"It's the essence of summer; when you walk by the neighbor's house and you smell the grill, you've got to go home and have your own," says Julie Geary of Classic Cooks Catering, based in Gloucester. "I love grilling!"
She gives us some tips and techniques for cooking the perfect grilled hotdog.
There are lots of theories about who invented the hotdog and how it got that name. The most popular story goes that it was a cold day at the New York Polo Grounds circa 1901. A vendor named Harry Stevens thought people would not buy his ice cream so he decided to sell hot sausages on a bun. Sports cartoonist T.A. Dorgan was looking on and drew a cartoon, which showed dachshund sausages running around with legs. He didn't know how to spell dachshund so he called them "hot dogs."
It turns out that this cartoon was actually drawn in 1906 at the six-day bike race at Madison Square Gardens and there are references to hot dogs before this in college magazines in the 1890s — it was thought to be a sarcastic comment on the dubious origin of the meat at that time.
"There's something about the Red Sox and hot dogs that you just can't get over" says Geary. Hot dogs have long been associated with baseball. According to a national poll conducted by the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council in 2008, Americans eat 7 billion hot dogs during peak season — that's 818 hot dogs per second. A good chunk of those are consumed at Major League Baseball games; hot dogs consumed at MLB ballparks in the 2008 season would round the bases 41,667 times - enough to stretch from Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., to AT&T Park in San Francisco.
Geary prefers hot dogs with a natural casing, but she chooses skinless ones because "children have a tendency to prefer the skinless hot dogs." She says that because the sausages are precooked "you don't really have to cook them a whole lot," it is just a case of warming them through and getting some of those sought-after grill lines on them.
"Keep the temperature down on your grill," warns Geary. "You really don't need to have it up high. All it's going to do is singe the outside and it's still going to be a little cold on the inside." She concedes that some people like their hot dog black on the outside, in which case this doesn't matter so much, "but most people like them just a little brown all the way around," she says.
Geary recommends cooking the sausages from room temperature so that they cook evenly. Before putting them on the grill, she cuts some little slices in the sides of the sausages to relieve pressure as they cook. She places them on the grill at an angle so that she gets "nice grilled stripes," turning them a little at a time as she goes along.
While the sausages are cooking, Geary preps the buns. She butters the sides of the buns and puts them on the grill, also at an angle "so that they look like a professional did them." When the sausages are nice and brown, she puts them in the buns and tops with various sauces — she puts mustard on all of them, to two of them she also adds a traditional sweet relish, but her husband's favorite, which she thinks is "absolutely outstanding," is mustard and hot red pepper relish.
"Check out those hot dogs, they look awesome" Geary exclaims, "Perfectly grilled each and every one of them."
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Recipe courtesy of Bill Yameen, Butcher Boy Markets, and Julie Geary, Classic Cooks Catering, 2012.
Grilled Hot Dogs
4 hot dog rolls
4 hot dogs
relish (sweet and hot pepper)
1. Slice hot dogs on a slant, making shallow cuts along the whole hot dog every 1/4-inch.
2. Place dogs on a heated grill (low to medium) on a slant to get grill marks onto surface of hot dogs. Turn once or twice to mark all sides of the hot dog.
3. Butter hot dog rolls on two sides and place on grill a few minutes before hot dogs are ready. Turn once to brown both sides.
4. Remove hot dogs, place in roll and garnish with mustard and relishes as desired.