I’m willing to acknowledge that making homemade hot dog isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time. Yes, the advantages are numerous — better flavor, higher-quality ingredients, and a true sense of accomplishment once finished — but I get it. Maybe you don’t want to spend multiple days on a cooking project.
For a far less complicated way to up your cookout game, consider making your own hot dog (or hamburger) buns. You can still find high-quality sausages at your local butcher shop to serve inside, and you’ll still get props from your guests.
Or you can be bold and make both for a truly homemade Memorial Day meal.
Either way, here’s how to get started with the buns:
First, combine water, sugar and yeast in the bowl of a standing mixer. This dough will contain a lot of liquid, as well as a fair amount of fat, so it will be super soft and sticky. I prefer to knead these types of enriched doughs in a standing mixer because it is, well, cleaner, and it also makes it easier to keep flour additions to a minimum. More flour equals more gluten, and more gluten equals a chewier, stiffer hot dog bun — not what you want when you’re looking for a tender, squishy home for your grilled goods.
Once the yeast is nice and bubbly, whisk in milk and butter. Both of these additions will help to tenderize and flavor the buns, impeding gluten development and adding richness.
Now, with the mixer on low speed, gradually add all-purpose flour until it all forms a rough, shaggy dough. It won’t look like something kneadable yet, but that’s okay. Cover the bowl with plastic and let the whole thing rest for about 15 minutes. This step lets the flour begin to absorb the liquid, start to form gluten strands on its own, and make it all easier to handle as you move along.
After resting, add the salt to the dough and turn the mixer on to medium speed. Let the mixer do the kneading work until the dough forms a very smooth, stretchy mass, 2 to 3 minutes. It will still be sticky, but should pull away from the sides of the bowl. If, after a few minutes, the dough doesn’t get there, add a little more flour and continue to knead for another 30 seconds or so. If needed, you can repeat this step again.
Once the dough is nice and stretchy, move it to a large greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let it sit until doubled in size. There’s quite a bit of yeast and sugar in this recipe, so the rising step shouldn’t take too long — around an hour. (Keep in mind, though, that this step is temperature-dependent; it’ll move more quickly at warmer ambient temperatures than cooler temperatures.)
This next step may sound a little crazy: take a bottle of nonstick oil spray or an oil-dipped pastry brush and lightly grease your countertop (preferably one that isn’t wood). I know, you’re probably used to dusting the counter with flour, right? As mentioned above, we’re trying to keep the amount of extra flour to a minimum so we’ll have super tender hot dog buns. Greasing the counter will prevent sticking and limit flour useage.
Turn the dough out onto the greased counter and divide it into thirds. Divide each third into halves, and then each of these pieces into thirds again. You should end up with 18 pieces of dough that are all very close to the same size. Roll each piece into a taut ball: Fold the corners of the dough piece into the center and pinch closed. Flip the dough over so the seam is on the bottom and then spin the dough ball between your hands, continuing to pull the top of the dough towards the bottom to form a tight ball. Repeat with the remaining dough pieces.
Now take each dough ball and roll it into a cylinder about 4 or 5 inches long. (If you’d prefer to make hamburger buns, you can ignore this step and keep your dough in balls.) Place the cylinders on parchment-lined baking sheets. I’ve spaced out my buns enough so they’ll be rounded and fully separate from each other. If you prefer softer-sided buns, you’ll want to place the cylinders closer together (something around ½ inch) in a single row.
Press down the tops of each dough cylinder and then brush them with a little egg wash (for extra shine). Bake until the rolls are browned and are at least 190°F in the center. This will take about 15 to 20 minutes.
Let the rolls cool before slicing through the top or the side — your choice — and filling with a homemade (or not) hot dog. Dig in!
Recipe: Homemade Hot Dog Buns
Makes 18 buns
Note: Don’t care for hot dogs? This recipe will also make hamburger buns. Skip rolling the dough balls into cylinders in step 6 and then continue with the recipe as written.
½ cup (120 grams) warm water, at about 105°F to 115°F
2 tablespoons (25 grams) sugar
4 ½ teaspoons (14 grams) instant yeast
2 cups (488 grams) warm milk, at about 105°F to 115°F
2 tablespoons (27 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
6 cups (720 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more if needed
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 large egg
Grease a large bowl with nonstick oil spray. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, whisk together the water, sugar and yeast. Let the mixture sit until foamy, about 5 minutes.
Whisk in the milk and butter until smooth and uniform. Turn the mixer on to low speed and gradually add the flour. Increase the mixer to medium-low speed and continue to knead until the dough just comes together into a sticky mass, about 30 seconds. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap at let it sit for 15 minutes.
Add the salt to the dough and return the mixer to medium speed. Knead until the dough becomes smooth and elastic, and it pulls away from the sides of the bowl, 2 to 3 minutes. The dough should still be fairly sticky, but if, at this point, it still won’t pull away from the sides of the bowl, add additional flour, ¼ cup (60 grams) at a time, until it does.
Transfer the dough to the oiled bowl. Gently flip the dough over so that the top is now coated in oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at warm room temperature until doubled in size, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Lightly grease a clean countertop with nonstick oil spray. Turn the dough out onto the counter and divide into 18 even pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and then roll each ball into a cylinder about 4 to 5 inches long. Place the cylinders onto the prepared baking sheets about 1 inch apart. Use your fingers to slightly flatten the tops of each cylinder so they look a little more ovular. Cover the baking sheets with greased plastic wrap and let them rise at a warm room temperature until the dough springs back when lightly poked with your finger, 20 to 30 minutes.
While the buns are proofing, adjust the oven racks so they’re evenly space in the center of the oven. Heat the oven to 400°F.
Once you’re ready to bake, whisk together the egg and 1 tablespoon of water in a small bowl. Brush the buns with the egg mixture and bake until the buns are golden brown and the center registers 190°F, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer the buns to a cooling rack and let cool completely before slicing down the top and filling with a homemade hot dog.
The buns are best the day they’re made, but you can freeze any extras: Place extra buns on a baking sheet and place in the freezer until they’re totally frozen. Transfer the frozen buns to a zipper lock bag and store in the freezer for up to 6 months.