A couple of weeks ago I was craving a hot dog; and I was finishing up some items for my new book - Great American Grilling. I admit that I was stuck - good old fashioned writers block. Thankfully, when it comes to culinary writers block, there's generally some food nearby! I turned to my Facebook friends and contacts for some hot dog insight!
Let's be clear, I've never met a hot dog that I didn't like. some may consider the "hot dog" as the bottom of the grilling world... but I think a nicely grilled dog served up right can brighten boring grilling sessions. That's where I started to lock up - Research was called for!
So you're firing up the grill, and your chosen dish for the night is a whole mess of...? What type of link are you grilling and serving up? Hot Dogs, Sausage, Brats, or something else?
Talk about a response! People freaking love grilled links served on a bun. And the choices were pretty varied. Some mentioned tailgate standards such as Beer Grilled Bratwurst while others tossed their support behind a Smoked Sausage. There was even a write in vote for Rindswurst! Many people mentioned their favorite brands, types of meat the link was made of, and even brands.
When counted - it seemed like the good old fashioned Baseball favorite was a slight winner. People named Hot Dogs more than other links. The dogs could be grilled, steamed, and even scrambled. The funny thing was that responses also included added information in the form of what they preferred on their grilled selection.
In fact, the toppings varied more than the meat selections. Everything from grilled onions and peppers for brats to the basics such as mustard and relish for hot dogs. That's where things became clear!
The Winner - The Toppings!
It was a lightning bolt of culinary energy. It seems that many people may consider the link secondary to the stuff they put on top! My favorite response came from my friend Deb Hellman. Deb moved from our neighbor hood in East Tennessee to a dream job of assistant Innkeeper at the Inn of Park Spring.
Deb knows food! She constantly make my mouth drool with images of some of the dishes she serves up to her guests. So I knew her response was a combination of being a foodie and her daily involvement with menu Planning!"
"Hot dog with onion, mustard, ketchup and relish. If it was to be a brat....chipotle ketchup, cole-slaw and onions." - Deb Hellman
I like that! Great topping suggestions and a choice of grilled links! Deb even tossed in a flavored ketchup suggestion. It just proved to me that toppings make the dog! In fact, that's exactly what I learned as I researched for the book and pulled some of my recipes together.
DANG - That's a Bunch of Hot Dogs!
You can't research a topic like hot dogs without some trivia. That just wouldn't cut the Mustard! Yes - that was a hot dog joke. I relish things like that. Here's some info that I learned from the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council. I know! I loved finding out there was actually an association for Hot Dogs and other sausages.
- More than 1 billion packages of hot dogs were sold at retail stores in the year 2013.
- That’s around $2.5 billion in retail sales of Hot Dogs.
- Fans at MLB ballparks munched on over 21,357,361 hot dogs in 2014
Top Hot Dog Consuming Cities
- Los Angeles
- New York
- Washington, DC
- San Francisco
Back to Toppings!
So, all of that info means that people across the country love eating hot dogs. And often the choices of toppings define the frank and raise regional favorites. I listed several variations in Great American Grilling including the Chicago Dog, West Virginia Slaw Dog, Fenway Frank, and more. I even included my own creation which is a Tennessee Barbecue Dog - which actually works with hot dogs, bratwursts, smoked sausage, and more.
Thanks to everyone who responded to the Facebook poll! It proved several things - One - links hot off the grill served up on a bun are pretty darned popular. Secondly, the variety of toppings and types of links available make for a amazing variety of combinations. And lastly, with all of the combinations, types of links, regional favorites, and cooking methods... sometimes a hot dog served up with mustard at the ball game hits the spot!
Here's my Tennessee style dog that I served up in Great American Grilling.
Tennessee Barbecue Hot Dogs or Smoked Sausages
I live in Tennessee and there was a ton of debate about what constitutes a Tennessee style hot dog. The suggestions included a hot dog on a bun with mustard only to variations that included everything from jack Daniels barbecue sauce and pulled pork! Hey... I like that! Let's build on this base recipe.
One of the main themes coming from fans of the University of Tennessee football team was the use of smoked sausage in place of a hot dog. But, everyone knows that Ole Smoke - The Vols Mascot - is a Dog! So, in honor of all of my family and friends who are Volunteer football fans I’m suggesting a Tennessee Style Smoked Sausage...or.... Dog!
What you’ll need
- Bun sized grilled smoked sausage or Big Hot Dogs
- Pulled hickory smoked barbecue
- Barbecue sauce (yes, Jack Daniels style is fine!)
- Thin sliced sweet onions
- Top things off with a spoonful of slaw
Directions: Grill the sausages or hot dogs, baste with Jack Daniels Flavored Barbecue Sauce, toast the bun, top with pulled pork barbecue, slaw, sliced onions, and slaw.