasy and a little saltier than the Boars Head.

                      2. I only eat Boar's Head, Thumann's, Sabrett, or Hebrew National. I won't touch any other supermarket brand. I tried Best's after reading praise on CH years ago, and thought they were horrid.

                        I prefer to get hotdogs at a local German meat shop.

                        1. No, the skinless Nathan's are not was is served in the stores. Far from identical. Skinless is merely a concession to people who really don't like hot dogs...

                          Anyway, skin-on at the mother ship on Stillwell Ave in Coney Island is wonderful. Wonderful. Wonderful.

                          Now, I should note that "hot dog" in the US means one of two things: a pork or pork-beef dog that is usually poached and then serves as a vehicle for other things (a venerable tradition in Chicago) or a garlicky kosher-style beef dog (for example, Nathan's is *not* kosher - to be kosher, they couldn't use anything from the rear part of even a kosher animal, and casings can be a problem - but is flavored in that tradition) that is usually pan-grilled and is the main attraction (more typical of NY).

                          Both styles of frankfurter have roots in Frankfurt, Germany, but have descended in different ways. If you want to eat a frankfurter like a Frankfurter would, you'd get a pair of poached dogs and eat them with mustard and a roll.

                          Anyway, I like Boar's Head beef natural casing, Schaller & Weber beef natural casing (has a lovely mustard flavor profile, which I often don't like), Sabrett's beef natural casing, Hebrew National beef w/casing (which I thought was no longer made - it's not even listed among their products on their website - but reportedly is available in some select delis/butchers in the NY area (sigh)), Pearl Country Club beef natural casing (small - the big ones are more like knockwurst, too big), et cet. Of the more commonly available beef w/casing versions, Dietz & Watson, Deutschmacher, and Kayem don't make the cut - they seem like they are halfway between the non-kosher and kosher-style dogs in terms of flavoring, just not bold enough.

                          A dog without casing is not worth the calories.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Karl S

                            I, too prefer dogs w/casing. That's why I trek to the factory to get Best's natural casing dogs. When you mention Chicago dogs, they are all beef, not pork or pork-beef. The original sausage maker at the Vienna Beef Company in Chicago (which supplies more than 80% of the hot dog stands there) was a Hungarian Jew. The Hungarian style of beef hot dog which is popular in Chicago is known for a subtle, spicier mix of flavorings including paprika and coriander, while the New York style of dog, originating with Russian and Polish Jews, is known for its bolder flavor and garlic backbone. That's why a Nathan's or grilled Sabrett is fine with just mustard on it. A less assertive Chicago dog comes with mustard, neon green relish, pickle slices, tomato, onions, celery salt, and sports peppers. This dog, being milder, goes better with all of the ingredients. A Nathan's or Sabrett would throw this type of dog out of balance.

                            In Germany, the pork-beef dog is preferred. Sometimes veal is included in the meat mix. This frank is mildly flavored with nutmeg, mace, nutmeg, and a lot of salt. It does indeed come served boiled and topped with mustard. A roll is served on the side.

                            As for Hebrew National, a sheep or hog casing is not kosher, but a collagen casing is allowed under kosher law. In my area of the country, N.Y./N.J. you can get Hebrew National with these casings at Wegmans as well as a few kosher delis. Maple Kosher Meats in Union, N.J. and Goldberg's Kosher Meats in Old Bridge are two such places. In New York City, Empire National (which makes a fine kosher dog) and Hebrew National are available with collagen casings.

                            1. re: hotdoglover

                              Thanks for the background on the Chicago dog; I am glad to know the HN is still being made, if harder to find than when I was used to having them 30 years ago. I was aware of the collagen casing option, but I got the sense that some makers felt it wasn't worth the effort anymore.

                              Oh, and the best bun for non-Chicago dogs is the New England top-loading bun, griddled on both sides....