Hot Dog Ramblings

Hot Dogs, Wieners, Frankfurters, Franks, or Dogs; whatever you call them, they are one of the main stays of low cost cooking, especially if you have children to feed. In my hot dog explorations I have discovered that all beef franks taste the best, at least to my taste buds. They are usually the most expensive too, often costing as much as $3 a pound or more. Since I regard hot dogs as an economy food, I don’t purchase the expensive ones. Instead, I go for the cheapest ones available. At my local stores this means hot dogs made from turkey or chicken meat. I usually pay under $1 a pound, sometimes as little as 69¢ a pound when they are on sale in the summer time. When I find hot dogs this cheaply I but at least 10 pounds for the freezer. Hot Dogs are one thing I know we will use up long before they go to waste. Turkey and Chicken wieners have much less fat than their pork and beef counterparts, so along with being less expensive, they are healthier too. While you’re in the hot dog case, be sure to check the weight of your package. Some packages are 10 or 12 ounces, but appear to be the same size as the full 16 ounce-pound packages. Use the Unit Prices to compare the price per ounce so you know you’re getting the best deal in the lunch meat case.

Incidentally, when I absolutely have to have all beef weiners, I buy them at my local Warehouse store (Sam’s). There I can purchase high quality all beef hot dogs for $1.39 a pound if I buy 4 pounds of them at a time. This is the same price per pound that I regularly pay for hamburger, so it isn’t too expensive for an ocassional treat. As the kids get older and can really taste the flavor difference between the chicken-turkey dogs and the all beef franks, I find myself purchasing the more expensive ones more often. They are still pretty cheap compared to other things. As with so many frugal buying habits, each family must make their own decisions regarding cost and quality. Some folks consider the turkey-chicken dogs the all around best buy because they are less expensive and so much healthier. Others prefer the flavor of the beef weiners enough to pay the higher price. I waffle around from one view to the other, depending on the day, and the amount of last week’s pay check.

To Cook Hot Dogs in the house: My favorite way to cook hot dogs is to boil them. Fill a pot half full of tap water. Bring it to a boil over high heat. Add your hot dogs. Reduce the heat slightly and simmer for about 5 minutes. Drain the dogs slightly before placing them on a bun. Hot dogs may also be steamed in a steamer insert like vegetables if desired. They need to steam for about 7 to 10 minutes to be heated all the way through. When steamed, hot dogs seem to be juicier to me than when they are boiled. Another favorite way to cook weiners is to fry them. Heat a tablespoon or two of bacon grease, oil, or margarine in a large skillet. Add the hot dogs and fry them until they are browned to your liking. Turn them occasionally so that they brown evenly.

To Cook Hot Dogs outside: When you have your outside grill heated up for hamburgers or steaks it is an easy matter to toss on a few hot dogs for later consumption. Hot dogs cook quickly so watch them carefully. When they are well browned on one side, turn to brown the other side, which will cook more quickly still. These grilled hot dogs are very good reheated in the microwave for fast snacks and lunches. Franks are also delightful when cooked on a stick over an open fire. I use metal coat hangers for the sticks, although I’ve heard that green wood also works. Green wood is wood from a living tree. Since it hasn’t dried out yet, it won’t burn in the fire the way dead fall will. Only take green wood from your own trees on your own property. Never take green wood from public trees, it is stealing. To make a coat hanger stick, use wire cutters to cut the hook off, and straighten out the remaining wire. Carefully shove the hot dog onto one end of the wire, long-ways. The picture to the right shows it short-ways. In my experience hot dogs fall into the fire when cooked this way. Shoving the hot dog onto the wire long-ways is more secure. Use the other end of the wire for a handle. Hold the weiner in the fire until it browns lightly and sweats with it’s inner juices. Turn the franks often to cook them evenly. Serve on a bun with all your favorite fixin’s.

Condiments: Frankfurters are a simple food, lending themselves to all sorts of spicy sauces and savory decorations. Once you place your hot dog on a bun, it is ready for embelishment. For everyday eating ketchup and mustard make weiners something quick and tasty for snacks or lunches. When you have the time you can easily add shredded cheese, minced onion, chopped pickles, and barbecue sauce. Adventuresome souls can add inexpensive canned Sauerkraut, Cole Slaw, and even chutney, picalilly, and other other spicy relishes. I like canned hot dog chili on my wieners. I buy it in 10 ounce cans at 3 for $1. The reason it is so cheap is that the main ingredient listed on the can is ground beans, not meat. It tastes good though, and is just the right touch for a summer afternoon of chili dogs, coleslaw and jello fruit salad. One can is enough to serve my family for one meal of hot dogs.

Buns & Bread: Have you ever tried to make homemade hot dog buns? I have, and I’ve never been as successful at it as I’d like. Hamburger buns are easy to shape, and if they are a little crooked, they still fit the burger. Hot dog buns are more persnickity. Unless you have the patience of Job I recommend buying your hot dog buns pre-made. My local day-old bread store sells them for about 50¢ a package. I usually buy about 6 or 8 packages and freeze them until I need them. Hot dog buns taste best if they are warmed up before eating. This can be done quickly in the microwave by cooking for a few seconds. Be careful though, because the microwave will over cook and dry out your buns before you can say Jack Robinson. A more reliable way is to arrange them on a cookie sheet and bake them at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes. This will toast them slightly, giving them just enough crispiness to hold up to the onslaught of topping cascading from the condiment tray. If you don’t have buns, don’t worry. Hot Dogs are aboslutely divine with a nice slice of white bread wrapped around them, the way you wrap a blanket around a sleeping child. If you are out of bread then you can make Corn Dogs or Pigs in a Blanket instead.

Beanie Wienies: This is an all time favorite at my house. Heat up 4 to 6 cups of Baked Beans or Pork ‘n’ Beans. This is 3 or 4 15 ounce cans. Homemade Baked Beans will be cheaper, but canned beans are convenient and relatively inexpensive. Slice up a pound of hot dogs and heat them up in a large saucepan along with the beans. I prefer the hot dogs thinly sliced, but this is a matter of taste. Add a bit of ketchup, brown sugar, dry mustard, chopped onion, or chopped green pepper if you take a notion to. Add a little water if you need to, for simmering. Simmer the dish over medium heat for about 10 minutes to mingle the flavors together. Serve hot with a pan of Corn Bread if you like. This will serve 6 people amply, the recipe may be cut in half if desired.

Mashed Potato Pups: Start off with a pound of hot dogs. Cut a lengthwise slit in each hot dog, without cutting all the way through. Get 2 cups of leftover or fresh mashed potatoes, instant ones are fine. Mix 1/2 to 1 cup of shredded cheese with the mashed potatoes. Stuff the hot dogs with the cheesy potatoes. Arrange the stuffed dogs on a cookie sheet. Bake at 400° for about 15 minutes. The potatoes should be brown and hot and the cheese should be melted. Serve hot to hungry children. Excellent use for leftover mashed potatoes.

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