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Whenever you plan on having a barbeque in the summer, chances are the thought of hot dogs will cross your mind. They are iconic for barbeques but are also eaten throughout the year. No matter if you are wanting to serve hot dogs at a barbeque, or if you just want to have a small gathering and boil them, thinking of side dishes to pair with hot dogs can be quite difficult.
Table of Contents
- What are Hot Dogs?
- What to Pair with Hot Dogs
- What Do You Put On a Hot Dog?
What are Hot Dogs?
Despite being imported from Germany, hot dogs are now synonymous with the US and its culture. They are a street food that consists of a bun with a sausage in the middle. The sausage is most commonly either a wiener or a frankfurter and is served with condiments such as ketchup, mustard, and cheese sauce. As well as condiments, it is also common to find relishes made from onions, peppers, chili, and jalapenos.
How are Hot Dogs Made?
There is a lot of stigma and controversy surrounding hot dogs as people are cautious about what meat is actually used in them. Thankfully, with a little research, this can be disproven and you can rest easy knowing your hot dogs are completely fine to eat.
There is a lengthy process for making hot dogs, and each hot dog undergoes these steps before they reach any retailer’s shelf. The steps for hot dog production are;
- Carefully selected trimmings of beef and/or pork are cut, ground, and placed into a mixer. These trimmings of meat are no different to the types you would normally buy in a grocery store. If you are buying poultry hot dogs then the same thing will happen but the meat used will instead be made up of different poultry.
- The second step in this process is to add the meat, spices, and curing ingredients into a high-speed stainless steel chopper. All ingredients are weighed and constantly altered to ensure there is an equal balance of them all. This chopper blends all of the ingredients into an emulsion or batter.
- After being blended together, the batter is pumped into a stuffer. Depending on if it is a small scale business or a larger coorporation, the casing method will change slightly. Mass production companies will use cellulose casing which is removed later on, whereas other companies will use natural casings that are cleaned and processed animal intestines. These skins will remain on the hot dogs and are safe for consumption but they are also slightly more expensive. Despite which casings are used, the stuffer will fill the casings with enough hot dog batter to make a single hot dog, and then will start to make the next one.
- After enough have been made, they are batched and linked together then sent towards a smokehouse. The smokehouse will have carefully controlled humidity and temperature to ensure perfection. The hot dogs will be fully cooked and smoked by hardwood for texture, color, and a great flavor.
- Once the hot dogs have been cooked and smoked, they are showered with cool water to bring them to a room temperature naturally. They are then sent to a peeling area if they have cellulose skin on them. All this does is remove that skin carefully and send them to the next step. The natural casing hot dogs skip this step, but still undergo the shower in the smokehouse.
- This step is all to do with quality inspection and packaging. The hot dogs are automatically weighed and measured before being sealed in their packages. Any imperfections are taken away from the batch and either discarded of or reused. Once all the hot dogs are in their packaging, they are sent to storage coolers and placed in trucks which then deliver them to wherever they are ordered to go. The trucks are refrigerated to keep them in a pristine condition for the entire journey.
Are Hot Dogs Healthy?
The nutritional value of each hot dog will change depending on what sort of sausage is used. For the most part, they are not going to be ridiculously unhealthy. There is a study that says eating a hot dog, most likely a frankfurter will take 36 minutes off of your life. This claim might seem scary but it really is no big deal, in moderation hot dogs are completely fine. If you were to eat several a day for a few months then yes, it would be concerning.
Hot dogs are like all meat in the fact that they are high in protein and fat. This is a good thing as every diet needs both protein and fat for it to be well balanced so as long as you are getting other nutrients from salads and other food, hot dogs are not necessarily bad for your health.
When to Serve Hot Dogs
Hot dogs are more of a casual food as you eat them with your hands. This is most popular at barbeques or summer cookouts, and they can also be boiled in a pan for a quick meal inside whenever. The casual aspect of hot dogs is good because it means you can basically serve whatever you want alongside them as it won’t seem out of place. Obviously, if you are planning on barbequing the hot dogs then it would be worth adding some other food to the barbeque to make it a more diverse meal and to add options to people who may not want hot dogs. Other barbeque alternatives can be chicken, vegetable skewers, and burgers.
What to Pair with Hot Dogs
Pairing food is not the most important thing in the world so there is no need to stress about it too much. However, it is natural to want inspiration if you are planning a gathering and have been allocated the role of chef. A lot of the side dishes for this are pretty easy to make and are low-maintenance which is nice for everyone, no matter your cooking experience.
A pasta salad can be one of the best choices when it comes to pairing a hot dog with a side dish. The main idea of the pasta salad is to have the pasta as a filling, hearty meal with vegetables to provide lots of nutrition. The pasta is not too important as it just needs to be cooked and dressed in a sauce but the vegetables are where you want to go all out and have fun.
Adding a mix of black olives, cucumber slices, halved baby tomatoes, red onions, and feta cheese will create a delicious and healthy salad to enjoy whenever. You can season the entire dish with whatever you want but a lot of people will use salt and pepper as it works with both vegetables and pasta.
If the vegetable-heavy salad is not for you, then a macaroni salad will be more tailored to you. This consists of mostly focusing on the macaroni. The dish is creamy and can be served cold. The elbow macaroni can be mixed with sliced hard-boiled eggs, shredded chicken, mayonnaise or other condiments, and carrots or onion for a bit of color and texture.
The sauce is mostly going to be mayonnaise but if you wanted to you can change it to be a cheese sauce instead. This macaroni salad is a classic summer side dish and for good reason. It perfectly compliments anything it is paired with and can be served before as an appetizer or side dish depending on when you want it.
Despite being another salad, a potato salad is quite different from the other two side dishes I’ve mentioned. A potato salad is more bitter and has a crunchier texture. It is mostly made up of new potatoes, diced hard-boiled eggs, red onions, sweetcorn, and mayonnaise.
A classic potato salad is nothing to scoff at because no matter how simple they are, they are still so delicious and also very nutritious.
Mac and Cheese
Mac and Cheese is a classic side dish for so many different meals because of how warm, hearty, filling, and delicious it is. The recipe for it is so simple and only needs elbow macaroni, cheese, and a type of cream which can be milk or heavy cream. Once the pasta is cooked, this is combined in a pot and cooked until it all melds together. The pot can then be garnished with more cheese or breadcrumbs and baked in the oven for a bit to add a nice crispy layer at the top.
The side dish is so easy to make and a well-made mac and cheese can have such a huge impact on any meal because of how tasty it is. If you, or someone you are catering to, is being cautious of their calory intake then mac and cheese can be made using fat-free or fat-reduced alternatives and it will still be just as good.
French fries are notorious for being a side dish for almost any meal, and they work just as well as you would expect when paired with hot dogs. French fries are crispy, salty, and are easy to snack on which makes them a great side for if you don’t get quite full from your hot dog. French fries are also full of starch and fiber which are both good nutrients for the body.
Sweet Potato Fries
If you want a healthier alternative or a different taste to french fries, then sweet potato fries are exactly what you want. It is about time people start to give sweet potato fries credit for how delicious and healthy they are. While they may just seem like sweeter-tasting french fries, they are also rich in a lot more nutrients. Sweet potatoes have a lot of vitamin C and vitamin A in them which is helpful for healthy vision and an improved immune system, respectively. Sweet potato fries can easily be fried in a pan and are very simple to cook.
Corn on The Cob
When at the barbeque, a good idea is to put some corn on the cobs over the heat and grill them. Once they are properly cooked they can be covered in butter to be a delicious treat that is also healthy, assuming there is not too much butter on them. You will want to buy fresh and high-quality corn on the cob, classic grilled corn tastes so much better when fresh.
Sweet corn can also be extracted from the cob and made into a corn salad, or instead can be added as an ingredient into the potato salad and pasta salad that I mentioned earlier.
Asparagus is not something that is used too often, in my opinion. Yet, it makes such a great side to serve with hot dogs when used properly. For a healthy cooking method, you can grill asparagus on the barbeque or in the oven with some lemon zest and broccoli with it. This will result in a nice crispy asparagus side dish with a citrus flavor.
For a more salty and calory-high recipe, you can instead wrap the asparagus in prosciutto or any other cold-cut meat of your choice. Fine hams and Italian deli meat works great here. As you grill or bake the wrapped asparagus it will make the meat crunchy and stick to the asparagus, this can be an incredible snack on its own but paired with hot dogs and a side salad, it will blow your mind.
Potato chips such as Lays, Pringles, or Doritos might surprise you on this list but they are here for a good reason. While they might not add too much in terms of nutrition or filling you up, they are incredibly tasty and their crunchy texture can be a nice bit of diversity in your meal. They are a popular snack that you casually eat with your hands so there is no reason they cannot pair with hot dogs. Simple flavors such as ready salted are completely fine but even so, the more adventurous flavors will be just as good.
What Do You Put On a Hot Dog?
A hot dog can be broken down into different components very easily and they can all be changed to match your taste and preference. The main parts of a hot dog can be broken down into these sections;
- The bun
- The sasuage
- The condiments
While there is not as much choice when it comes to buns compared to bread, there is still some choice for you. You can choose between white buns, wholegrain, and a few other options. All of them will taste and act mostly the same but they may be more important for dietary issues such as watching calories or limiting your carbs.
There are plenty of choices when it comes to the dog you actually place in the hot dog, which is great for anyone who panics about how unhealthy hot dogs allegedly are. You can stick with the classic hot dog sausages such as a Weiner or Frankfurter, or you can change the recipe a tad and add full pork sausages from the butchers, or saveloy sausages instead if you feel like it. There are plenty of vegan options as well for sausages so anyone who is a vegetarian or vegan can enjoy hot dogs too. The sausage doesn’t actually have to be a sausage, either. I know this sounds weird, but you can get chicken replacements that are like hot dogs to use instead as it is a better source of protein.
The main condiments you will use for hot dogs will be tomato ketchup and mustard, or so that’s what you most commonly see. You can also use sour cream, guacamole, salsa, or any condiment you see fit. As long as it tastes nice and you enjoy it, that is all that matters.
If you want to keep using ketchup and mustard, then that’s fine. However, you do not have to stick with the same American yellow mustard. If you want to, you can replace it with something stronger that has more of a kick, or something a bit more earthy and gentle. Great choices for this are Dijon mustard and whole grain mustard.
Garnishing food is often linked to restaurants and appearances, but this is not always the case. With hot dogs, what you garnish them with can have a huge impact on how tasty the hot dog is. A lot of people garnish it with caramelized onions, a pickle relish, or fresh herbs. All of these work and can also add a crunchy texture to the hot dog. Another popular choice to garnish hot dogs with is coleslaw, which is a mixture of fresh vegetables that are finely chopped and mixed with mayonnaise.