Why You Shouldn't Leave Hot Dogs In Boiling Water

Head to almost any baseball game, tailgate party, or backyard picnic, and you'll most likely come across the meaty aromatics of a simple hot dog. Placed between the folds of a fluffy hot dog bun and topped with the essentials like mustard and relish, hot dog meat is soft on the inside and "snappy" on the outside. It's also primarily comprised of animal muscle, such as pork, turkey, or beef, as well as seasonings like coriander, ground mustard, and garlic (via the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council).

The ultimate hot dog can be prepared in a multitude of ways. One of the more popular ones is grilling, which colors the exterior with those coveted charred grilled marks and adds a mouth-watering smoky flavor. But for those who don't have a grill, the use of a frying pan, an oven, a microwave, and a pot of boiling water works well too. Boiled water presents a problem though for some home cooks, as there is often confusion as to whether or not hot dogs should be left to sit in said scalding hot temperatures. Here's why that's a big no-no.

How long should hot dogs be left in boiling water?

Let's start with this fundamental question: how should you cook hot dogs in boiling water? Well according to Food52, it's a pretty simple process. Boil some water, add your hot dogs in, and let them swim around for 4-6 minutes (don't cover the pot with a lid). Remove the hot dogs when they start to look plump and let them rest on a plate lined with paper towels.

Other food blogs like The Kitchen Community and Your Cooking Buddy also (roughly) highlight the above time frame for boiling hot dogs, which begs the question, what happens when hot dogs sit in the pot for too long? Hot Dog Profits states that they'll get mushy and emphasizes that hot dogs should never be left in boiling water. Lacademie goes on to explain that over boiled hot dogs won't taste as good, their texture will be off, and they might even burst.

Hot Dog Profits prevents split hot dogs and mushy textures by placing the boiled hot dogs in a steamer to keep them warm. This is useful for parties and events, but if you're planning on eating them immediately, the paper-lined plate trick from above works just as well too.

So in short, boil hot dogs for about 5 minutes or so and remove them immediately to prevent changes in aesthetics, textures, and flavors.

Why do over-boiled hot dogs get mushy and bland?

Those beloved "plump" aesthetics of hot dogs are due to a process called osmosis. As explained by Byju's, the goal of osmosis is to even out two drastically different concentration levels through a "passive process without any expenditure of energy." Molecules move from the higher concentration level to the lower concentration one until their levels are the same. Osmosis happens all the time in food, and Cooking For Geeks provides examples like seasoning meat with salt or making homemade dill pickles.

EatByDate explains that osmosis also occurs in hot dogs, as water goes in through hot dog skin and pushes all those chemicals and salt out. The process also makes hot dogs plump up from all that water intake, but they can go from perfect to mushy in a matter of minutes. Too much water intake will cause the skin of hot dogs to crack and rupture, which results in those mushy textures. To add insult to injury, over-boiled hot dogs also result in off-putting grey colors and bland tastes since the hot dogs won't have any salt and/or preservatives left inside.

✎ EditSi add insult to injury, over-boiled hot dogs also result in off-putting grey colors and bland tastes since the hot dogs won't have any salt and/or preservatives left insid

Use the dirty water dog technique to keep hot dogs plump

Let's say you and your guests are not quite ready to devour a mountainous pile of boiled hot dogs. Leaving them out at room temperature for too long will cause them to cool, plus it provides an optimal habitat for bacteria to grow, especially if the hot dogs are left out for more than two hours, per the USDA. (In this case, hot dogs should be thrown out.) On the other hand, leaving hot dogs in boiling water will cause them to get bland, mushy, and grey.

The solution lies in the "dirty water dog" technique, which, according to CBS News, is popular among locals in New York. About an hour before serving, warm water is mixed with a variety of ingredients, such as ketchup, tomato sauce, onions, vinegar, and/or seasonings like nutmeg and cumin. Hot dogs then sit in this water, which begins to take on a "dirty water" appearance. The water doesn't have to be creatively seasoned either, as it can simply take on the salty characteristics of the hot dogs themselves, per EatOutEatWell

Houston Home Journals explains that osmosis is also occurring within the "dirty dog" method, but the hot dogs won't burst because the water is not boiling. (In fact, the water should be kept at over 160 Fahrenheit.) This way, the hot dogs will stay warm, plump, and flavorful because of the seasonings and/or food extracts in the heated water.