Posted on: June 10, 2022 Posted by: Petsynse Comments: 0

According to the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council, a trade association founded by the larger American Meat Institute, hot dogs—interchangeable with the term “frankfurter” and “wiener”—are usually made with either all beef or a combination of beef and pork. Ice is sometimes added to encourage emulsification or to help break down curing ingredients, like nitrites or nitrates.

Hot dogs made with byproducts or “variety meats” such as heart and liver are less common now than in the past, and those that contain 15 percent or more of these animal parts must have them listed under the ingredients. 

These trusty little wieners originally appeared in the U.S. courtesy of German immigrants in the 1850s and 1860s, who called them frankfurters, wieners, or red hots. They became popular on college campuses such as Yale, which had a lunch cart called the Kennel Club that students called the “dog wagon.” The earliest known reference to the term “hot dog” is from an 1892 issue of the New Jersey newspaper The Paterson Daily Press, which according to Yale Law librarian Fred Shapiro referenced a child ordering a frankfurter by demanding a “hot dog, quick.” 

The highly processed sausages have been an American staple since the 1920s, when hot dog carts patrolled the mean streets of New York and New Jersey hawking their smoky-smelling wares. One 1925 publication claimed, “it is the chunk of meat and the loaf of bread for a dime that makes the Hot Dog a favorite with American pocketbooks … the Hot Dog satisfies the appetite of millions who must have a bit between meals.” 

Early hot dog purveyors and assemblers were primarily immigrants, such as Oscar F. Mayer (German), Nathan Handwerker (Polish), and a Black man from the Caribbean named Thomas Francis Xavier Morris. In large part because of negative sentiment about immigrants, many Americans were suspicious of hot dogs and other sausages, though quality at the time varied considerably more than it does now. But in the following decades, new technology allowed for greater consistency in hot dog processing. Now, one of the most crucial features is its smooth, fully emulsified interior, which differentiates it from similar sausages like the bratwurst, which has a more traditional, chunky sausage grind. 

This new technology is critical to producing a high-quality hot dog. “I think people turn up their noses at the idea of a supermarket hot dog. But the thing that actually gives a regular hot dog its consistency is the process of emulsification,” Young says. Hot dogs have to be processed through what he describes as “basically a Cuisinart food processor—only like the size of a room. That heavy-duty machinery is what actually creates the bind of ground meat and ice together so that it can get the consistency of its snappiness.” You can’t really make hot dogs at home with a personal KitchenAid, he says, because the motor won’t be strong enough to fully emulsify the meat.