This quick technique will make your hot dogs so much better

America loves showing its affection for hot dogs. Whether they get thrown on the grill during the summer or get warmed up for a quick meal when you have to eat on the move, nothing fits our lifestyle as well as this take on the classic sausage. The numbers don't lie — according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, Americans spent $6.2 billion on hot dogs and sausages in 2019 alone. For all the affection we show this American staple, we don't have too many ways to eat it. Whether you enjoy hot dogs on a bun, in a corn dog, or just as a solo sausage, our cooking options seem limited.

As anyone who has experienced a grilled hot dog on a sunny summer day might attest to, one of the best aspects that sets the grilled versions apart from their oven-cooked or microwaved counterparts comes in the form of a crispy, charred outside. Getting the perfect balance of char and not overcooking your weenie can prove challenging, especially if you're working with a grill and cooking massive amounts of food to please a crowd. The secret lies in finding a way to get the maximum amount of sausage surface area on your heat source.

Increasing hot dog surface area

If you want to get the crispiest hot dog skin without charring the inside of your sausage, you have your work cut out for you, especially if you rely on grills to get the job done. According to Ready Set Eat, the time-tested formula of grilling your hot dog evenly on the top and bottom for 5 – 7 minutes for smaller hot dogs and 7 – 10 minutes for jumbo dogs works great in a pinch to develop grill marks, but you can't create a crisp exterior from this method alone.

If you don't have a grill or the temperature has dropped and you don't feel like braving the snow to get to the grill, another home cooking challenge looms—making tasty hot dogs in the oven. According to Leite's Culinaria, most of us simply place our hot dogs in a preheated oven and roast them for 10 – 20 minutes, but this method completely lacks any of the crispy exterior we so commonly find on a grilled hot dog — you could place one of these oven-cooked franks next to a grilled hot dog and immediately tell the difference. It might seem impossible to go beyond the char of grill marks, but once you learn the secret of the butterfly cut, you can rethink hot dogs for years to come.

The trick to making the crispiest-skinned hot dogs

In order to get the maximum coverage of hot dog against the heat source to ensure a crispy outside, butterfly your hot dog before cooking it (via Epicurious). Butterfly cuts might seem fancy for anyone who has limited knife skills, but don't let the name throw you off — any home chef can tackle this simple cut. According to The Smoker King, you have to make an incision on the underside of your hot dog across the entire length of the sausage. Make sure you don't cut all the way through the dog, but you want to go deep enough to be able to open your hot dog like a book. With the incision made, pull the sausage open and flat, and it resembles the wings of a butterfly.

Once you have your hot dog butterflied, you can either throw it on a grill or under a broiler on high heat to get an equally crispy outside and a perfectly cooked interior that anyone could love. The butterfly cut cooking hack can change your entire hot dog experience, and the benefits don't stop at a crispier skin. According to Epicurious, the slit that you make when you butterfly the hot dog easily holds condiments and fillings if you like to eat your hot dog in a bun. 

Butterflied hot dog recipe hacks

Once you learn the secret of butterflied hot dogs, the sky's the limit when it comes to preparing this classic dish any way you please. These redefined sausages beg to get topped with sauces — spreads, slaws, relish, and mustards all beautifully complement the crackly skin with their sweet flavor profiles (via Food). You may have had issues in the past when you load toppings onto a standard hot dog and bun, especially if you fancy yourself of connoisseurs of messier hot dog varieties, like the chili dog. Let these days be a thing of the past.

With the butterfly cut, have no fear piling on as many toppings as you can handle. Sam the Cooking Guy, for example, shares a potentially game-changing recipe for Hawaiian dogs that piles pineapple slices, crumbled bacon, sliced onion, Kewpie (Japanese mayo), and teriyaki sauce atop butterflied beef franks. Once you master this technique, you can guarantee to not only create the tastiest hot dog imaginable, but you can truly start experimenting with new hot dog recipes that once seemed overly-messy and complicated. If you love home-cooked hot dogs, try this trick to take your cooking game to the next level.