Please Explain: Hot Dogs

Friday, May 23, 2008

During Hot Dog Season – from Memorial Day to Labor Day – Americans typically consume 7 billion hot dogs. That’s 818 hot dogs consumed every second during that period! And New Yorkers consume more hot dogs than people in any other city. Find out about the history of hot dogs, how they’re made, and the many different varieties.

Bob Bly is the author of All-American Frank: A History of the Hot Dog. Bruce Kraig is founding President of Culinary Historians of Chicago and Professor Emeritus at Roosevelt University, Chicago.

Weigh in: What’s your favorite place in New York to get a hot dog? What's the most interesting hot dog variation you've eaten?


Bob Bly and Bruce Kraig

Comments [47]

John T.Ward III from Panama City, Florida

Only one word can explain hot dogs-Sabrett. I've tried others (Nathans, Hebrew Nat'l, Ball Park, Oscar Meyer,etc.), but none compare to the spicy taste of a Sabrett with mustard and Sauerkraut. Please note, I do not work for Sabrett or Marathon Industries(their parent company); I am a satisfied customer who has eaten them out of hot dog carts and wagons in New York City and Long Island, and have more recently discovered them in supermarkets for home cooking (nad when I was growing up on long island, we always had a box delivered with our meats and provisions).

Nov. 08 2009 08:14 PM
William Neumann from Rutherford

I was at Rutts Hut last night (after the show) with a regular meeting of a bunch of NJ photogs. This is a real WNYC crowd and everyone loved the fact that Rippers and Rutts were "Please Explained" Leonard, as we sucked up a couple dozen dogs we toasted you and your guests on your excellent cullinary topics! Come over to NJ and I'll take you on the Hot Dog tour of all the places mentioned above and on the show.

May. 24 2008 10:49 AM
Barry Popik from Austin, Texas

OK, so I heard the show and I had to cringe! I co-authored a book on the origin of the name "hot dog." The name didn't come from Tad Dorgan at the Polo Grounds, nor does it have to do with dachshunds. It was a joke about the ingredients. Also, the hot dog bun wasn't invented when someone ran out of white gloves. Ugh! Bly is awful!

As you know, I'm a scholar on the origin of "the Big Apple" and I was supposed to be on your "Gotham City" show, but you contacted me too late!

May. 23 2008 11:10 PM
Annie Clyne from Fairfield Ct.

If you like Super Duper Weenie in Fairfield Ct try Rawleys on the Post Rd. You'll thank me

May. 23 2008 08:25 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Topic 1: The Center for Science in the Public Interest disputes Gary Taubes's claims about fat vs. refined carbs. You can read their position at The gist is that the scientists Taubes interviewed say he picked & chose quotes that seemed to support his theory & ignored the vast majority of what they said, which didn't.

Topic 2: As a vegetarian, I half agree w/Rachel [34]. I've found veggie dogs that tasted good, but never one that captured the real texture. And in the last 10 years or so, most brands seem to be adding *sweeteners* to them! It's been a long time since I ate a real hot dog, but I'm sure they didn't taste sweet, & I don't want my veggie dogs to either.

May. 23 2008 02:24 PM
Edel Sanders from Oyster Bay Cove, NY

I must disagree with one of the guests who said that vegetarian hotdogs are "terrible." They are actually quite good and do not cause any suffering to humans or pigs.

Which part or parts of the pig are used in a hot dog? Has this changed over time?

Thank you for your time.

May. 23 2008 02:07 PM
Tara from manhattan

Brooklyn residents and hot dog enthusiasts!

try this spot!

Hot Diggity Dog
263 Prospect Park W, Brooklyn 11215
Btwn Prospect Ave & 17th St
Phone: 718-499-0008
my fav is the Windsor Weenie: pastrami wrapped dog with sauerkraut, swiss & mustard)

Willie's Dawgs
351 5th Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11215
(718) 832-2941
(they have different types of dogs and rolls, as well as toppings)

May. 23 2008 02:04 PM
Christina from Brooklyn

Walters Hot Dog stand in Mamaroneck, NY is fantastic, check it out — - it's housed in a roadside Pagoda and serves split hot-dogs on grilled buns with sweet potato fries.

May. 23 2008 02:01 PM
Meghan Murphy from bklyn

Have to weigh in again. Vegans, etc: if you aren't looking for a meat substitute, why eat things that are shaped and seasoned to look and taste like meat products? Not being nasty, just curious.

May. 23 2008 02:01 PM
sarah from upper west side

I disagree with the statement that all vegetarian hot dogs are awful. I love soy dogs, particularly 'smart dogs'. The guest is correct that the texture isn't the same as a hot dog, but is the texture of a regular hot dog really desirable?

I'd argue that most vegetarians aren't trying to find meat substitutes that taste and feel like meat, we don't eat meat for a reason!

May. 23 2008 01:59 PM
Ann Hall Every from Forest Hills, NY

My favorite wieners are made by Nueske's Applewood Smoked Meats - a family business in Wisconsin. I think they are sold at Food Emporium stores in NYC and also at their website at

Info about Nueske's is also on my website at

May. 23 2008 01:59 PM
Rich from jersey city/blairstown nj

Good hot dogs:

Johnnie's in Buttzville, NJ
Libby's in Paterson, NJ
Ted's in Buffalo, NY

May. 23 2008 01:58 PM
Meghan Murphy from bklyn

best hot dog - Jimmy Buff's in East Orange and Newark NJ. Italian style-- with very greasy and delicious potatoes and peppers. MMM

May. 23 2008 01:57 PM
rachel from brooklyn

now hold on, as a long time vegan, i resent the fact that meat eaters feel as though they are eating tastier food. in the vegan hot dog department, tofurky hot dogs have all the taste and texture minus the cruelty and carbon footprint. i eat them directly out of the fridge!

May. 23 2008 01:57 PM
Mike from NYC

Best hotdogs with chili are found at 'The Hot Grill', also in Clifton NJ. They call it 'Hotdog all the way'.

Hotdog, mustard, chili sauce and chopped onions.

Also french fried with brown gravy....

May. 23 2008 01:56 PM
Monroe from Greenwich Village

The Wife went to College in Cincinnati. G-D Bless Skyline. What makes a Bratwurst different from a Hot Dog. Always have seemed mighty similar to me. "Brats" they call them....

May. 23 2008 01:54 PM
chuck from manhattan

SUPER DUPER WEENIE in Fairfield CT. AWESOME My friend and I need no excuse to drive an hour and a half to eat a SUPER DUPER WEENIE!

May. 23 2008 01:53 PM
Susan from Kensington, Brooklyn

I'm a vegetarian who grew up eating hot dogs every weekend in the summer with my family--it was a wonderful tradition.
Now, I get to carry on the tradition by making vegetarian hot dogs--Smart Dogs are my favorite, but we also eat Tofu Pups sometimes. A fun thing to do is prepare the soy dogs at home (they just need to be heated) and take them to Coney Island or the ball park in a thermos, order a hot dog with everything except the dog, assemble, and get all the enjoyment but none of the guilt!

May. 23 2008 01:51 PM
marcia from manhattan

I was shocked to see a series of Sabrett hot dog carts along the waterfront on the bay of Naples last month!

May. 23 2008 01:51 PM
Torkil from Brooklyn

In Norway a lot of people top hotdogs with mayonnaise based shrimp salad. In the eastern part of the country they also may add or replace the bread with lompe, a potato tortilla. Unfortunately the hot dog sausages in Norway are generally not that great.

May. 23 2008 01:51 PM
Bruce from Highland Park, NJ

UI have a great story: My father-in-law (from Las Vegas) was traveling with his family through Utah and they stopped at a grocery store. It was advertising kosher hot dogs. He asked the guy at the counter what made them kosher and was told they were kosher becasue they were made in NYC!

May. 23 2008 01:50 PM
Nicholas from Bronx

Please... explain the Michigan. I lived in upstate NY for a little under a year in Plattsburg. It took me a few months before I knew what in the world they were talking about when they mentioned Michigans. On another note, a friend of mine was living in Michigan at the time and had no idea either. Why is a chili dog a Michigan in upstate NY?

May. 23 2008 01:49 PM
Erling from Brooklyn

I'm from Iceland where they have great hotdogs. Most people order them "with everything" which includes, diced raw onions, crispy fried onions and ketchup underneath, and remoulade, and mustard on top. Yum

May. 23 2008 01:48 PM
World's Toughest Milkman from the_C_train

So do ALL dogs have entrails, organs and other nasty bits in them??

May. 23 2008 01:47 PM
Steve from Manhattan

Rutt's Hut:

May. 23 2008 01:47 PM
Carlo Altomare from Manhattan

When I was I kid we always went to Hirams and Callahans which were right next to each other in the Jersey palisades. In high school in Trenton I would go to The Casino which served hotdogs with big french fries in the bun. (THe fries where in the sandwich.)

May. 23 2008 01:46 PM
Libby from Brooklyn

The best dogs in the US can be had at Yesterdog in Grand Rapids, Michigan!!

May. 23 2008 01:43 PM
David Poltorak from Monsey, NY

Sorry, but I miswrote. Milk and fish; meat and dairy; and meat and fish. That's what we don't mix.

May. 23 2008 01:41 PM
Monroe from Greenwich Village

Best Dog ever....from Lockhart, TX...what is referred to as Texas Hot Links are considered to be part of the Texas Barbeque canon are actually pork (in a State where pork is not supposed to be BBQ....).

In Texas, a complete barbeque dinner is Beef Brisket and "links," no word ever about them being pork....

Irony on irony...

By the way, went to Frankfurt to get to Paris two weeks ago and could not find a Frankfurter in the airport on a two hour layover.

All the Best,

May. 23 2008 01:40 PM
David Poltorak from Monsey, NY

Your guest said that super-orthodox don't mix meats. I'm what you may call "super orthodox" and I'll tell you that that isn't true. It is perfectly OK to mix beef with lamb or anything else. The only mixing we don't do is Meat and dair, milk (specifically liquid milk, as opposed to other dairy) and fish with meat. But different types of meats and be mixed gezunteheit!

May. 23 2008 01:38 PM
Terry from New Jersey

kosher does NOT mean "blessed by a Rabbi". It means that the item is made with kosher ingredients (e.g. no pig, horse, dog or any other non-kosher animal) and in a kosher way (e.g. no meat and milk mixture)

May. 23 2008 01:34 PM
MJ from NYC

hands down - Windmill in NJ

May. 23 2008 01:34 PM
Gary from Manhattan

Leonard, please ask you guests if the name "hot dog" was in fact named after Dachsunds.

May. 23 2008 01:33 PM
Josh from Northern New Jersey

Forget New York. You need to go to Rutt's Hut in Clifton, NJ for "Rippers". It's about 10 minutes outside the Lincoln Tunnel. It is always ranked in the top ten nationally. I like them with only mustard but wife's family loves the mustard/relish mix. They put globs of it on the dogs.

May. 23 2008 01:33 PM
beatrice weinberger

Why are Maine hot dogs bright red ("bozo hot dogs)?

May. 23 2008 01:32 PM
dominick from Mamaroneck

Best hot dogs in New York, state that is, are at Walter's hot dogs in Mamaroneck NY.

May. 23 2008 01:32 PM
Michal from brooklyn

can you please ask about whether Kosher hot dogs are really made in a way that's really brutal to the animal?

I'm really concerned about this.

May. 23 2008 01:32 PM
Terry from New Jersey

kosher does NOT mean "blessed by a Rabbi". Kosher means that the item is made with kosher ingredients and in a kosher way.

May. 23 2008 01:32 PM
Alex from Park Slope

So are American hot dogs really made of horse hooves, old boots, and toxic waste?

Seriously, I haven't had a hot dog in years because my understanding is that they are typically made of the byproducts -- or wasteproducts -- that are left over from the processing of other meats.

May. 23 2008 01:25 PM
Steve from Baldwin, Long Island

Of course, Nathan's at Coney Island but only AFTER the cyclone!

May. 23 2008 01:21 PM
George from Brooklyn, NY

I grew up eating Nathan's dogs. The respective Kings will be acceptable. Hot dog carts I avoid.

You should mention that ketchup overpowers the hot dog with the sugar kick. I usually have mustard but oddly, to date, I've tried barbeque sauce and tartar sauce. My father prefers hot dogs plain.

Can you mention the hot dog documentary PBS aired years ago? Will you mention John McCain's love of hot dogs?

May. 23 2008 12:58 PM
Alyce from Centerport, NY

The best hot dogs are the ones made with natural casings, that crunch when you bite into them, like boar's head. Anywhere one of those is found I feel for the moment that that is my favorite place.

The Shake Shack has a SHAK-CAGO dog that seems fairly unappealing.

May. 23 2008 12:41 PM
Liam from East Elmhurst

My friend Dennis used to make them on his grill before his lousy landlord gave him grief and another rent increase. We'd use either Sabrett or Western Beef franks and many of his MOOCHER family friends would "parachute" in. He, himself, prefers Hebrew National.
Oh, I believe some of the street vendors now DO NOT use Sabrett as advertised, but, use cheaper MEAT or CHICKEN franks-they don't taste like Sabrett does.

May. 23 2008 12:10 PM
hjs from 11211

hot dogs are the poor sickly cousin of the German sausage. please explain why any German citizen can buy from street vendors yummy varieties of sausage and Americans settle for bland chemical filled by-products.

May. 23 2008 10:53 AM

i'm partial to greys papaya and papaya king ... those fruit juices go well with the dog.

May. 23 2008 09:22 AM
paulb from Prospect Heights, Brooklyn

At a family dinner a few months ago I asked if anyone knows what makes a hot dog taste like a hot dog? Noone knew, and I didn't find much in the way of specific recipes on the Internet. I hope you'll ask what are the main spices that make them taste that way!

May. 23 2008 09:01 AM
Steve S from Great Kills, Staten Island

That's an easy one...any corner vendor, and it MUST be with sourkraut, mustard, and a little chili...always order 2 at a time, and get an ice-cold Coke).

May. 23 2008 09:00 AM

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