The hot dog: no summer picnic table spread is complete without these festive favorites. Whether it be the Fourth of July or #NationalHotDogDay, we eat a lot of franks during the warmer months. The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council (yes, it's a real thing) estimates that Americans will consume about 20 billion hot dogs per year. While there are likely just as many different ways to eat them, we're sharing our favorites to make your summer menu memorable!
Photo via First We Feast
1. Sample the states. Since hot dogs are such an American tradition, what better way to experience them than to explore the culinary culture of different states? Many states have special ways they eat their hot dogs. For example, Illinois is famous for their veggie-packed, Vienna beef Chicago Dogs and Washington whips up a good Seattle-style with cream cheese and caramelized onions. And of course, no one can forget the Classic Coney from Coney Island! Visit First We Feast for more regional-favorite recipes.
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2. Wrap it up! Ever notice how there are never enough buns to match up with the dogs? Skip the store-bought buns altogether and try a different carb casing. Whether you make your own corn dogs or try this festive twist on pigs in a blanket, there are many ways to get creative with your buns! You can also try tortillas, taco shells or -- if you’re really inclined towards the peculiar -- encased in pizza crust. (We won’t judge.)
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3. Make the cut. The kids will love this one. Learn how to spiral cut your hot dogs before grilling for a fun presentation. Not only does it look cool, cutting them this way allows for more crispiness and better grill flavor. (We do not recommend spiral cutting the buns to match.) Another fun idea: hot dog octopuses!
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4. Serve on the side. If you can’t decide between a burger or a dog, have both! You can easily incorporate hot dogs into side items or appetizers. These are especially handy if you’re going to someone else’s house and need something to bring. Try these Corn Dog Mini Muffins or make baked beans with franks to knock two of the picnic essentials off the list.
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5. Stuff ‘em! Americans LOVE food stuffed with other foods. Amp up your hot dogs this summer by adding a little something to the middles. Slice them open and add cheese, bacon, peppers, onions or all of the above. Don’t have enough room? Stuff the cheese in the middle and wrap the bacon around the outside! Either way, your dog will be happier with more toppings.
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6. Build a hot dog bar. If you’re entertaining a lot of people, build a hot dog bar! Since everyone likes different condiments, set a table up and let guests dress their own. You can even make it a potluck and have everyone bring a different topping. Get creative with presentation by shopping festive but disposable paperware at Party City or Big Lots to make cleanup a breeze.
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7. Challenge your friends. Though we don’t necessarily condone the voluntary overindulgence of processed meat in the name of freedom, hot dog contests have been a summer tradition for 100 years. If you’ve always had a nagging urge to test your stomach’s capacity levels, the current record stands at 72.
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8. Get roasting. One of the simple joys of summer is sitting by a campfire and getting in touch with your primitive side by attempting to cook food over a flame. Luckily, most hot dogs are pre-cooked so this is a (mostly) foolproof way to heat up your dog without a grill. Do it Western-style with a stick, and remember a bag of marshmallows for dessert.
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9. Go vegetarian. If you don’t eat meat, or the idea of processed meat tubes steers you away from hot dogs, you too can celebrate the American way. There are always veggie dog options, but those often contain fake flavors and chemicals that defeat the purpose of eating healthier. Instead, try the enjoyable toppings without the meat! Get a vegetarian chili, substitute a roasted carrot or just slice up some veggies to add to a bun. Slather on the Sriracha and you’ve got a pretty tasty meal.
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10. Don’t forget dessert! These recipes don’t contain actual hot dogs, but they keep the tradition alive. Try making chocolate ice cream hot dogs with pound cake buns and frosting “condiments.” Looking for something a little healthier? Substitute a banana for the ice cream and put fresh fruit and nuts on as toppings. Or, if you’re dogged-out already, don’t forget there’s always apple pie!