Why you shouldn't put toppings on your hot dogs this summer.
Before you put a hot dog in your mouth this summer, I need to tell you something. You know those little squiggly lines of ketchup and mustard you’ve been putting on your dogs all these years? Sometimes you criss-cross them. Sometimes you keep them straight and separate. Sometimes you get little globs spread intermittently across the sausage because you’ve been using the same ketchup and mustard since the Bush administration. What if I told you you’ve been doing it wrong this whole time?
My family moved to America from Bombay in 1996. The first distinctly American meal I remember eating was a Papa John’s pizza in our humble apartment in Coral Springs, Fla. Since then, I’ve sampled the entire milieu of our national cuisine a hundred times over, and I’ve repeatedly asked myself the following very important question: What’s with all the damn sauce?
Which brings me back to hot dogs. Look, hot dogs aren’t typically a fancy meal. You’re not serving your franks au poivre. So why do we insist on ruining the best part of hot dogs—the plump, juicy sausage—by drowning it in cold, boring condiments? This summer, I want you to eat your hot dogs sans condiments.
What does this mean? First of all, it means buying the right sausages. Spring for something a little special. Look for meat that’s been flavored with garlic or cheese or sun-dried tomatoes, and avoid franks that are pink, long and wobbly. Then, I want you to take the time to cook this meat properly. Find a charcoal grill, whether it’s at the local park or temporarily borrowed from your neighbor’s backyard. Now sear your sausages until they have a nice, charred bark on the outside but are cooked all the way through the middle.
The result? A piece of meat that has a crunchy snap when you bite down, but is also so juicy your potato bun can barely hold it together. (Seriously, potato buns are the best.) Why would something like that need a hideous smattering of ketchup? Your sausage should already be well-seasoned, and the juiciness will keep it moist. Instead of tasting ketchup and mustard, your mouth will be delighted by the meat-forward taste of a smokey sausage.
Don’t overthink your hot dogs, or any meat for that matter. Buy something slightly nicer than your average weiner, plop that bad boy on the grill, place it in a bun so you have a vehicle for shoving it into your mouth, and then actually shove it in your mouth. Let the children and unenlightened folk worry about gently spreading relish across the side of their bun. You’re already halfway through your first hot dog. And more importantly, you’re that much closer to your next one.