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Our top tips to prevent hot dog shrinkage!
Our top tips to prevent hot dog shrinkage!

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Prevent Hot Dog Shrinkage–There is nothing more frustrating than getting your family and friends all excited for a hot dog barbecue only to have great disappointment when the dogs come off the grill.  There they are.  All shrunk and shriveled that it would take a least two hot dogs to fill a standard hot dog bun.

That’s why I’m going to share with you my top tips to prevent shrinkage and shriveling of your hot dogs.  All these tips are done before adding the hot dogs to the grill of your choice, making them very simple.

Let’s get started!

Three Techniques to Keep Size

Before I start with the first preparation tip, let me just clarify some information about the standard hot dog or frankfurter or wiener, additional terms you may be familiar with. 

Hot dogs now come in a variety of options including all beef, beef and pork, chicken, turkey and even a vegetarian or vegan style.  One thing that is common with hot dogs is that they contain a lot of water, fat and generally, sodium.   Know that the water can be in the form of ice mixed with the meat trimmings and flavor ingredients.  To adjust for all the wetness, dry starches or powdered milk are used to absorb the extra moisture, as starches do not allow moisture to enter the hot dog until heated.  Once heated, the starch granules breakdown and allow the moisture to enter which makes the starch swell.  This is the plumping commonly seen when hot dogs are cooked on a grill.

Know that all hot dogs are fully cooked before being packaged and some brands may also include smoking the hot dogs which gives them extra flavor and color.

Now, for our first tip on preventing the hot dog from shrinking while being reheated or “cooked” on the grill.

Tip #1: The “X” End Slice to prevent hot dog Shrinkage

cutting the end of each hot dog with an X allows the juices for run out
#xendslice

This is the easiest method of preparing the hot dog without an obvious change to its overall shape.  Simply take the blade of a knife and cut an “X” shape on each end.  This cut should go only about ½-inch deep into the meat.  The ends will curl slightly and get additional crispness that make them extra tasty.  Essentially, this hot dog maintains most of its original shape.

Tip #2: The Length Cut to prevent hot dog Shrinkage

The hot dog is cut to length with one slice of the knife and placed open on the grill surface
#cuttolength

One of the reasons I prefer the length cut preparation to hot dogs is that if you are planning a large variety of toppings, this is an ideal preparation.  Additionally, it allows the toppings to nestle comfortably in the middle of the meat and gives every bite you take full flavors.  Simply take the blade of a knife and run it down the center of the hot dog from end to end about halfway down the meat’s thickness.  You can know cook these in the flat form.

Tip #3: The Spiral Cut to prevent hot dog Shrinkage

slices are randomly made over the length of the hot dog about 3-4 depending on the length of the dog
#spiralcut

The spiral cut is another easy method of keeping your hot dogs true to size.  For this technique, simply pass the blade of a knife thru the skin of the hot dog about 1/2 -inch deep every inch or so down the length of the hot dog.  Be sure to do both sides of the hot dog.

Load ‘Em Up!

the dogs with the different slicing are placed on the charcoal grill with double filet wood pieces added for flavor.
#onthegrill

I’ve done all three preparation tips so you can see that the size of the hot dogs remains essentially intact no matter which technique you elect to do.  I also used both a charcoal and gas grill equipped with wood chunks for added smoky flavor to the grilled dogs.

I did set up an indirect cooking method on the gas grill to allow for a holding spot if I had some hot dogs cook faster than others, which tends to happen more on a gas grill than a charcoal unit.

I’ve got four topping options each that contains three ingredients.  Now, let’s look at each option in more detail.

The Italiano Dog

Featuring: fresh mozzarella, fresh basil leaves, and marina sauce

our Italiano Dog has fresh moxxarella, fresh basil and marina sauces.
#italianodog

I am a lover of fresh ingredients and summer harvest season makes it easy to get those fresh flavors.  I start by spooning on a flavorful marina sauce followed by cubes of fresh mozzarella and finally topped with fresh whole basil leaves.

The Allie Dog

Featuring: Gruyère cheese, caramelized onions, fresh thyme

The alliedog has gruyere cheese, caramelized onions and fresh thyme
#alliedog

I call this one the Allie Dog in honor of the onions used as a bold flavor, which onion is part of the allium family, thus, the “allie” name.  Load on the buttery, caramelized onions, then top with Gruyére cheese and fresh thyme sprigs.

The Jalo-Bean Dog

Featuring re-fried beans, white cheddar, jalapeño

The Jalo-bean dog has re-fried beans, white cheddar and Jalapenos for a little heat!
#jalobeandog

If you have a taste for tacos, then this is the dog for you.  Start by loading on a good quality refried beans.  Then top with chopped jalapeño and cheddar cheese – I prefer the white version. 

The Dog From Mexico

Featuring fresh guacamole, corn, fresh cilantro

The dog from Mexico has fresh guacamole, corn, and fresh cilantro
#mexicodog

I love this hot dog combination!  For me, spice is great so I tend to use a spicy corn but you can use just plain corn or buttered corn kernels if desired.  Start with fresh guacamole on the hot dog meat. After that add the corn, and top with fresh cilantro.

There are no rules when it comes to toppings for your hot dogs so experiment and find what combinations you enjoy.  That includes experimenting with the bread as well so know that though I did not change the rolls on my combinations, that is another flavor level that can vary right along with the toppings.

What is your favorite method of grilling hot dogs and what makes your topping list?  Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to follow us on all platforms.  Providing tips, techniques, recipes, and the science behind the flame and fire to improve your skills with wood-fired cooking! That’s SmokinLicious®!

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More related reading on our smoking & Grilling tips to prevent hot dog shrinkage and other technique see our directory for previous blogs!
More related reading on our smoking & Grilling tips to prevent hot dog shrinkage and other technique see our directory for previous blogs!

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Dr. Smoke-  follow our top tips to prevent hot dog shrinkage and you will enjoy these more and more!
Dr. Smoke- follow our top tips to prevent hot dog shrinkage and you will enjoy these more and more!