What Are Hot Dogs Made Of?

Americans love their hot dogs. And we mean really love them. The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council estimates that Americans eat 20 billion (yes, billion with a B!) hot dogs a year. That’s about 70 hot dogs per person. That’s a lot of hot­ dogs!

The interesting thing is hot dogs didn’t even originate in the U.S. There are a couple of stories about where the hot dog did come from, but we’re pretty certain it’s Germany. One story says its origin is the frankfurter, which was first created in Frankfurt. But other says that’s not true. They say its roots are with the popular sausage known as the “dachshund” or “little-dog” sausage. It was created in the late 1600s by a butcher named Johann Georghehner who was from Coburg, Germany. Georghehner supposedly later traveled to Frankfurt to promote his creation. That would explain the source for the name hot dog.

Whichever story is true, 1893 was pivotal for the hot dog. That’s because tons of them were sold that year at the Colombian Exposition in Chicago. They were tasty, easy to hold and cheap. That same year was also when the hot dog became synonymous with baseball. The tradition was started by a St. Louis bar owner, Chris Von der Ahe, a German immigrant and owner of the St. Louis Browns major league baseball team (though others claim it was New York concessionaire Harry M. Stevens).

What’s in My Dog?

And all of this brings us to the question of the day: What exactly is in those 20 billion hot dogs Americans scarf down every year? Well it depends on a lot of things, especially the brand you buy. Every brand uses their own recipe, which includes different ingredients, spices, binders and flavorings. But according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, in general hot dogs may include:

  • Meats: could be pork, beef or poultry, or a combination of them
  • Water
  • Spices: could include pepper, garlic, coriander, cinnamon, cumin, nutmeg, paprika and allspice
  • Beef stock: for a meatier flavor
  • Cherry powder: for color
  • Citric acid: used to control the acidity of the dogs
  • Sugar or corn syrup: helps promote browning
  • Sodium nitrite: responsible for curing
  • Collagen casing: edible alternative to hog or sheep intestines
  • Modified food starch: used as a thickener
  • Yeast extract: adds a savory taste

How’s That Dog Made?

So not every hot dog will include every ingredient from the list above. As we already mentioned, recipes will vary greatly depending on who is making the dog. But how hot dogs are made is pretty straightforward. Here’s how the process works:

  • Selected meat trimmings are cut and ground into small pieces and put into a mixer.
  • A high-speed chopper blends the meat, spices and curing ingredients into an emulsion or batter.
  • The mixture is then pumped into an automatic stuffer/linker machine and into casings.
  • Once the casings are filled, they’re linked into long strands of hot dogs, and fully cooked. Some hot dogs are smoked for extra flavor.
  • Next the hot dogs are cooled in water, and the protective casing “skin” is stripped away. Individual links are sent to the packaging lines.
  • Finally, the hot dogs are fed into the vacuum packaging equipment, wrapped and vacuum sealed in plastic film, packaged and boxed.

Kosher hot dogs are made the same way other hot dogs are made. The main difference is that Kosher hot dogs don’t contain pork. They also are made using beef or poultry slaughtered according to Jewish law. Common ingredients in kosher hot dogs include poultry or beef, water, spices colorants and flavorings. The meat is prepared in a casing that is removed after it is cooked.

Originally Published: Jul 22, 2020

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