Hot Dogs

Tuesday, 18 November 2008 | Tags:

A staple of baseball games and backyard BBQs, hot dogs became popular in New York City in the early 1900s. But not all wieners are created equal. We check out the hot dog market to see if we can find a winning wiener.

The Basics

  • Hot dogs can be made using beef, pork, turkey or chicken. In some cases it’s a combination, which is usually the case with more economical varieties.

  • To keep your wiener ingredients straight, keep this in mind:

    • All-beef dogs should contain nothing but beef. If the label says meat, not beef, it’s probably a blend of beef and pork.

    • If the type of meat isn’t specified, it likely contains a lot of fillers like soy.

    • If it says mechanically-separated meat, it means the meat, still on the bone, was turned into a paste before being made into a hot dog. Food regulations state hot dogs can contain no more than 20% mechanically-separated meat. If you have a calcium intolerance, avoid these dogs.

  • The thin membrane that wraps a hot dog is called the casing.

    • Natural casing is usually made from lamb’s intestine.

    • Some Kosher dogs use a collagen casing instead.

    • Dogs without casings tend to be soft and mushy, as described by hot dog connoisseurs.

  • Hot dogs aren’t considered very healthy due to typically high sodium and fat contents, so enjoy them in moderation!

Be Aware

  • If you’re sensitive/intolerant to calcium, avoid hot dogs that say “mechanically-separated meat”.


For our series The Shopping Bags, we took to the streets of New York City to recruit some discerning taste testers for these hot dog brands:

  • Oscar Meyer’s (mixed meat): $3.89

  • Ball Park Franks (beef): $ 4.39

  • Hebrew National (skinless, kosher): $4.29

  • Local deli (natural casing): $12 per dozen

Taste Test

New Yorkers certainly know their hot dogs, but they don’t necessarily agree on taste:

  • The local deli dogs were top dog by a slim margin. They had the perfect amount of spice and were almost more sausage-like.

  • Ball Park Franks were a basic, good-tasting hot dog

  • Hebrew National’s smoky kosher dog was also a popular choice.

  • The Oscar Meyer mysterious mixed-meat hot dog didn’t cut the mustard. It didn’t taste like meat: a little mushy and too processed.


In New York City, home of the hot dog, the local deli’s dogs had the best flavour and texture, and also the most expensive price tag. For a more economical meal, the Ball Park Franks are also a hit.



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