DAVID GREENE, host:
And as we head into a holiday weekend, we're starting to obsess about another summer food. We're setting out to build the perfect hot dog - if that's even possible.
Mr. BARRY NEMEROW (Co-owner, Weiner's Circle): Is it possible? It's possible in Chicago.
GREENE: Barry Nemerow is the co-owner of a joint called Wiener's Circle in Chicago, and he says for the perfect hot dog, start with a wiener that's built like a sausage, with the natural casing made of lamb or pork.
Mr. NEMEROW: So when you bite into it, it kind of snaps and gives you, you know, a big burst of flavor, the seasonings and everything in there, and it just adds a little more to the hot dog.
GREENE: And how best to cook it? Well, maybe we should start with how not to cook it.
Ms. GRACE KEROS (Owner, The American Coney Island): Do not ever boil it. Always grill it.
GREENE: Grace Keros, owner of The American Coney Island in Detroit. I think it's safe to say this is a woman who is passionate about hot dogs.
Ms. KEROS: If you don't want to turn on a grill, put it in the broiler oven. Put it on a pancake griddle. Put it in a toaster oven. But please do not boil your natural-casing hot dog, because it's going to be mushy and rubbery.
GREENE: And what about avoiding that mushy hot dog bun? Well, throw that on the grill, too, and butter if first. That's the advice from Brian Shebairo of Crif Dogs in New York City.
Mr. BRIAN SHEBAIRO (Crif Dogs): Mom's grilled-cheese sandwich when you were a kid was always made in a frying pan with butter, and was always delicious. Anything with butter on it is great.
GREENE: Shebairo also recommends a German-style mustard, with just a dash of horseradish. For advice on another critical condiment, we called up Jim Rivers of Ole Time Hot Dogs in Cary, North Carolina.
Mr. JIM RIVERS (Ole Time Hot Dogs): The white onions last longer, and they're a much crisper onion than a yellow onion. I have people come that want the extra onions, because they're so crisp.
GREENE: And I'm so sorry, we would love to delve into some of the complexities about chili and relish and sauerkraut, but we sadly don't have the time. We're going for simple perfection here, although we should mention that all of our cooks begged us: Please, do not put ketchup on a hot dog. Just don't. You can find our recipe at npr.org. But first things first. Let's test it out.
(Soundbite of bat hitting ball and cheers)
GREENE: After going out and buying these hotdogs with natural casing, the buns, the horseradish mustard, a few sweet, white onions, we heated up a little charcoal grill and then presented our version of the perfect hot dog to the most discerning crowd we could find: at a little league ballpark.
(Soundbite of cheers)
GREENE: So this is my tray of hot dogs. Yeah, take it. Dive in. Yeah. This is what we were hoping for. Do you like them?
Unidentified Child #1: Yeah.
GREENE: What do you think?
Unidentified Child #2: They're good.
Unidentified Child #3: Yeah.
JAKE: I think this should go into the snack bar.
GREENE: Don't tell the snack bar. I mean, they've got good dogs, too. What's your name?
GREENE: So is this I want to ask you about the dog here. Do you know what that's called?
GREENE: A natural casing.
JAKE: What's a natural casing?
GREENE: That was my question. It's like this natural meat that kind of wraps around the dog. Take a bite of this one. You feel that snap?
GREENE: Yeah, we were told that that's what makes a good dog. You seem to agree with that.
(Soundbite of chatter)
GREENE: All right, it's my turn. I'm taking another bite of this. Oh, these kids are right. That's a really good dog. I guess if you're looking for a nice grilling recipe this weekend, nice hot dog recipe, maybe you found it here. Have a great Memorial Day weekend. That is good, that is good. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
Memorial Day weekend is here -- and the season for cookouts and hot dogs has begun. We asked a group of experts how to make the perfect hot dog -- without getting too fancy. They lay out the best way to approach the essentials, from the bun to condiments.
Memorial Day weekend is here -- and the season for hot dogs and cookouts has begun. We asked a group of experts how to make the perfect hot dog -- without getting fancy.
Their responses lay out the fundamental rules an amateur cook can follow to impress their guests:
Natural Casing: The best hot dogs look a bit like a sausage -- with a natural casing made of pork or lamb. "So when you bite into it, it snaps," says Barry Nemerow, co-owner of The Weiner's Circle in Chicago. "You get a real burst of flavor with all the seasonings and everything in there."
Don't Boil It: Sure, the legendary hot dog carts may get away with it. But you can aim higher than that. "If you don't want to turn on a grill, broil it," says Grace Keros, owner of The American Coney Island in Detroit. "Put it on a pancake griddle, or put it in the toaster oven. But please -- do not boil your natural-casing hot dog, because it will be mushy and rubbery."
The Bun: Since you've got the grill fired up, lightly heat the buns over the fire when the dogs are nearly done. And don't be afraid to butter them first. "Mom's grilled-cheese sandwich when you were a kid was always kind of made in a frying pan with butter -- and was always delicious," says Brian Shebairo of Crif Dogs in New York City. "Anything with butter on it is great. I'm not saying it's good for you, but ..."
The Mustard: Plain yellow will do, but you should try a German-style mustard, maybe with a dash of horseradish, Shebairo says.
The Onions: Jim Rivers, who runs Ole Time Hot Dogs in Cary, N.C., has advice on the best onions to top your hot dog: "The white onions last longer, and are much crisper than the yellow onions. I've got people asking me for extra onions, because they're so crisp."
Hold The Ketchup: It may sound odd to some, but all the cooks we consulted begged home cooks to (please!) skip the ketchup. Unless, that is, your guests demand it. "One thing I've learned about serving food," Rivers says, "you've got one chance. If it's not good, they won't come back."
Bonus Points: You can try scoring the hot dogs (use a small knife to cut diagonal lines in them) to make sure they cook consistently. And if you add chili, make sure it's of the "creamy" variety -- ground beef, without beans.
If you think of a hot dog as a vehicle for condiments, you may want to consult recipes for chili, onion sauce and 'all-the-way" dogs. Or you can just make hamburgers for the grill -- either in a traditional style or with elaborate recipes. And you may want to serve your meats up alongside some great potato salad.