The World of Hot Dogs

Its summer, which is peak hot dog consumption time. Hot dog culture continues to evolve as the beloved American treat is enjoyed at home and across the world. There are endless ways to serve a hot dog.

Americans love a good hot dog—so much so that, according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, about 20 billion of them a year, which works out to about 70 hot dogs per person. While you might expect Midwestern grill-masters to buy the most hot dogs, the actual top consumers are Los Angelinos at 34 million pounds (154 million kilograms) a year.

The first recorded hot dog eating contest was in 1972. In that event, the winner ate 14 hot dogs in 12 minutes. In 2021, Nathan’s Famous champion Joey Chestnut won by polishing off 76 hot dogs (and buns) in 10 minutes.

There is even a list of the correct way to eat a hot dog, including: no ketchup if you’re over the age of 18, no wine pairings, no utensils, and it should take exactly five bites to consume a proper hot dog. More on hot dogs below:

Who invented the hot dog?

It’s hard to say definitively who invented the hot dog, but credit has gone to Emil Reichel and Sam Ladany (the co-founders of Vienna Beef) and Johann Georghehner, a German butcher. No one is entirely sure.

Why are they called franks or wieners?

Hot dogs are called franks, short for frankfurters, because they may have begun in Frankfurt, Germany. Hot dogs are called wieners because they may have begun in Vienna, Austria, which is wien in German.

When was the hot dog invented?

Sausages date all the way back to ancient times, but the hot dog is first found mentioned in print in the late 1800s.

Where was it invented?

There is no definitive answer, but Frankfurt, Germany and Vienna, Austria both take credit for the invention. The modern day hot dog was allegedly created in Brooklyn, NY at Coney Island.

How did it get it’s name?

There are several myths about how the hot dog got its name, but the most likely origin is 19th century college humor, when students would make crude jokes pertaining to the questionable origin of the meat in hot dogs.

Hot dogs are red because sodium nitrite is added to cure the meat, add flavor, and prevent the growth of bacteria. Sodium nitrite is also added to bacon, cold cuts, and Spam.

Hot dog history continues to evolve, as the beloved American treat is enjoyed at home and across the world. Regional versions have arisen from the endless ways to serve a hot dog. In Seattle, top your hot dog with cream cheese. In Alaska, look for reindeer dogs accompanied by Coca-Cola grilled onions. In Iceland, lamb hot dogs (pylsur) are served with onions, ketchup, sweet brown mustard, and remoulade. In Chile, the wildly popular el completo is a hot dog that’s twice the size of the American version, served with chopped tomatoes, avocados, sauerkraut, and a huge dollop of Americans sauce (mayonnaise and ketchup). 

Every region in America has its own take on the hot dog based on local ingredients, history, and preferences. Here’s a few:

The classic New York City hot dog is produced by Sabrett, Nathan’s, or Hebrew National. Never topped with ketchup, these hot dogs are usually finished off with brown mustard and sauerkraut, and/or sweet onions in a tomato-based sauce.

Chicago dogs are made with Vienna Beef. They are steamed and are then tucked into a steamed poppy seed bun and joined by yellow mustard, neon green sweet pickle relish, chopped white onions, sliced tomato, a dill pickle spear, pickled sport peppers, and a dash of celery salt. No more, no less.

In the Detroit area, Coney dogs are a major regional specialty, except that they’re eerily similar to the West Coast chili dog. Natural casing beef or beef and pork German-style wieners are topped with a slightly soupy, flavorful beef heart-based chili sauce, yellow mustard, and raw white onions. 

Mexican Sonoran Hot Dog can be found primarily in Arizona and neighboring Sonora, Mexico. This hot dog burrito is a bacon-wrapped hot dog that’s cooked on a grill or griddle before being tucked into a bun and topped with a combination of beans, grilled and fresh onions, tomatoes, mayonnaise, mustard, jalapeno salsa, and crema.

Seattle DogGriiled hot dogs a served in soft buns coated with cream cheese and topped with caramelized onion, and mustard. Sauerkraut or sliced jalapeno peppers are sometimes added.

Red Hot (Texas Pop Open) or White Hot (White Pop Open) – Upstate New York’s city of Rochester serves a unique hot-hot dog. A spicy all-beef frank in a natural casing is steamed, loaded in a steamed split-top bun, doused in minced meat chili, and garnished with chopped raw onion and mustard.

Corn Dogs are a staple of state and county fairs throughout America. They are hot dogs on a stick, encased in a sweet-and-savory cornmeal batter and deep-fried to golden-brown perfection

Pukka Dog – Hawaii’s contribution to the world of interesting (and tasty) hot dogs is made with a hole toasted lengthways in a got dog bun with the frank stuffed down the hole along with pineapple relish.

Ball Park Dogs – It doesn’t get any more American than hot dogs and baseball. In Los Angeles, Dodger Dogs are skinless, foot-long pork hot dogs, steamed or grilled, and cradled in a foot-long steamed bun. Boston’s Fenway Franks are steamed beef hot dogs in a soft steamed bun and wrapped so they may be tossed long distances by ballpark vendors to hungry fans. Small packets of relish, mustard, and ketchup accompany them.

Kansas City dog – If a Reuben sandwich met a New York hot dog in a dark alley, you’d end up with this flavorful variation. A pork-based hot dog is nestled in a sesame seed bun and then topped with melty Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and mustard or Thousand Island dressing.

Southern Slaw Dog, you’ll find a fresh twist on the classic chili dog. Creamy, crunchy coleslaw helps cut through the hearty dish. An all-beef dog in a soft sesame seed bun is smothered in chili and then topped with creamy coleslaw, chopped raw Vidalia onion, and optional yellow mustard. In parts of the south, coleslaw is replaced by a chopped pickled vegetable relish called chow chow.

Most every cuisine has it’s own take on the hot dog. Here are a few:

Røde Pølse (Denmark) – The popularity of this hot dog is not only everywhere in Denmark but throughout Europe as well. Tasting one can help explain this phenomenon. A long, bright red pork grilled hot dog, sticking out of both sides of its soft bun, is garnished with chopped onions, large slices of pickled cucumbers, Danish remoulade, ketchup, mayonnaise and fried onions.

Completo (Chile) – Not to outdone by anyone, Chileans’ created this beloved monster with an oversized bun holding an oversized hot dog that is then covered in too much sauerkraut, diced tomatoes, mashed avocado, ad mayo.

Chung Chun (Korea) – This dog is all the rage in Korea and the American west coast. Although it looks similar to the American corn dog on a stick, this interesting hot dog is very much Korean in taste. A hot dog on a stick is rolled in a flavored panko batter with small cubes of potato and deep fried the served sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Perro Caliente (Colombia) – Salchitas, hot (“caliente”) dogs (“perro”) are boiled, tossed in a soft bun and topped with coleslaw, pineapple sauce, ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise and finished with crumbled potato chips.

MHT Hot Dog Recipes:


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2 thoughts on “The World of Hot Dogs

    • pbanhazl

      Great article…great idea. The Icelandic Pulsa sounds very similar to the Danish Poelser except the exciting lamb/beef/pork hot dog, raw onions, and sweet brown mustard. Can’t wait to research them and add a recipe on how to make the hot dogs and Pulsa in our Culinary Journey to Scandinavia scheduled for release later this year. Thanks for intro! MHT

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