Campfire cuisine: Debating the “top dog” of hot dog brands … Vote now!
My father had standards by which he measured certain foods. For example, a true milkshake was determined by its thickness. The thicker the shake, the better — it didn’t matter if you couldn’t suck it out of a straw.
So my brother and I would make it a point to order the thickest milkshake possible for him whenever we hit the ice cream store. In fact, I once told the clerk to fill his cup with soft-serve chocolate ice cream. He loved it.
He had standards with his hot dogs, too. They had to have texture — mushy hot dogs just didn’t fly. They also had to have a solid skin. I can’t remember how many times he complained about hot dogs that didn’t live up to his expectations.
When it comes to camping, hot dogs are the crown jewel of cooking, and you’ve never really had a hot dog until you’ve eaten one cooked over a campfire.
It starts, of course, with a good fire. Evenly heated embers help reduce the chance that your hot dog looks more like a charcoal briquette than something you’d slap on a bun with ketchup. My suggestion for the best campfire possible, in an easy-step-by-step rundown, can be found here.
Then comes the stick. You can roast them on a grill over the fire — and I do just that when I need to cook a large amount in a short time — but the absolute best way is to cook one or two on the end of a stick. They make metal-pronged hot dog sticks that you can buy at any major retailer, but for the more frugal and old-fashioned among us, nothing beats whittling down the end of a long maple or oak branch. If you go that route, charring the end a little over the fire before cooking doesn’t hurt if you’re worried about bacteria or germs of some sort.
The cooking process depends on how hot your bed of coals are. Inserting your hot dog directly into flames will cook the outside quickly — and possible char it — but won’t usually cook the hot dog to its core. Instead, keep it away from flames slightly and rotate regularly just like you would a marshmallow. A well-cooked hot dog will plump, some juices will flow and the outside should get a nice shade of tannish-brown.
But the big question remains: which brand is the best hot dog to skewer onto a stick and roast over a fire? Nathan’s? Oscar Mayer?
Like my father, I can’t stand a cheap, mushy hot dog. There at least needs to be a resemblance of meat in the hot dog, and while some brands offer a skinless variety (like Hebrew National), I find myself drawn to hot dogs with some texture throughout — from the casing to the filling.
Over the past three-plus decades, I’ve tried many varieties, from the more established Oscar Mayers, Ball Parks, Sabretts and Nathan’s to some more obscure brands, such as Applegate, Boar’s Head and Coleman. All of which have different flavors, textures and varieties. Of course, the variations also come in what meat (or lack thereof) is used to make each hot dog. All-beef options are a favorite in our household (or campsite-hold I suppose) over the multi-meat, chicken or pork options.
Ultimately, when I start craving a stick-roasted hot dog, none of the brands, though, hold a candle (or campfire flame) to John F. Martin’s line of hot dogs produced in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. There are beef, hickory smoked, cheese and even a jalapeno/onion variety. For me, it’s the cheese dog all the way. It provides the best combination of flavor, texture and plumpness when cooked to perfection while relaxing outdoors. A close second for me any my family are freshly made venison hot dogs produced by a local butcher. My brother gets these made each year he’s fortunate enough to harvest a deer, and I always look forward to the venison dogs at cookouts in his neck of the woods
But that is just one person’s opinion. What is your “top dog” brand? Which one do you find yourself searching for in the grocery store meat display? Why do you like it? Let’s start a “doggy” debate for the overall weiner winner. Feel free to vote for your favorite in the neat little poll below and feel free to offer some comments — especially if your favorite brand isn’t listed in the poll options.
Make your case for your favorite hot dog brand … I’d love to hear it, especially while munching on a John F. Martin cheese dog fresh off the campfire roasting stick. Mmmm!