Though I am far from a hot dog aficionado, I live in Chicago, which is basically the hot dog capital of the world. No matter how healthy your diet or how much you try to avoid questionable cased meats, if you live in the Midwest, there will come a time in everyone’s life where it is simply impossible to avoid eating a hot dog.
If you like to entertain at home, particularly in the summertime, knowing how to cook a hot dog is an essential survival skill, especially for the Chicago dweller.
If you own a grill, you can cook a hot dog, charred to perfection, in a snap.
If you live in the city without outdoor space — or if you have yet to reach the point in your life where shopping for things like grills at Home Depot is a thrill, then you need to know how to cook a hot dog without a grill.
Cooking hot dogs or sausages can be a challenge, grill or no grill.
To make the perfect grilled hot dog, you want to achieve two things: char and plumpness.
The char are those great grill marks that make hot dogs taste like summer, and you want the plumpness because an overcooked, wrinkled hot dog is just not a good look on any bun (ha ha see what I did there?).
Grilling hot dogs gives you the char marks you want, but makes it easy to overcook. Boiling hot dogs is an easy way go to, but the end result is generally not very flavorful.
This leaves the skillet as the de facto hot dog cooking technique.
Fill your skillet about halfway with water and heat it over medium flame until the water begins to steam (you want the water to get to about 150 degrees F, if you’re the precise type).
Once you see steam, add the hot dogs and allow them to steam as the water boils off completely.
If there is any water left after about 10 minutes, you can tilt the skillet over the sink to pour it out, then add a pat of butter for each dog. The hot dog will blister and turn a dark, savory color.
(I first read about this method on The Paupered Chef, where it is said that the steaming process pulls some of the salt out of the hot dogs, which is always nice when you’re dealing with processed meat).
The Serving Suggestion
Though as a child, I once insisted on covering just about everything with ketchup, I’ve lived in Chicago long enough where dogs “dragged through the garden” are the only acceptable way.
Chicago hot dogs are topped with celery salt, onions, tomato slices, relish, mustard, peppers, and a pickle spear on a poppyseed bun.
Shop the recipe!