A Treatise on Grilling 9: The Humble Hotdog
It sounds so simple, doesn't it? Cook a hot dog.
There are more ways to cook a hot dog than there are hairs on your head, but when it comes to the almighty grill, some folks just don't have a clue. Who knows why that is? Perhaps they just go by the seat of their pants, copying what they see on television an the movies, the way their parents learned.
If it were up to the concession stand industry of America, all hotdogs would be cooked in disgusting hotdog water until they reach the proper temperature. They would come out sopping wet, more limp than Michael Jackson's ... ahem .... and the hot dog bun would end up a mushy, lifeless mess. When I lived in an apartment with no grill available, I used to boil my hotdogs. Yuck!
You could microwave a hotdog. That is, if you like your dog split open in some unnatural place, with the juices spilling out everywhere.
No, my friends. The only way to go with the humble hot dog is the grill. Not only does it align with the great American Backyard Cookout, but grilling can impart flavors to your dog that no mere filler or "spices" could ever do.
What am I talking about? The Maillard Reaction. It's that wonderful physical reaction that happens in cooking that we often call browning, searing, or just plain old golden brown and delicious. It is the process by which amino acids in protein react with heat to form different colors and flavors ... mostly good ones.
It is this reason why grilling a hot dog, and giving it a little bit of crust or char that sets this method above all the rest. The method is simple. As you can see from this first picture, I put most of the franks over direct heat on the leftmost burner. The two set out alone are for the boys, since they don't like any charring or "stuff" on them.
For a darker, more crispy exterior:
1. Set one section of your grill to medium-high heat. Believe it or not, those cold dogs from the fridge can actually take a lot of heat without burning.
2. Put the dogs on, arranging them to be perpendicular to the grill grate. We wouldn't want them to fall in between the cracks.
3. Cook them for 5-8 minutes in total, turning every 2 minutes or so. Turn them or take them off when they have reached your desired amount of crispy-ness.
For a lighter exterior:
1. Set one section of the grill to medium heat. If you are cooking over charcoal, space the coals out wide or raise the grill grate higher.
2. Put the dogs on, arranging them to be perpendicular to the grill grate.
3. Cook 6-10 minutes, turning often. This will help maintain an evenly cooked exterior and prevent burning. If you find the dogs cooking too fast or too hot, pull them aside to a cooler part of the grill
As always, grilling takes practice; this is true for hot dogs. Don't use any fork, knife, or other poking device to turn the dogs. Use tongs. Finally, getting your desired amount of doneness come with experience. Just like all other grilling, you have to become familiar with your grill, the meat, and all that is involved. And you have to grill a few times (many times) before you can master the methods.
In other words. Just keep trying.