20 Hot Dog Hacks You'll Wish You Knew Sooner

Life is full of experiences that pair perfectly with a plump, juicy hot dog. Whether taking in a pivotal home game or impressing guests with your barbecue skills, a hot dog is the perfect food to pull from your culinary arsenal. It's a deceivingly simple staple that's surprisingly versatile. Hamburgers may get the most love, but unlike them, hot dogs can be enjoyed without toppings or fully loaded because the meat is the star of the show, whereas burgers are often defined by their toppings. Funnily enough, both originate from Germany, clearly a country that knows something about meat.

Great debates aside, if you've only tried ketchup and mustard on your frank, you've been missing out on an entire world of flavorful potential. From unique cooking methods to clever cutting tips and more, there are many tricks to learn. We happen to know some fun hacks that, once unlocked, will transform regular dogs into life-changing franks. Trust us, when your canines take a bite out of these hacks, you'll wish you'd known about them sooner.

Crunch-ify your dog with potato chips

Adding a crunchy layer of potato chips is one of the easiest ways to elevate your hot dogs. Introducing texture makes for a more dynamic and delicious experience, and the best part is that you can use any flavor of potato chip you want. A salty kick and crunchy crisp blends seamlessly with the tender bite of a juicy dog. Texture breaks up the chewy monotony, and what's more, you have an entire aisle of potato chip flavors to indulge in. Barbecue-flavored potato chips will bring all the smoky and savory satisfaction you love. For a zesty spin, you can't go wrong with salt and vinegar crumbles. You can cool down your dog with refreshing sour cream and onion chips or get your cheddar fix with Doritos nacho cheese.

Preheat your pan for crispy hot dog skin

A simple way to make your hot dog experience more crunchy and crave-able is by preheating the weiners in a pan. Hot dog perfection is about finding the ideal balance between the skin and flesh — the skin should retain some bite and the flesh should be plump but not mushy. While grilling and boiling are often touted as the best ways to make franks, a quick pan fry may be more your speed. Using high heat, warm your pan and put your hot dogs in to cook. They will be ready for your bun in less than five minutes. If the skin begins to bubble, that means you are overcooking it. Unlike other methods, pan-frying allows you to incorporate seasonings as well. Use cast iron due to its superior heat retention to achieve ultimate crispness. 

Transform a Costco dog into a gourmet delight

Stopping at the food court to enjoy a Costco hot dog is a customer tradition. Plain, all-beef, and far from gourmet, there is nothing particularly impressive about Costco's famed dog. Yet somehow, it's become one of the most popular franks in the world. Maybe it's due to the price, which has remained at an inflation-proof $1.50 since being introduced in 1985. Mystery aside, you don't have to settle for a boring dog just to pinch a penny. With a little culinary creativity, a Costco dog can quickly transform into a gourmet frankfurter. Rather than eating it right away, you can take it home and make it truly gourmand-worthy. Slice it down the middle, grill it, top it with cheddar, relish, mustard, raw onions, and thank us later. 

Recreate real hot dogs with carrots

Believe it or not, hot dogs are pretty hard to give up for many who have transitioned to a plant-based lifestyle. We get it, hot dogs are one of the tastiest inventions in culinary history. It should come as no surprise that someone figured out an ingenious way to capture the smoky savoriness of hot dogs, without the influx of sodium. Using carrots and a few simple ingredients, you can create meatless hot dogs. You start by boiling the carrots until tender. Next, set them in a marinade of soy sauce (amino acids or tamari work as well), liquid smoke, garlic, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, and apple cider vinegar for 24 hours. The flavors will infuse the carrot with a frank-like taste and even resemble the real thing once cooked. While the consistency is different and there are still flavor notes of carrot, you'll be surprised that they can be used in this fun way. 

Hot dog salad puts a refreshing spin on Chicago-style

If you're a local or have visited Chicago before, there's a good chance you've heard of the city's famed style of hot dogs. The Windy City ups the ante on traditional franks with refreshing toppings like yellow mustard, green relish, raw onions, sport peppers, tomato wedges, celery salt, and a whole pickle spear. There, asking for only ketchup and mustard might garner you a side-eye. If you're looking to shed the carbs, you can toss out the bun completely and enjoy a Chicago hot dog-style salad. The most authentic approach is ensuring you use Vienna Beef franks, which is Chicago's preferred brand. Doubling up on the toppings and drizzling everything with oil will transform it into a real salad experience.

Only cut tomatoes into wedges for Chicago-style dogs

If the thought of hot dog salad raises a red flag, follow this vital step when making authentic Chicago-style dogs. Being topping-happy can ruin the experience, and how you prepare ingredients is just as important as how you balance them. The toppings are a perfect blend of savory, sweet, zesty, and fresh — using too much or too little of one can throw things off. Tomatoes, in particular, should always be sliced into wedges, never diced. Wedge cuts ensure that juicy tomato flavor is in every bite, whereas diced tomatoes tend to fall from the bun, leaving a mess as you eat. Furthermore, that's how they traditionally serve hot dogs in Chicago — the locals call it being "dragged through the garden." 

Add pickled grape tomatoes to your Chicago-style dog

While an authentic Chicago-style dog is an undeniable classic, a little creative switcheroo now and again never hurts. For a zestful burst of flavor, try adding pickled tomatoes to your toppings. Along with their tangy taste, they can also act as a makeshift ketchup substitute — adding the red condiment to your Chicago dog is an absolute no-no otherwise. Pickling tomatoes is easy too, you can infuse them with relish-like flavor in a jar of boiled water, vinegar, salt, and sugar. You'll need to let them sit in the fridge for one to two days before consuming. The longer you let them sit, the bigger the burst of sweet tomato flavor. After you learn how to pickle tomatoes, you can use them to elevate all sorts of recipes.

Simplify turning your dog on the grill with skewers

Every great grillmaster keeps a trick or two up their sleeve. As one of the most popular barbecue staples, there are many ways to grill a hot dog. Anyone who's braved the smokey haze has had franks roll off the grill. Their tubular shape can be slippery, especially if you position them perpendicular to the grate lines. Though parallel is better for reducing slippage, you shouldn't have to compromise on picture-perfect hot dogs with beautiful grill marks. Using wooden skewers will secure the goods and allow you to achieve worry-free grill marks. Slide the skewer through the hot dog lengthwise, making sure that both ends are exposed. The ends secure the dogs and work like corn-on-the-cob holders, allowing you to easily turn dogs when grilling.

Try the skewer trick for spiral-cut hot dogs

The cutting technique that you use can level up your hot dogs. With wooden skewers, you can unlock the spiral-cut method and join the ranks of the frankfurter elite. Spiral-cut hot dogs are works of culinary art that display both the exterior and juicy interior. Quickly become known as the resident grill master by inserting a skewer through the hot dogs lengthwise; it provides the resistance needed for spiral-cutting and prevents the dog from curling when cooked. Next, place the skewered dogs onto a cutting board, and slice each in a downward spiral direction, rotating until you reach the bottom. Try leaving at least a half inch of space between each slice, any less and you risk the hot dogs tearing apart. Spiral-cut hot dogs are fun treats for the family and can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Make crackly crispy skin with ketchup marinade

For even more crackle, you can marinate hot dogs in ketchup. Flavorfully explosive, ketchup marinade is one of the tastiest ways to elevate everyday hot dogs. The marinade consists of ketchup, the mustard of your choosing, soy sauce, minced garlic, and vegetable oil — in other words, tangy, sweet, and savory are all present and accounted for. Before slathering your dogs in ketchup marinade, follow a few simple steps. Using a skewer, pierce the dogs lengthwise, then slice four scores into each frank diagonally on either side — make sure not to cut fully through though. Take the skewer tips and roll each hot dog in the marinade until they are coated liberally. Once finished, it's time to put your grilling skills to work.

Put a Mexican sweet corn spin on your dog

Although hot dogs are famously known for being ballpark staples, they are an equally popular street food. In California, for example, bacon-wrapped hot dogs are one of the best go-to street foods, along with elote, a Mexican-style grilled corn cob slathered with deliciousness. If you're a true foodie, you probably know where we're headed with our next hot dog hack. Elote-topped franks are the Mexican twist to elevate hot dogs. Sweet, savory, zesty, and spicy, elote dogs put a vibrant spin on a meaty classic. Just imagine a juicy hot dog topped with cotija cheese, butter, fresh crema, and lime juice, blended with sweet grilled corn kernels and seasoned with smoked paprika and chili powder. Need we say more? You can also remove the bun and make a cheesy elote hot dog salad.

Briefly simmer in broth before grilling

The lengths to which some people are willing to go to enhance flavor are limitless. Hot dogs are mouthwatering enough as is, but simmering them in seasoned liquids will have them exploding with crave-worthy plumpness. Simmering requires less heat than boiling and is usually ideal at around 185 degrees Fahrenheit. The broth is an easy way to give franks more flavor, and this is the perfect opportunity to use leftover pho and ramen seasoning packets. If you don't have those on hand, you can always brew a batch of delectable "dirty water." A street cart staple, dirty water is the pan of hot water that vendors boil dogs in all day. As the hours pass, the water is infused with meaty flavor, gradually becoming a concentrated burst of tastiness. You can take your hot dog to even more flavorful heights by adding a seasoning blend of chicken bouillon, bay leaf, onions, and garlic to the dirty water. 

Air fryers makes cooking hot dogs easy peasy

Just when you thought cooking hot dogs couldn't get any easier, this next hack is just as quick, yet twice as mess-free. Skip the pot of water and pan of oil and whip out the air fryer. You can get your frankfurter fill in only five minutes without having to clean pots or pans. Hot dogs cooked in air fryers have a crispy skin that gives way to moist and meaty flesh when bitten into. When air frying dogs, preheat it to 400 F then cook them for two minutes — to cook more evenly, make sure to flip them over midway. You can toast the buns as well, by placing them in the basket to cook for three minutes. If you don't mind making a little mess and want a touch of flavor, pre-simmer your hot dogs before air frying them. 

Apply condiments first to reduce mess

There have been many great debates throughout history, and whether or not you should apply condiments to a bun or on top of a hot dog is one of the more contentious ones. In pop culture, hot dogs are most commonly depicted with clean squeezes of ketchup and mustard. That image is perhaps to blame for the ketchup stain on your favorite shirt that you tried to remove to no avail. While wiping mustard from your cheek is part of the fun, you don't have to become a Jackson Pollock painting to enjoy a delicious frank. Adding condiments to the bun first is the best way to avoid a messy hot dog. The dog's weight applies pressure to the condiments, securing the whole for clean consumption. Just make sure not to overdo it, as too much will make your buns soggy.

Use a baked potato as a hearty hot dog bun

Hot dogs don't have a reputation for being a healthy food. Fortunately, with a simple ingredient swap, you can make your hot dogs as nutritious as they are tasty. Substitute hot dog buns with baked potatoes. One medium baked potato is packed with 36.6 grams of complex carbs and is a great source of Vitamin C and potassium. Whether you want to call it a hot dog on a potato or a hot dog-loaded potato, this hack is a hearty helping of goodness. First, bake the potato until the skin is crispy and crackly, and the potato flesh is cloud-like. Towards the end of its oven time, prepare your other loaded ingredients and pan-fry your hot dogs until they have a nice crackle. Combine the two to set off a flavor bomb, just make sure to duck for cover. 

Butterfly-cut your dogs for a flavor boost

Another flavor-boosting cutting technique is the butterfly cut. It's an easy hack that increases the surface space of your dog, which of course equals more toppings. We especially recommend it if the more complex spiral cut seems too intimidating. Unlike that method, there are no limits to the types of toppings that can elevate the experience. Chicago-style is a no-brainer, and of course, you can never go wrong with a savory chili dog. For something a bit more punchy, try this pickled jalapeño-infused ultimate hot dog recipe, it is the pinnacle of satisfaction. You can also forgo the gluttony and top it with a refreshing salad. From sauerkraut and kimchi to pineapple salsa and potato chips, butterfly-cut dogs are a surefire way to quell your cravings.

Get the party started with BBQ burnt ends

In the land of barbecue, there are many ways to grill a hot dog to perfection. Burnt ends sound like the last thing you want to bite into, but in actuality, they are some of the tastiest barbecue-flavored morsels, period. They are simply hot dogs cut into smaller pieces, coated with seasoning and sauce, then grilled for 30 to 45 minutes. Timing is everything with these tiny bites, and in fact, "charred ends" would be a better name. Think of pigs in a blanket, except with a glistening allure exposed for all to see. When it comes to flavor, you can get pretty creative too. Satisfy sweet tooths with brown sugar, butter, and BBQ sauce, or spice things up with fiery hot sauce.

Achieve perfect char with the crosshatch method

After mastering the butterfly cut, you'll want to try the crosshatch cutting method. Quite possibly the best cutting style for plumped-up flavor, it allows heat to distribute evenly, carrying a dose of deliciousness. The grillmasters of olde praised the heavens when they discovered the crosshatch cut. All you have to do is slice shallow X's into your hot dog length-wise until it looks like a work of art. Cutting allows steam and seasoning to infiltrate the flesh, while the skin develops a crispy and crave-worthy char. Along with burnt excellence, the charred skin helps prevent the dog from splitting apart. The savory pockets made from slicing are ideal for securing condiments, and the drizzle snuggles deliciously into the crevices, waiting to hit your tongue. 

Substitute buns for cheesy hot dog taquitos

Hot dog taquitos are an unlikely bun substitute with a south-of-the-border twist. Tortilla-wrapped franks might not whet the appetite at first, but once you try them, you may rethink traditional buns. The quick and easy recipe includes savory chili, shredded cheese, spicy jalapeños, sliced red onions, fresh cilantro, and crema. A hot dog with Mexican flare only takes 10 minutes to fry and even less time to scarf down. If you're looking to reduce fat intake, you can use an air fryer instead. Tortillas have a tougher consistency than bread, making this recipe a great departure from the usual chewiness. From melted nacho cheese to avocado crema, there are numerous tickets to Tasteville. Hot dog taquitos are the perfect finger food for the family, gatherings, and game days.

Bake sweet and savory corn dog muffins

Savory hot dogs may get all the attention, but sweet hot dog recipes are where it's at. Experience a world of sweet and savory harmony with corn dog muffins. If logic follows, hot dog lovers who enjoy corn dogs will undoubtedly fall in love with these pastry treats. They are easy to bake, kid-friendly, and guaranteed to be the family's new favorite. You can bake them from scratch, or use a pre-made cornbread mixture. Just blend your ingredients, and add cuts of hot dog to the batter. Only 15 minutes are needed for baking, but if you prefer winging it, you'll know it's ready when the color is golden brown. With cornbread bringing the sweet and hot dogs providing the savory, feel free to spice things up with diced jalapeńos.