Hot Dogs Vs. Bologna: What's The Difference?

There's nothing quite like biting into a juicy, perfectly charred hot dog fresh off the grill and loaded with all the fixings. It's hard to picture a family cookout or 4th of July celebration without them. But for such a popular food staple in America, do you know what hot dogs are really made of? There are actually a lot of myths and false facts about hot dogs that have many believing the food should be categorized as "mystery meat." Expert Dr. Janeal Yancey says, "The trimmings used to make hot dogs are pieces of the meat that don't make good steaks and roasts because they aren't a certain tenderness, size, shape or weight" (via Best Food Facts). 

Since we're demystifying hot dogs, shouldn't we also be asking about bologna? It's a lunchtime classic that has many Americans divided. Some will reach for bologna to slap on their sandwiches without hesitation, and others can't help but wonder how something so rubbery can possibly be edible. If both are made of emulsified meat products, is there really a difference?

The only difference is in the casing

While hot dogs and bologna may seem similar enough to most eaters, the difference between the two — besides how we typically eat them — is in the casing. According to Sean Hofherr, owner of Illinois butchery Hofherr Meat Co., "Eight years and thousands of pounds of whipped, smoked meat later, the only difference between our hot dog and bologna recipes remains: the size of the casing" (via The Takeout). Store-bought brands of hot dogs or bologna use different types of ground meats such as chicken, pork, beef, or turkey in their final product (via S. Clyde Weaver). It's also common for brands to use a combination of these meats.

The USDA even groups hot dogs and bologna under the same umbrella term: frankfurter. But if hot dogs and bologna are made of the same product and in the same way, why does each taste different? The answer to that is in the way each one is spiced and blended before being funneled into casings and cooked. Hot dogs have a distinctly smoky flavor, and while American bologna mimics that taste, its flavor-packed casing has been stripped from it before being sold (per The Takeout). So whether you see hot dogs as tiny bologna or bologna as large hot dogs, you're correct either way!