A hot dog (also, frankfurter, frank, wiener, etc) is a moist sausage of soft, even texture and flavor. Typically made from mechanically separated meat (known in the business as “meat slurry”), hot dogs are always sold pre-cooked, cured, or smoked. Hot dogs are usually placed inside a hot-dog-specific soft, sliced bun and eaten with your hands. These fine delicacies are often accompanied by an array of condiments, including mustard, ketchup, onion, mayo, relish, cheese, and chili. The flavor of the hot dog varies from bland bologna to spicy German bratwurst varieties. They are usually made from beef, chicken, or turkey, although vegetarian hot dogs, made from meat analogue (a good name for an uber-feminist punk rock band, no?), are also available.
It is difficult to assess just when and where the hot dog was invented, in part because various stories assert creation of the sausage, the placing of the sausage in a bun as finger food, the popularizing of the existing dish, or the application of the name “hot dog” to the sausage and bun combination.
The word “frankfurter” comes from Frankfurt, Germany, of course, where sausages in a bun originated. These were similar to hot dogs, but were made from pork. “Wieners” refers to Vienna, Austria (Vienna’s German name is “Wien”), home to a mixed sausage of beef and pork. The creation of the hot dog has also been ascribed to the wife of a German named Antonione Feuchtwanger (go ahead and say that name out loud, you know you want to), who sold hot dogs on the streets of St. Louis in 1880. Apparently, street vendors used to sell hot sausages and provided little white gloves that customers could wear to keep the treat from burning their fingers. However, when too many customers began making off with the gloves, Mrs. Feuchtwanger (say it!) had the idea of putting the sausages in a bun instead.
The first recorded usage of “hot dog” in reference to the sausage/bun combination appeared in 1893 in the Knoxville Journal:
“It was so cool last night that the appearance of overcoats was common, and stoves and grates were again brought into comfortable use. Even the weinerwurst men began preparing to get the ‘hot dogs’ ready for sale Saturday night.”
I can only assume it was a slow news day in Knoxville.
Hot dogs are prepared commercially by mixing the ingredients (meats, spices, binders and fillers) in vats where rapidly moving blades grind and mix the ingredients together. This mixture is then forced through tubes into casings for cooking. Most hot dogs sold in the US are called "skinless" as opposed to more expensive "natural casing" hot dogs. Natural casing hot dogs, of course, are cooked inside of the thoroughly cleaned small intestines of sheep, however, this type of casing is unusual in the US markets. The more-popular skinless hot dogs are cooked inside a casing of thin cellulose, but that casing is removed prior to the sale of the hot dog. Skinless hot dogs have a softer bite than natural casing hot dogs and are more uniform in size and shape.
Hot dogs may be grilled, steamed, boiled, barbecued, pan fried, deep fried, broiled, or microwaved. Regarding condiments, in the US, the National Sausage and Hot Dog Council conducted a poll in 2005, which found mustard to be the most popular condiment (32 percent). Twenty-three percent of Americans said they preferred ketchup. Chili came in third at 17 percent, followed by relish at 9 percent and onions at 7 percent.
There! You learned something new today! Now don’t you feel better??