"On Independence Day, Americans will enjoy 150 million hot dogs, enough to stretch from D.C. to L.A. over five times."
--National Hot Dog and Sausage Council
My first reaction to this quote was "is there really a national hot dog and sausage council?"; while my second reaction was mild nausea mixed with a hankering for my own dog slathered in mustard and relish.
The all-beef American hot dog should not be confused with its namesake the frankfurter, which is a German regional sausage made from pork. Nor should you think it tastes much like an Austrian wiener, which is a pork and beef delicacy. Sure, frankfurters, wieners and hot dogs are all sausages, but there's very little that is European about a hot dog. Mass produced, precooked, and stuck in a bun it's as American as a food can get. Dirty Harry even eats one right before famously saying his "Do you feel lucky" line. So here's Clint, eating his dog, for you to enjoy.
Unlike Harry, my family and I don't eat a lot of hot dogs. Nothing against them; we just tend to eat more sausage when we want some sort of meat product in a tube, probably due to my Italian upbringing. I'm also not a big fan of processed foods. But there are certain occasions when a hot dog is the perfect meal, especially if you have a couple of hungry kids with you. Baseball games and the 4th of July top that list.
So in celebration of National Hot Dog Month, and also to better educate myself about American hot dogs, I have created an unscientific comparison of the major brands. Included in the list are organic, nitrate-free, and standard hot dogs that you can find locally. I am not recommending one frank over another as I did not try every brand, and, honestly, I've only tasted a few. Rather, I wanted to share the nutritional information and ingredients lists provided by the manufacturers so people can make their own educated decisions.
The following list is also limited to beef hot dogs as these are the traditional choice at block parties, backyard barbecues, and baseball games. Plus including chicken, turkey and tofu dogs would make the list ridiculously long. Please note that my inventory is in no way complete. I am not attempting to compare all the brands; just the ones I see most often. If I have missed something obvious, or something you really like, feel free to add the information in the comments section. Finally, I should say that I don't distinguish between kosher and non-kosher brands.
When comparing the hot dogs on the list, you should note that each brand's hot dogs vary in size. So while the Nathan's Famous beef franks look at first to have the most sodium, they are also twice the size of many of the other hot dogs, so be sure to look at the size column when comparing products.
Here are the lists. I have grouped the brands by type for easier viewing and listed the size, calories, calories from fat, saturated fat grams and sodium levels, along with ingredients lists. I was very interested by what I found. I hope you will be too.
Organic and Grass Fed Hot Dogs
These hot dogs are all made from organic, and often grass-fed, beef. No nitrates are used for organic hot dogs.
Nitrate-Free but not Organic Hot Dogs
Non-organic beef but no nitrates are used.
Standard Hot Dogs
The hot dogs are all beef and the meat has been preserved with nitrates and other preservatives.