Chef Reveals The Most Common Mistake Everyone Makes While Grilling Hot Dogs

Hot dogs are way down on the food chain when it comes to the hierarchy of grilled foods, at least according to all those foodie articles that start popping up each spring telling you that you simply must start grilling arcane, exotic meats and vegetables. Hot dogs, it seems, are just too plebeian to merit a mention. If you're hosting a backyard get-together and you plan to invite more than a handful of people, though, a quick price check in the supermarket meat section may well have you adding tube steaks to the menu. What makes wieners so wonderful comes down to just one thing: they're about the cheapest thing you can serve at a barbecue unless you find a way to grill ramen noodles or bologna. (Come to think of it, barbecued bologna sandwiches might actually work.)

Frank Proto, despite being the Director of Culinary Operations at the Institute of Culinary Education, is no food snob, though, so he agreed to speak with Mashed about the best way to grill hot dogs. Although he tells us, "To be honest, hot dogs are kind of a no-brainer" (another point in their favor!), he does say that there's one prep step you shouldn't skip in order to turn out fabulous franks.

Don't forget to clean the grill

"Preheating and cleaning your grill," Proto tells us, "is one of the most important steps of grilling." What you should be doing, each time you get out the grill, is to heat up the grill for at least 20 minutes before you even think about putting on the dogs. After the grill has preheated, at that point you should clean the grates with a scrubber or a wire brush. (A stainless steel grill brush in good condition is recommended, although porcelain or enamel-coated grill grates are better suited to a softer metal like brass.) Once you've cleaned off the grates, Proto says you should then give them a light coating of oil so the meat doesn't stick.

These same steps, says Proto, should be used for grilling burgers as well, telling us the preheat/scrub/oil sequence "is an essential step" in successful grilling. As long as you prep the grill this way, though, he says grilling hot dogs is easy-peasy, though he did have this final tip: "Just don't burn them!"

Don't position the hot dogs the wrong way

While it's reassuring to know that Proto has such faith in our grilling abilities, those of us who are true grill newbies could always use a few more tips. Ready Set Eat had one such helpful hint to offer: you should always position hot dogs on the grill perpendicular to the grates. This will not only result in them having those yummy-looking (and photogenic) grill marks, but it will also make sure they don't slip through the grates! Okay, so most hot dogs wouldn't do this anyway, but it's always best to be on the safe side, especially if you're cooking really skinny ones.

Another thing Ready Set Eat suggests you do is to use barbecue tongs to roll your hot dogs over as they're cooking, so each side comes into contact with the grill. They suggest cooking until the ends of the hot dog start splitting, and say that while your results may vary, that it should take about five to seven minutes to cook regular-sized franks. Jumbo ones may take seven to 10 minutes, while those ¼-pound behemoths could take up to 15 minutes.

Don't be afraid to experiment with spiral-cut hot dogs

Okay, so not every recipe hack out there is all that effective, and some of them may even be downright dangerous. Still, if you see a tip published by a respected food authority and they give you a full explanation of their methodology, you can be fairly sure it's safe to try. One such hack comes from the Skills editor at the Kitchn, who wanted to come up with the perfect spiral-cut hot dog technique. If you, too, are a fan of fancy-looking hot dogs with "extra-crispy" edges, they say their secret is to use a skewer.

If you insert a wooden skewer lengthwise through each hot dog's center before you spiral-cut it, they say you won't wind up accidentally cutting all the way through. Once the skewer's in place, take a sharp knife and, holding it at a 45-degree angle, make your spiraling cut from one hot dog tip to the other. You only need the one skewer, though, since you then remove it and move on to the next hot dog. Once you cook up those spiralized franks, they will not only look awesome and taste delicious, but you can insert cheese slices or pieces of bacon in the slits for a loaded frank that will hold together better than one where you simply pile the extras on top.