When the weather is warm, who doesn’t get the itch to grill up some juicy hot dogs? Summer BBQ parties just aren’t complete without the classic hot dog. Toddlers and adults alike love a good hot dog on a bun by itself, or loaded with toppings.
Hot dogs are easy to cook to perfection, but they’re also easy to cook wrong, resulting in disappointment for your guests. Below, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about grilling the perfect dog at your next cookout.
Which Hot Dogs Should You Choose?
There are many different types of hot dogs: All-beef dogs, turkey dogs, pork and chicken combo dogs, cured and uncured dogs, cheesy dogs, jalapeno dogs, and more. If you want your guests to be impressed by your hot dogs, it’s best to choose ones made from high-quality ingredients.
No matter what brand or style of hot dog you choose, the cooking basics will be the same.
Hot dogs are fully cooked and smoked, so you can technically eat them straight out of the package. Grilling them brings out the full flavor and makes them plump up. Because they’re already cooked, they don’t need as much time on the grill as raw sausages.
Preheating to the right temperature is key to preventing burning your hot dogs. The ideal hot dog cooking temperature on the grill is between 250°F and 325°F, which is about medium-low heat. On the other hand, meat like steak, pork chops, and chicken are typically cooked at medium-high heat.
Avoiding Hot Spots
Even brand-new gas grills have hot spots. Typically, the hot spots are found toward the rear of the cooking surface. You’ll want to avoid the hot spots, so your hot dogs don’t blister, burst, and get charred. You’re shooting for a nice golden-brown color on the perfectly cooked hot dog.
If you need help finding the hot spots on your grill, we have an easy method for you to try. Preheat your grill and cover the grill surface with slices of bread. The slices that toast first are the hottest spots. Avoid placing your hot dogs there.
Turning Your Hot Dogs
With hamburgers and steaks, grill masters will tell you that the experts only need one flip to get the perfect cook. Hot dogs are the opposite. When you think about hot dogs at fairs and gas stations, they often use a hot dog rolling machine that gives an even cook to all sides.
The goal when grilling is similar. Keeping your dogs moving will help prevent charring and keep them juicy. If you want to get beautiful char marks across your hot dogs, briefly place them over a hot spot just before taking them off the grill and serving them to guests.
How Long to Grill Hot Dogs
The length of time to grill your hot dogs will vary slightly based on the size and composition of the hot dogs. In general, your hot dogs will be done in about five minutes, but may take as long as ten minutes to heat all the way through.
Lean hot dogs need less grill time than hot dogs with higher fat content. If you rely on a meat thermometer when grilling, your hot dogs should reach an internal temperature of at least 140°F. Hot dogs can also be cooked on the warming rack if the rest of your grill surface is occupied.
Extra Smokey Hot Dogs
So, you want to infuse a bit of extra smokey goodness into your hot dogs? Natural smoke flavor is easily achieved when using a charcoal grill. You can purchase charcoal made with wood chips or add wood chips separately to a smoke box to get extra smoke flavor into your hot dogs.
If you’re working with a gas grill, you can also use a smoke box with wood chips, wood pellets, or even sawdust. Or, you can use gas grill accessories that add specialized charwood to your gas grill for natural smoke flavors with easy clean-up.
Best Toppings to Have at Your Cookout
Some people love the naked goodness of a plain hot dog on a bakery bun, but others love to pile their hot dogs high with nutritious extras. We all know yellow mustard, ketchup, and relish are solid choices you should have on hand, but here are some other toppings your guests might enjoy:
- Diced onions
- Pickled jalapeños
- Pico de gallo
- Banana peppers
- Shredded cheese or cheese sauce
- Spicy brown mustard or Dijon mustard
- Sour cream
- Crispy onions
- Bacon bits
- Chipotle mayo
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all the different things you can top your hot dogs with. If hot dogs are a main attraction at your cookout, try setting up a topping buffet for your guests to build their own hot dog grill masterpieces. Happy grilling this season!