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Thoughts on the chili dog

When I'm cooking for myself my eating habits tend to resemble laboratory test procedures: fixate on one food, cook it every which way until I get it exactly how I want it, eat it for every meal until I'm sick of it, then become obsessed with something else. Last week it was romaine lettuce salads, the week before that it was roast chicken leg quarters. This week for some reason I have an inexplicable fixation on chili dogs. After doing my standard futzing around with the preparation I've come to a few conclusions:

1) I can't make a better hot dog chili than Wolf brand no beans, with a little cayenne added
2) Any cheap bun will do as long as it's softened up for 20 seconds in the microwave
3) Likewise, a stripe of the cheapest yellow mustard on top of the chili provides just the right vinegar tang. More expensive mustards don't work.
4) The quality, casing, and animal of origin almost doesn't matter as long as you get a good crisp char on the outside.

What do you think? To my palate the above chili dog tastes great, but I don't like these findings because I know better chili dogs are out there. I'd love a great homemade chili recipe, for example. Any tips and tricks for improving the home chili dog are welcome.

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  1. The key for me is judicious use of the chili.

    Never use so much that a chili dog becomes a knife-and-fork endeavor.

    Never use so little that the mustard is the dominant flavor.

    Use just enough that you can pick it up in one hand, open wide, and take a nice even bite without the chili spilling over the bun, or squirting up your nostrils when you bite down on the dog.

    It's what I call the "Goldilocks effect of Chili Dogs"

    1 Reply
    1. re: ipsedixit

      Agree with RMJ and ipse. My only additions to their observations are that diced raw onion and grated extra sharp cheddar make a sublime C-dawg even better.

    2. I love chili. I love hot dogs with mustard. I cannot abide the two combined. Yuck. Just plain yuck. However, I will happily agree that Wolf's is the best canned chili I've tasted yet.

      3 Replies
      1. re: rockycat

        Mustard on Chili Dogs is extremely prevalent. In fact, I think more common than not.

        DT

        1. re: Davwud

          I agree w/Davwud - I have assumed - wrongly, I guess - that mustard is a default on a chili dog. I like onions, too, but I am used to having to ask for the onions to be added.

          1. re: jeanmarieok

            I'm used to being asked if I want it. Skyline Chili for example. Now, if you go to Va or WVa and ask for a dog "The Works" or to Carolina and ask for "All the way" you'll get mustard. As well as chili, cheese and slaw.

            Some dogs taste better and others don't. My general rule still applies here. It's you food, eat it how you like it.

            One thing that I was surprised to find is that hot dog chili is not eatin' chili. Most often they're made somewhat differently. Most hot dog chili's aren't that great on their own and most eatin' chilies aren't great on dogs. YMMV.

            DT

      2. I can enjoy either a light chili hand held model like ipsedixit or a sloppy knife and fork job with a full cup or so of chili on it.

        I like mustard, onion, and pickle relish in either case. If I have good tomatoes in the garden I also like diced tomato on it.

        Will have to look for the Wolf chili because I've never had a canned chili that was even close to as good as a chili made from a packet of seasoning.

        4 Replies
        1. re: kengk

          Kengk, what is your preferred seasoning packet and how do you prepare it?

          Thanks

          1. re: RealMenJulienne

            McCormicks, hot. The only thing I do different from the package directions is that I usually cook a little onion with the meat.

          2. re: kengk

            If you haven't been yet, you have GOT to check out the chili dog at the Dinglewood Pharmacy lunch counter in Columbus. I'm with you on how you like your chili dog (messy with lots of chili, mustard, onion, pickles, and oyster crackers) and that's exactly how they serve it. They call it the "Scrambled Dog".

            1. re: 1POINT21GW

              It's been years since I've been to the Dinglewood. Several places around here serve scrambled dogs.

          3. I never tried (nor heard of) Wolf chili, but like kengk, I'm shocked to hear a home made chili cannot beat a canned version - and chili is way easy to make, even without a seasoning packet. (OK, not your guru bowl of red, I'm talking about your garden variety browned hash meat with onion, chili powder, and tomato sauce).
            Perhaps get fixated on chili and perfect that and move on to the chili dog?

            My preference: dog is boiled, not grilled or griddled.
            Mustard: like rockycat - on hot dogs, but not chili dogs.
            Small diced onion.
            Sprinkle of cayenne.
            Also, I like to open the bun wide when adding the chili, then let the beast rest a bit, maybe 4-5 minutes. This allows your softened bun (steamed) to soak up some of the goodness.

            3 Replies
            1. re: porker

              I can make a decent Midwestern or Texas Red to my satisfaction, but hot dog chili is a whole different thing. The processed salty blast of the canned stuff just seems to work better than anything I can come up with. Can you elaborate on your chili recipe? Specifically I'm wondering what thickener you use (if any)

              1. re: RealMenJulienne

                I think you're right to point out the difference between hot dog chili and (as I mentioned) a bowl of red.
                I ran a restaurant in another life and we sold chili dogs. It was a simple chili (and by god, we used beans), similar to Dirtywextraolives method below. Something like this;
                Brown ground beef (hash meat) and chopped onions (ratio is up to you).
                Near end of browning, sprinkle in chili powder to taste (doesn't have to be any fancy brand, just any old chili powder, but not to be confused with crushed chili or ground chili. Its a blend of spices called "chili powder". I think its this seasoning that'll give you the "salty blast").
                Stir while sauteing, kinda cooking the powder into the meat while still somewhat dry.
                Add tomato sauce (I use non-flavored, Hunts) and kidney beans with liquid (optional - I know this freaks some people out...)
                Stir and simmer until it reaches the consistency you want (no thickening agent).
                Thats it .

                Of course, theres the 'Michigan' in southern Quebec and upstate New York (and fringes of northern Vermont) which is a different animal altogether (and different from a coney dog as well). Maybe have a look here
                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/432828
                for various recipes - many people claim to have the 'original' recipe.

                1. re: porker

                  Quote:
                  "Stir while sauteing, kinda cooking the powder into the meat while still somewhat dry."

                  I agree that cooking the chili powder/spices, or seasoning packet, into the meat before adding liquid greatly improves the flavor.

            2. Agree with your first three points. But for me, the hot dog MUST have a casing.