Some of today’s hot dogs still suffer from mystery-meat syndrome in an era when consumers are leery of processed food and demand to know (and pronounce) the ingredients in what they eat. But it’s not time to count out the famous comfort food of Americana. Today’s top dogs answer the call with sustainable and ethical ingredients, minimal processing, elimination of additives and preservatives, and messages of all-natural and hand-crafted. The ballpark favorite is an excellent canvas for culinary creativity and can be turned into a profitable signature item for your menu with a little TLC.
House-Made Hot Dogs
Offering a hot dog made in-house showcases your understanding of the sausage-making process, drastically raising the bar and differentiating you from the competition. If you’re able to make hot dogs in-house, set the same quality standard for your hot dog as you would for any other dish by utilizing grass-fed beef or heritage pork. Serving house-made dogs composed of these ingredients allows you to reassure cautious customers and eliminate their fear of unknown and processed meats. If you are unable to prepare your hot dogs in-house, Maines signature brand Prairie Creek has several varieties of top-quality hot dogs available.
The first step in crafting a house-made dog is grinding the meat. Some challenges that come with grinding are keeping proteins intact by knowing how thick or thin to grind the mixture and not allowing the meat and fat to separate. Keeping the meat thicker can also help create a more natural texture compared to the familiar processed versions. To finish your dog, consider an all-natural pork casing that increases the authenticity and provides the perfect snap that customers look for in a quality-made dog.
Mustard seed, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, mace, and coriander are common spices to incorporate into your dog recipe. Grinding spices fresh and avoiding pre-ground varieties elevates the overall superiority of the dog, and furthers the “natural” narrative. Owner of the Massachusetts restaurant The Kirkland Tap & Trotter, Tony Maws, worked and searched for an entire year trying to find the perfect blend of ingredients to incorporate into his house-made, award-winning hot dog, which includes beef and pork and an array of fundamental, fresh spices. Even acclaimed chefs like Maws admit that the hot dog is one of the most delicate sausages to execute; however, once practiced and perfected, it can become a profitable asset to your restaurant.
How to Cook
To produce a flavorful caramelization on your hot dogs, griddle them using a flat top griddle, a cast iron skillet, or frying pan. Another cooking method that appeals to customers looking to indulge is deep-frying; versions wrapped in bacon and then deep-fried have been particularly popular recently. Deep-fried hot dogs can be served to order and offered with customized doneness. Several hot dog eateries offer a version of a fried dog with creative names similar to “The Ripper,” because of the rip that occurs when fried 7 to 9 minutes. For a lighter cooking method, consider oven-roasting your hot dogs along with the toppings to fuse flavors. Preparing hot dogs traditionally on the grill is another excellent option that allows you to toast the buns to golden perfection simultaneously – firm enough to not fall apart but soft enough to enjoy. Ask your Maines Territory Manager about available breads that can best showcase your signature dog.
Item# 171311 – Roll Hot Dog 6 Inch – 12 / 12 ct.
• Baked with the highest standards
• When thawed, fresher than “fresh” delivered
Item# 103015 – Frank Beef & Pork 6-1 6 In 2 / 5 lb.
• 2 vacuum sealed packages per case
• All meat products especially suited for roller grill
Item# 103846 – Frank All Beef 8/1 6 In 1 / 10 lb.
• Premium all beef product
• Superior texture and juicy flavor
• Easy-to-read bilingual packaging
Item# 103850 – Frank All Meat 4-1 6.75 In 1 / 10 lb.
• Mild spice blend
• Gas flushed for brilliant color when cooked
• All meat with no added fillers
Item# 103854 – Frank All Meat 8-1 6 In 1 / 10 lb.
• Blast frozen for maximum shelf-life
• Mild spice blend
• USDA-certified fresh trimmings
Item# 103860 – Frank Beef 4-1 6.75 In 1 / 10 lb.
• Premium quality, perfect for artisan buns and gourmet toppings
• Extended hold times
Item# 103862 – Frank Beef 6-1 6 In 2 / 5 lb.
• Prepare any way you like – steam, flat top, or roller grill
• Fixed formula assures consistency
• Blast frozen for maximum shelf-life
While the dog itself can be intriguing, the toppings are what transform it into something special. Enhance the familiar ballpark dog with house-made relish, house-made ketchups, or freshly fermented toppings like sauerkraut and marinated or pickled peppers that convey your attention to detail. Harry’s Deli in Manhattan, Kansas, showcases an array of creative toppings on its dogs like a homemade pickle tomato sriracha relish, roasted corn sauté, and smoked red pepper coulis. Garnishing hot dogs with these fresh, unique ingredients increases appeal; even slight refinements to the classics like candied bacon or a cran-apple relish can have great impact.
Coleslaw and hot dogs are an iconic duo that should be prepared thoughtfully. A house slaw can embody your restaurant’s signature flavor, taste, and vibe. Additions like barbeque, mustard, or hot sauce can enhance the traditional slaw, but be sure to keep it simple to avoid losing familiarity of the classic, creamy favorite. You can give slaw an earthy twist with fresh fruit, cilantro, dill, vinegar, celery seeds, jalapeño or caraway seeds. Or, try pairing the slaw with a chili sauce with garlic and onion for contrasting texture.
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How to Market
To make hot dogs appealing and profitable, make sure the style of your dog(s) coincides with the culture of your restaurant. If you’re an upscale establishment, go gourmet with sophisticated ingredients such as house-made beet ketchup or a pickled daikon radish topping. A fast-casual eatery may benefit more from innovative combinations such as a bacon-wrapped dog with a sweet and spicy chili glaze, or a mac and cheese topped dog with bacon and chives.
Hot dogs are versatile enough to showcase any cuisine, and can be merchandised accordingly. For example, Pasadena-based Dog Haus lists a dog titled, “Another Night in Bangkok” that has a spicy peanut sauce paired with a fresh Asian slaw. “Mexican Town,” as seen on Detroit Dog Company’s menu, also creates an ethnic-inspired dog that’s topped with chorizo, avocado, tomato, jalapeños, Cheddar, and chipotle sauce.
Making your hot dog a limited-time offer is another tactic that entices curious customers. The Kirkland Tap and Trotter hosts “Hot Dog Mondays,” only offering their award-winning dog one day per week to generate business and build excitement for the dish. Mentioning the phrase “first-come, first-served,” or offering a “link of the month” or “dog of the week” are other excellent ways to specialize your offer. These types of promos also encourage your staff to talk about the product while serving customers which makes them more likely to make a repeat visit for the same dish.
Build Your Own
According to Technomic Inc., 72% of consumers expect customization, and 66% say the ability to customize is important, even if they order straight off the menu. However, only 46% of operators understand the increasing consumer need to customize. With millennials leading the way for the customization trend, the demand is anticipated to increase as diners appreciate the power to purchase exactly what they’re craving.
In the fast-casual way of doing things, consider a “build your own” hot dog option or self-serve bar. Start with basic hot dog preparations, like all-beef, bacon-wrapped, turkey dogs, veggie dogs, and footlongs alongside toasted buttery buns. As you offer a list of toppings, you can charge extra for those that go on the footlong versions, and select a few extra premium toppings for an additional charge. This could be proprietary sauces, seasonal slaws, or ingredients that require special preparation as in pickled, roasted, or deep-fried vegetables. Customers will also appreciate familiar favorite toppings that they can mix ’n match as they please such as ketchup, mustard, relishes, and chili cheese sauce.