Whether you're firing up the grill for a summer BBQ or settling in for the world's easiest dinner, nothing beats a classic hot dog on a pillowy soft bun. While we at TT are no strangers to indulging in their nostalgic perfection, we don't all agree on the best dog brands to buy at the grocery store.
Therefore, a taste test was in order. We pitted all-beef frank against all-beef frank in a battle for hot dog domination (no tofu or chicken substitutes allowed). In pursuit of fairness, we stuck to each brand's original beef flavor, feeling Angus beef or cheese franks might have a clear advantage. (And because we live in New York City with limited access to a real grill, these were all prepared in a stovetop pan.) Judging on texture, flavor and nostalgia factor, we put each dog in its place, choosing the select few we'd buy over and over again.
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We'll leave the decision on how to dress them up to you, but we'll take a healthy squirt of ketchup and mustard any day.
Our Top Picks
Call us New Yorkers biased, but nothing beats this classic Coney Island staple. Even in a blind tasting, our editors could tell right away these were Nathan's from their meaty, springy texture and pleasantly salty flavor. Plus, their jumbo size offered the most bang for your buck. In the dog days of summer, these iconic franks are the way to go.
These beloved hot dogs came in at a very close second, sporting a similarly great texture (if a little too soft) and salty finish. What set these dogs apart from the pack was an incredibly buttery, almost-bacon-like flavor that kept our taste testers coming back for more.
③ Hatfield Beef Franks, $5
Hatfield isn't a brand our editors buy often, but all were pleasantly surprised by the flavor and texture of these hot dogs. Smokier, meatier and slightly sweeter than many of its competitors, Hatfield was a serious contender in this race. Plus, testers loved the firm texture and crispier edges of the cooked frank.
Although we wouldn't normally turn to Applegate Naturals when grocery shopping for hot dogs, we appreciated the tougher, snappier texture that gave these dogs a great bite. The flavor was mild but smoky, and the lack of overpowering sodium was a pleasant break from some of the saltier brands. Applegate is a slightly healthier option (if that's something you're looking for in a hot dog), but at $5.50 for six dogs, they're not the most cost-effective choice.
Hebrew National Beef Franks, $5.50
The differences between all of these quintessential hot dog brands were quite subtle, but our editors agreed that Hebrew National's beef franks tasted the most artificial of the bunch. Still, with a texture and taste similar to that of the others, we'd never turn down a Hebrew National dog covered in a healthy dose of ketchup.
With a softer, spongier texture than the rest of its competitors, Sabrett's lack of a snappy bite couldn't beat out the Nathan's and Oscar Mayers of the world in our book. All the same, our taste testers called these frankfurters a great standard hot dog: not too salty and perfectly meaty.
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