We were recently asked this question by a writer. Carolyn did some hot dog digging and she’s here with some hot dog help before the long weekend.
Fourth of July weekend is a time to celebrate all things American. What’s more American than firing up the grill for some burgers and hot dogs? We’ve discussed burgers (grass fed is key) and Lauren has given us some delicious ideas (pesto turkey burger: yes please) in BBQ greatest hits. So today, it’s time to talk hot dogs. I promise, it’s not all bad but let’s get the bad out of the way…
The Downside of Dogs
Hot dogs are one of those foods that people love but really don’t want to know about. No, they’re not made from pig butt or lips or anything else your older siblings told you the second you finished eating one. But “mystery meat” might still be accurate for some brands on the shelves, which can be up to 15% “variety meats” such as like heart, liver and kidney. Then there are other issues: high in fat, high in sodium, lots of processing and additives.
I’m not suggesting you take up hot dog making but consider that a homemade beef frank would contain beef, water, egg whites and spices. Compare that to a Ball Park hot dog:
Beef, Water, Corn Syrup, Salt, Potassium Lactate, Sodium Phosphate, Flavorings, Sodium Diacetate, Sodium Nitrite, Extractives of Paprika.
Gross, right? Why is there corn syrup in your hot dog? I’ll save the sweet for dessert, thank you very much. Even more concerning are nitrites. They are responsible for extending shelf life, and research shows they also may be carcinogenic.
Hot Dog Help
You can avoid nitrites by buying uncured hot dogs. They don’t use any chemically preservatives. Just like when it comes to the burgers, you want to go organic with meat whenever possible, and better yet, grass fed. Grass fed cows have less total and saturated fat (and are less miserable) compared to factory-farmed cows. Look for brands like Applegate Farms, Lets Be Frank, Colemann’s, Niman Ranch, or Organic Prairie.
If you’re at a game or relative’s house, chances are you don’t have much say over nitrite content of your hot dog. Before you start a fight over frankfurters, there’s a semi-remedy. Piling on antioxidant rich condiments like sauerkraut (fermented cabbage), and whole grain mustard counteracts some of the nastiness from nitrites.
And while you’re making better decisions with the dog, do the same with the bun. Skip the white squishy type. Lisa talked about the benefits of sprouted grains recently, and turns out, Food For Life (Ezekiel 4.9) and Alvarado St. both make the ideal buns for your barbeque. Udi’s, the gluten free gods, also make a delicious gluten free hot dog bun.
A few other frankfurter facts, don’t be wooed by “reduced fat”, “turkey” “chicken” or “veggie” dogs. Reduced fat dogs often add ever more chemicals to make up for the mouth feel of fat. With Turkey and chicken, you still need to read the ingredients. It’s the quality of the meat, not just the source. Veggie dogs are TVP-based concoctions; veggies are not supposed to taste like hot dogs.
While it’s a meat minefield out there, hot dogs can be healthy (or healthier). Look for the brands we mentioned, be clever with condiments and enjoy your hot dog on a wholesome bun. Most of all we wish you a happy and a healthy 4th of July.
PS. There is nothing American about bacon or chili cheese dogs.