13 Grocery Store Hot Dog Brands, Ranked Worst To Best

Hot dogs spark joyful childhood memories, conjure up the sounds of ball games, BBQs, and pool parties, or provide a taste of comfort alongside baked beans or macaroni and cheese. But no matter what a hot dog means to you, it's clear we're passionate about them.

Nostalgia led this writer to think of Mug 'N Muffin, the quaint, hole-in-the-wall restaurant chain well-known around Massachusetts in the '70s and '80s where hot dogs were my go-to choice on the menu. And to this day, they remain the best hot dogs I've ever had. But perhaps that's the memories speaking.

We went on the hunt for the best grocery store hot dog brands and ranked them from worst to best by putting more than a dozen popular brands to the test. It came down to more than just taste, bite, and appeal, however. We compared ingredients, price, value, and preservation method, and considered the most important thing of all — did we want to keep eating it?

To keep things simple, we heated the hot dogs in the oven, covered, at 350 F for 15 minutes. We listed and numbered the brands and placed them in a roasting dish in the same order. But since we didn't memorize which brand was what number, it became a slight blind taste testing.

Gwaltney Great Dogs Original

Gwaltney Great Dogs Original aren't so great. Fully cooked and created with mechanically separated chicken, these hot dogs don't taste anything like a hot dog should. They're more reminiscent of bologna with a mild smoky taste, so they might fare better grilled or pan-seared in a flavorful fat. Or you might not notice how bland they are if you slather them with ketchup or mustard or drown them with chili. They cost $2 for an 8-pack, so they're one of the most affordable options.

Gwaltney dogs have a beef collagen casing, don't have a noticeable bite, and feature a softer chew. But the brand first lost points for having to cut the package open with a knife or scissors. This heightens the risk for cutting into one of the hot dogs before you even get it out of the package. And though many brands of hot dogs have some form of sugar, we feel sweetener has no place in a hot dog — and Gwaltney dogs contain corn syrup.

Hofmann German Brand

Hofmann German Brand hot dogs are made from pork, beef, and veal, and feature a lamb casing. Of all the brands we tried, Hofmann hot dogs had the best classic snap expected of a good hot dog. And even though these hot dogs were plump and meaty, they were a little dry and too chewy. The meat had very little flavor to it and barely even registered a noticeable scent. We were rather disappointed but also realized these hot dogs may do better grilled since open flame enhances just about any food.

Hofmann hot dogs come fully cooked and cured, and the information on the package boasts that there are no added MSG, artificial colors, or flavors. But the ingredient list does state these hot dogs are made with sweeteners: dextrose and corn syrup. And though Hofmann dogs are a good size, we don't think they're worth the price of more than $1 per dog — $6.79 for a six-pack.


Stahl-Meyer hot dogs are made from chicken, pork, and beef, and feature the least amount of calories per hot dog of all the hot dog brands we tried. Fully cooked and cured, Stahl-Meyer hot dogs also come in a package that needs to be cut open and we did lose one (sliced right through) in our attempt to get the package open. Claiming no by-products or artificial colors or flavors, Stahl-Meyer hot dogs have a sweet, smoky smell but we didn't find this brand to be all that remarkable in any other way. Containing both corn syrup and dextrose, these hot dogs were a little too sweet for our liking.

As far as how the Stahl-Meyer hot dogs ranked for that desired hot dog bite, they were almost squishy with too soft of a chew. At $1.79 for an 8-pack, if you're looking for a budget-friendly hot dog, then this might be a decent option — if you follow these tips when cooking your hot dogs.

Sahlen's Smokehouse Original

Sahlen's Smokehouse Original hot dogs are created with pork and beef and made with a collagen casing. Considered fully cooked and cured, these hot dogs rank at the top for the longest hot dog we found on the grocery store shelves. But though they were the longest, they were not the tastiest — nor did they have the best chew. We found the casing to be tough to bite through, while the inside was somewhat mushy, and we weren't too crazy about the flavor either.

That said, Sahlen's hot dogs were better than Hofmann at the same price of $6.79. But like the Hofmann, Stahl-Meyer, and Gwaltney brands, the package had to be opened with a knife or pair of scissors. We're not a fan of this method even if the hot dogs have been sealed airtight. Somehow, there always seems to be a hot dog casualty. Not helping rank this hot dog any higher, the ingredient list includes three different types of sweeteners: corn syrup, dextrose, and sugar, and they also contain soy and corn.

Nathan's Beef

Nathan's Beef skinless hot dogs are pretty popular among the hot dog crowd. We had high hopes for this brand but were left a little disappointed. Fully cooked and cured, Nathan's just didn't have the hot dog we were expecting this brand could deliver, especially given the rave reviews of hot dog lovers. They also offer decent value at $7.99 for an eight-pack.

Nathan's all-beef hot dogs had a nice bite to them and a good chew, although maybe a bit on the soft side. They had a slightly smoky undertone that gave the meat balance, and initially, the flavor had us thinking this brand would be a top contender. But the aftertaste was so bad it took multiple gulps of coffee to get the unpleasantness out of our mouths.

Made with 100% beef and not containing a whole lot of extra ingredients, Nathan's hot dogs feature one of the better ingredient lists we have seen. The brand loses points for adding corn, but the only sweetener listed is sorbitol. Overall, Nathan's is a solid choice for hot dogs.

Boar's Head

Boar's Head, a well-known brand in the world of deli meats, was expected to rank a lot higher than it did with its hot dogs given the brand's reputation. Made from uncured beef and only six more added ingredients, these hot dogs have the cleanest ingredient list of all the grocery store hot dog brands we tried. Unfortunately, we thought they were lacking in good hot dog flavor since the smoky currents were overpowering. And though we might look past the slightly too-smoky taste, the skin was tough and the inside dense and somewhat dry, creating a rather chewy bite we don't want our hot dogs to have.

We're still a big fan of the ingredient list and since there are so many different ways to cook hot dogs, there's always a chance a different cooking method other than the oven might create a more flavorful and juicier dog. Boar's Head beef hot dogs are the best choice for anyone who requires minimal ingredients without any sweeteners. Pair these hot dogs with other ingredients and they could be worthy of the hefty price tag of $8.19 for an eight-pack.

Hebrew National

Hebrew National is another popular grocery store hot dog brand that hot dog lovers gravitate toward. We love that the package peels open so you don't accidentally cut into a hot dog. Made with Kosher beef, Hebrew National hot dogs are fully cooked and cured but do contain soy as filler, though the package claims to not have any fillers. Hebrew National has a simple ingredient list that doesn't include any sweeteners. That helps justify the higher price point of $7.09 for a six-pack.

Making this one of the better brands to choose from, Hebrew National dogs feature a light snap with a good bite for a decent hot dog chew. These cured beef hot dogs taste slightly smoky and are a little spicy with a peppery aftertaste. The meat has a solid flavor but we think it would taste even better if it had fewer spices — but the hot dogs are very juicy and a good choice.

Oscar Mayer Beef

Oscar Mayer may have a way with bologna but does the brand have a way with hot dogs? Not surprisingly, yes. This package of hot dogs is easy to open by peeling the liner back, which is always a plus. Made with uncured beef, Oscar Mayer hot dogs don't really have a snappy bite and they have a much softer chew than most good hot dogs. But they still deserve a top spot because they look, smell, and taste like hot dogs. They're pretty good value at $7.09 for an eight-pack as well. 

Oscar Mayer beef hot dogs have a smoky background to the meat but it's balanced and not too strong. The dogs have an almost BBQ-ish flavor with a fruity wood-smoke aroma. We did find these hot dogs to be a little too sweet for us (which could be a positive if that's what you like) as the ingredient list states the hot dogs contain the sweetener dextrose. An overall solid choice for your hot dog wants.

Applegate Naturals

We admit we're already a fan of the Applegate brand of bacon so we had high expectations for these hot dogs. Made with grass-fed beef, Applegate Naturals hot dogs are uncured with no nitrites or nitrates. They're available in a six-pack for $6.29. We first noticed when we opened the package, which had to be cut with a knife, that the hot dogs smelled like the bacon we're so fond of. But the hot dogs didn't knock our socks off like the bacon usually does.

Still a good choice for uncured hot dogs, Applegate Naturals hot dogs have a nice bite to them. We thought they were a little too chewy since the meat was somewhat dense. And while we enjoyed the flavor enough, the seasoning was too heavy on the smoke, which detracted from the hot dog. This brand could have had a higher ranking if it was a bit lighter on the spices; there was a peppery aftertaste not typical of a hot dog.

Ball Park Grillmaster Beef

Ball Park Grillmaster Beef hot dogs are created with all beef, are uncured, and pack a lot of flavor in each bite. Perhaps it's the robust amount of fat that gives these dogs their super plump nature and hearty hot dog flavor. We found them to have the right balance of smokiness, although maybe on the side of a little too much, with a slightly spicy aftertaste. However, if you're enjoying these hot dogs with other ingredients, then the smoke or spicy background may blend well without being too much.

Also giving it more points is the fact the Ball Park package peels open for easier access to the hot dogs, which feature a good bite and tender chew. But knocking it down a step or two in our ranking is the addition of corn syrup to the ingredient list, even if we didn't think they were too sweet. We'd eat these again. They're one of the more expensive options at $6.59 for 5 hot dogs.

Publix Beef

Publix is a popular and well-loved grocery store chain for a number of food products it sells. Whether the store is known for its hurricane cakes or standout fried chicken (we are the biggest fans of the ready-made, non-breaded fried chicken wings), Publix makes some good food. So, maybe unexpected, maybe not, the Publix brand all-beef hot dogs were actually quite flavorful. The one major thing we didn't like about this option for hot dogs is the two sweeteners added to the ingredients: corn syrup and sugar. (Really, meat doesn't need sweeteners added for flavoring.)

Publix beef hot dogs deliver a crisp bite, satisfying chew, and are juicy. These dogs are also uncured but still have a smoky underlying taste that may make you think they are cured. These hot dogs are just about everything you're looking for in a good hot dog. A rock-solid choice for your next cookout, grilling, or campfire experience. As a bonus, they offer great value at $6.59 for eight hot dogs.


One of our runners-up for the best grocery store hot dog brands, but neck-and-neck with Publix and Ball Park, Sabrett serves up a true beef hot dog that has the desired pop and punch most people look for in a hot dog. Fully cooked and made with all beef, these skinless hot dogs look, smell, chew, and taste like a hot dog ought to. They're not too heavy with the smoke, they sport a rich, tangy beef flavor, and these dogs feature a juicy bite. They're also one of the most affordable hot dog options at $6.09 for eight.

Sabrett surprised us with zero carbohydrates but though there are no added sugars to increase the carb count, the ingredient list does still have the sweetener sorbitol. Aside from the added sweetener, Sabrett hot dogs only had one other downside that we noticed. Maybe it's because these dogs are skinless, but the bite, while snappy, was on the tougher end of the spectrum, which led to a chewier mouthfeel. The meat was more reminiscent of minced meat instead of compressed meat. 

Kayem Old Tyme Beef

The absolute best grocery store hot dog brand we tried was Kayem Old Tyme Beef. To be fair, we should have seen the winner coming since Kayem is the supplier for the famous Fenway Frank (a very specific hot dog style that uses two separate cooking methods) and this writer hails from the Boston area. They're also reasonably priced at $5.59 for six hot dogs. And seeing as this hot dog brand is based out of Chelsea, Massachusetts, we have to wonder if maybe they supplied hot dogs to Mug 'N Muffin, too.

Fully cooked, cured, and made with all beef, Kayem is the hot dog you want when you have hot dog cravings. The lamb casing gives it the classic hot dog snap while the beef inside is juicy and flavorful, resulting in a decent chew that can only be applied to a hot dog. There is a light balance of smokiness that doesn't overpower the hot dog and though the one sticking point is the added dextrose, we didn't find these dogs to be too sweet.

Of all the hot dogs we tested, Kayem was the one we wanted to keep eating.