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Posted by: Ayla Marika Category: Meat Processing

What are Hot Dogs?

Hot Dogs! We all know them as the quintessential American street food and fast food. Just about everyone has been acquainted with hot dogs at some time – at a ballgame, local fete, kid’s birthday party, or just a quick meal at home.

But what are hot dogs and how much do we really know about these long, fun hot dog sandwich things?

In this article I’ll share with you:

  • What are Hot Dogs?
  • How are Hot Dogs made? (infographic and animation)
  • Common Ingredients in Hot Dog
  • Origin of Hot Dogs

What are Hot Dogs?

A hot dog is a processed pork and/or beef sausage served in a long bread roll and topped with condiments such as ketchup, mustard, cheese and relish. Ketchup is quite controversial however, and I’m sure some hot dog purists will shun me for even mentioning it. I personally love ketchup, mustard and cheese on my hot dog. Each to their own!

The term ‘hot dog’ usually refers to the entire meal, comprising sausage, bread roll and toppings, made to resemble a sandwich or burger. ‘Hot dog’ is also the term used for the sausage, which is often found in vacuum-sealed packages in the chilled section of the supermarket, and may also be called franks, frankfurters or wieners.

Hot Dog types

Variations include cheese dogs, chili dogs and even reindeer dogs (Alaska). Corn dogs, popular in the US and South Korea, are hot dog sausages that are coated in cornmeal batter, deep-fried and served on a skewer—an Australian variant is the dagwood dog. Filipino waffle dogs are also similar, but use waffle batter instead. Vegetarian hot dogs are also available.


How are Hot Dogs made?

There are many stories and myths circulating about what hot dogs are made out of. While writing my non-fiction food comic book How Food is Made: An illustrated guide to how everyday food is produced (more about the book here) I researched a ton of food science and food industry books, magazines and journals to get the real answer to this question, which I give to you now.

The following is an extract from my book How Food is Made

What meat is hot dog?

Offcuts used in hot dogs include skeletal muscle, head meat (eg snout, tongue) and skin, as well as fat and connective tissues. Contrary to popular belief, animal organs (eg brains, hearts) are not normally used in the manufacture of hot dogs. Hot dogs usually contain pork and beef but may contain poultry (eg chicken, turkey) or veal. Low quality hot dogs often use mechanically separated chicken, casually known as ‘white slime’.

What meat is hot dog?

Hot dog sausages are made from pork and/or beef offcuts. They may also contain mechanically separated poultry or veal.

What is a hot dog casing made of?

The casing is the ‘skin’ that surrounds the hot dog sausage. The type of casing used varies with quality, style and brand of hot dog. Natural casings made from animal intestine are the most traditional option, but also the least common. Artificial casings are made from either collagen or cellulose. Skinless hot dogs, which are the most common type, are made with cellulose casings that are peeled off before packing.

How Hot Dogs are Made infographic and animation

how hot dogs are made

Ingredients in Hot Dog

Ingredients in factory-produced hot dogs often include any or all of the following.

Pig, CowPoultry
(chicken, turkey)
Casings
(intestine, collagen)
SaltSweetener
(sugar, corn syrup)
Curing Agent
(eg sodium nitrite)
Soy ProteinHerbs, SpicesStarch
Preservative
(eg phosphates)
Antioxidant
(eg ascorbate)
Liquid Smoke

Origin of Hot Dogs

Although hot dogs are usually thought to be an American food, the hot dog sausage originated in Germany and Austria. The words ‘frankfurter’ and ‘frank’ refer to the city of Frankfurt (Germany), where the sausage originated. Meanwhile, the other term for hot dog—wiener—is a reference to Vienna (Austria), where a sausage similar to hot dogs also originated.

Frankfurters were likely introduced to America via German migrants in the 1800s, but it is uncertain when the modern hot dog (sausage in bread roll) was created. One popular story suggests that a street vendor started serving his sausages in bread rolls in the 1880s or later, so his customers could hold the hot sausage without burning their hands. Some historians, however, claim that sausages were served with bread long prior to this time.

Hot Dog other names

Frank. Frankfurter. Wiener. Weenie. Coney. Dog.

What are hot dogs (linguistically speaking)?

The origin of the term ‘hot dog’ is also unclear. The most popular story claims that ‘hot dog’ was first used by a cartoonist around 1900. Again, historians point out that ‘hot dog’ had appeared in print before this time and was possibly used in conversation even earlier as a joke about dachshunds (sausage dogs).

In 1913, the term ‘hot dog’ was banned in Coney Island, USA, as it implied that dog meat was used. On the same note, since 2016, Malaysian food vendors are unable to receive halal certification if the name ‘hot dog’ is used, implying that dog meat is used, which is considered unclean in Islam.

The longest hot dog, according to Guinness World Records, was made in Paraguay in 2011. It was over 203m (668ft) long, including bread roll.


Did you enjoy this article ‘What are Hot Dogs’?

If you’d like to learn more about the processed foods we eat everyday, please check out my non-fiction food comic book How Food is Made: An illustrated guide to how everyday food is produced. The book features 60 common foods, detailing their history and manufacturing process using illustrations and food infographics.

If you have ever wondered where factory food really comes from and how it is made, this book is for you. Don’t just take my word for it. The press and readers love the book too – check out media and reviews here. Find out more about the book here and view a free sample from the book here.

Thanks for reading!

-Ayla Marika

Credits: Featured image photo by Polina Tankilevitch from Pexels

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