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How to Cook or Grill a Hot Dog Perfectly Every Time

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First things first. In case you didn’t know, a hot dog is a sausage. It’s produced, cured, and stored the same way as bologna, frankfurters, and Vienna Sausages. It’s a quick and easy meal that has so many options for toppings.

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No, ketchup shouldn’t go on your dog. Mustard definitely. Sauerkraut, absolutely. Chili beans and cheddar cheese? Absolutely. No matter what you like to put on your hot dog, we have put together this little guide so you can make the perfect hot dog.

Preparing to Cook Your Hot Dogs

Any meat you plan to cook should be at room temperature so it will cook evenly, this includes your franks. If they are frozen let them thaw out in the refrigerator overnight.

When cooking any type of meat, it should be at room temperature so it cooks evenly. The last thing you want is to sink your teeth into a half hot/half cold frankfurter.

Kitchen hack: if you forgot to pull the hot dogs out of the freezer, you can quick thaw them by placing them in a bowl and running cold water over them. Cold water raises the temperature of the meat from the outside in and will not cook the meat while defrosting.

Take a fork or small knife and poke a few holes into your hot dogs, similar to what you should be doing with your baked potatoes. This will allow the hot dogs to cook without exploding or splitting.

How to Cook a Hot Dog

Let’s discuss some cooking techniques: Charcoal grills, gas grills, stovetop, and oven (yes, the oven).

Charcoal grilling

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The best way to cook a hot dog is by a charcoal grill or fire. You get the best flavor from the heat, the best grill marks, and the best char.

You want to use a charcoal chimney to get your coals red hot. Once they are hot, and about three-fourths of the coals have a gray ash covering, spread them out evenly on the bottom of your grate and place the lid on the grill to heat up.

By the time the grill is warmed up, your dogs should be at room temperature. Place them on the grill and cook for about 3 minutes then rotate to the other side for another 3 minutes. You’ll get great grill marks and the hot dogs will be cooked all the way through.

Tent the perfect grill-marked hot dogs with foil and prepare your grilled hot dog buns. Brush some butter on the buns and grill until warm, which should be less than 30 seconds per bun.

Gas Grill

If you don’t have a charcoal grill, you can definitely use a gas grill. Start your grill on high, let it nice and hot. Once it’s hot, turn the burners down to medium heat and grill the hot dogs for 3 minutes, flip and grill another 3 minutes.

Tent with foil and begin grilling your hot dog buns with butter.


If you don’t have a grill, the oven is our next favorite method. Preheat your oven at 400 degrees and while it is heating, place your broiler pan or skillet in the oven to heat. When the oven comes to temp, turn it down to 325 degrees, cook on one side for 2 minutes, turn and cook for an additional 2 minutes. The char won’t be the same as on the charcoal or gas grill but you r hot dogs willl have some nice coloring on them.

You can turn the broiler on, brush butter on the buns, and then place the buns butter side up to get some brown coloring. Don’t let it go too long because the broiler will work quickly!


Let’s say you don’t have a grill. If that is the case you can absolutely cook them on the stovetop. You’ll want to use a cast-iron skillet or even a griddle. Get the skillet or griddle hot by using high heat. Once heated, turn the burners down and cook your hot doges, still using the 3 minutes per side technique.

Remove the dogs, tent them, and then grill your buns in the skillet or griddle.

A Hot Dog is a Sandwich

This is a big debate. To settle the debate, we turn to the dictionary. Merriam-Webster defines a sandwich as:

a: two or more slices of bread or a split roll having a filling in between, or
b: one slice of bread covered with food

If you are wondering what kind of hot dogs to pick up, here are some of the best hot dog brands on the market today.

To complete the sandwich, you’ll have to pick up some “bread.” Depending on the area of the country you are in, you may have hot dog buns or you may have hot dog rolls. They’ll all work the same but it will be a bit tougher to grill the hot dog rolls.

Eating a Hot Dog

Believe it or not, there is a right way and a wrong way to eat a hot dog. Since it’s a sandwich (see above), it is meant to be eaten with your hands and NOT a fork; unless maybe it’s overloaded with chili beans.

You’ll need to figure out what you’re going to put on your dog, too. If you’re unsure, we’ve got some great recipe ideas to create the perfect hot dog combo.

Either way, the trick is to use both hands, keep the hot dog level, and go in for a bite by tilting your head and making sure you grab a bite of the bun, the dog, and your toppings all at once. There are some that say eat your hot dog in small bites, there are some that say to eat it in no less than 5 bites. We’re of the mindset that if you follow the above instructions, you can’t fail no matter how many bites it takes.

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Joe Morales
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Joe Morales is a trained chef with over five years of experience working in fine dining and Michelin recommended restaurants…
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