We Grilled Hot Dogs 6 Different Ways and the Winner Blew Us Away
A classic American summer wouldn’t be complete without long nights spent in the backyard chasing fireflies, making s’mores, sipping cooling drinks, and, yes, enjoying hot dogs fresh off the grill. When you’ve had a good grilled hot dog — juicy on the inside with a little char on the outside — you’ve experienced true savory bliss. But when you’ve had a not-so-good one — burnt, burst, shriveled, dried out, or undercooked — the letdown is huge.
To help you find hot dog success every time, we tested out six different grilling methods to see which ones make the most of your franks. The good news? There wasn’t a dud among them. The even better news? A few methods will take your hot dog game to entirely new heights.
A Few Notes About Methodology
Hot Dogs: For all of my tests I used Hebrew National beef franks, which we recently named “The Most Classic Hot Dogs.”
Tests: I used an outdoor gas grill to cook all of the hot dogs. I tested each method using four hot dogs — and tasted each of the four franks to see how that method affected the final flavor and texture. I tested and tasted the hot dogs plain, even if the method mentioned sauces or marinades.
Times: I made note of prep time and grilling time, again for prepping and cooking four hot dogs.
Ratings: Each method is ranked on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 representing perfection. The factors affecting my ratings were flavor, juiciness, texture, and ease or difficulty of the method.
Hot Dog Method: Fish-Scaled
- Prep time: 1 minute 45 seconds
- Grilling time: About 6 minutes
- Rating: 7/10
About This Method: To prep the hot dogs for this method from Plain Chicken, you make angled half moon–shaped cuts at regular intervals on opposite sides of the frank. Although the full recipe instructs you to marinate the hot dogs, I skipped that (as stated in methodology notes) and took them straight to the grill over medium-high heat.
Results: After 6 minutes on the grill, turning occasionally, the cuts flared out on either side of each hot dog, creating a sort of pineapple look. The flared-out parts got charred and crisp, albeit a little dry, but the center of each dog was still plenty juicy. These look really cool, so if you’re looking for franks that will impress your guests, keep these in mind.
Hot Dog Method: Crosshatched
- Prep time: 3 minutes
- Grilling time: About 6 minutes
- Rating: 7/10
About This Method: I followed the helpful video from Southern Bite to make shallow crosshatch-style cuts on opposite sides of each hot dog. This method instructs you to brush sauce on the hot dogs, but again I skipped that step to see how the cutting technique itself affected the cooking. I grilled the hot dogs over medium-high heat, turning occasionally.
Results: You can make the crosshatch as loose or as tight as you’d like (I went for a tight pattern of lots of close-together cuts). All of those little grooves added up to lots of char and crispy bits. It does create a texture that feels a little strange on the outside and just a tad bit tough, but the inside of each frank was nice and juicy.
Hot Dog Method: Butterflied
- Prep time: 1 minute
- Grilling time: 5 minutes
- Rating: 8/10
About This Method: Using a video from Mashed as inspiration, I sliced into (but not all the way through) each frank, then opened each up like a book. I grilled them over high heat, cut-side down, pressing lightly to ensure maximum contact with the hot grates. I let the hot dogs cook undisturbed for 3 minutes, flipped them over, then cooked for 2 more minutes.
Results: Because you’re basically doubling the surface area, you get lots more opportunities for char. The franks were firm, very crisp on the outside, and still juicy on the inside. Bonus: When you put one of these in a bun, you’ve basically created a hot dog trough for your toppings.
Hot Dog Method: Simply Grilled
- Prep time: None
- Grilling time: 6 minutes
- Rating: 8.5/10
About This Method: For all you no-nonsense cooks, this technique from Good Housekeeping couldn’t be simpler. You don’t need to prep the hot dogs in any way — no slicing, cutting, or pre-cooking — the key is to cook them over medium heat, turning them frequently, until “they start to expand but before they start sputtering.”
Results: These hot dogs had the best snap with a stronger grill flavor than I thought they’d get over the moderate heat. They were surprisingly juicy, too — solidly delicious, just with a teeny bit less oomph and less juiciness than the method below.
Hot Dog Method: Poached
- Prep time: 12 minutes
- Grilling time: A little over 1 minute
- Rating: 8.75/10
About This Method: Touted by Epicurious for yielding juicy, perfectly cooked franks, this method starts by heating a small saucepan of water to 150°F, slipping the hot dogs into the water, lowering the heat, and cooking the dogs to an internal temperature of 150°F. The franks then go directly on a grill rack over high heat, where you turn them frequently until they brown a little on the outside.
Results: The dogs had a great snap and were quite juicy. Because they were grilled over high heat, they even got a little char. They were just marginally tastier than the straight-up grilled dogs, but the very short time spent on the grill means these franks are far less likely to burst and spill their precious juices.
Hot Dog Method: Spiralized
- Prep time: 3 1/2 minutes
- Grilling time: 6 minutes
- Rating: 10/10
About This Method: We’ve seen this method a few different places, but we went with this video from Chowhound to get the technique just right. You start by inserting a skewer all the way down the length of the frank. Then holding a paring knife at an angle and twirling the hot dog as you go, you cut a spiral down the hot dog, cutting all the way down to the skewer. When you remove the skewer you magically have a hot dog that looks a little like a corkscrew or spring. You then grill the little twirly guys over medium-high heat, turning occasionally.
Results: Be still my heart! If you like crispy edges without sacrificing juiciness (I do! I do!), this technique is top dog. As the franks cook, they open up more and more with each turn, elongating the spring shape. What that does is create lots of surface area for irresistible crispy-charred edges, plus open pockets for all those luscious toppings to ooze down into once you place the hot dog in a bun. And because the hot dog “spring” stretches out as it cooks, it’s guaranteed to fit — or even spill over — the ends of your bun. Unlike the fish scale or crosshatch method, which yield sharper cut edges that slightly toughen as they char, every bit of these spiral-cut dogs stay supremely juicy and tender even after charring. I’ll never grill a hot dog another way again.
Ultimately, your own top hot dog method really depends on what you prize most: If you love crispy bits (and still want a juicy dog), go for the spiral-cut. If supreme juiciness is your goal, try pre-poaching (or, if you don’t want to spend that much time, the straight-up method is for you). And if you crave maximum crispiness, the butterfly method is your best bet.
This post originally ran on Kitchn. See it there: We Grilled Hot Dogs 6 Different Ways and the Winner Blew Us Away