Hot Dog Variations can be a cause of confusion for people not familiar with hot dog language and code. Once understood though it is quite simple and can make your next frank taste that much better and make you appreciate that a Hot dog is more than just a Hot Dog.
You do not have to be around a hot dog vendor long before you hear terms like Frankfurter, Wiener, Natural casing, Skinless or 4 to 1. A lot of us were not aware in the beginning that there is a difference between a wiener and a frankfurter or what skinless or natural casing meant. I know the first time I saw 4/1 or 10/1 on the outside of the package I was lost.
I have come to realize over time that knowing what each of these terms mean not only increased my love of Hotdogs it also gave me the opportunity to enjoy them in different ways. By changing the casing or the type of hot dog I could have a totally different taste. Each subtly change can have a large impact on the taste and texture of your favorite frankfurter.Which is why I can say with complete confidense that a Hot Dog is not just a Hot dog!
While the terms are used interchangeably most of the time, there are slight variations that do make them different.Depending on what part of the world or country you are from can also determine how these terms are used. While in America the "Hot Dog" is very popular, in Germany there is no such thing, only a Frankfurter or a Wiener.
To Be technical, Hot Dogs as we know them are actually either a Frank or a Wiener in a bun. A "Frankfurter" consist of all one type of meat, usually beef, but can be any meat and is more strongly seasoned than it's counterpart. On The other hand a "Wiener" is typically a combination of meats that tends to contain pork and is blander.
Then there is Kosher Hot Dogs which are made out of kosher meats that can come only from animals that have cloven hooves and chew their cuds -- farm raised cattle, sheep or goats. Most domestic poultry is also acceptable. The primary difference between Kosher and non-Kosher hot dogs is that kosher hot dogs do not contain pork. Kosher hot dogs also are made from beef or poultry that has been slaughtered according to Jewish law.
So in short, while for most people the difference is not going to be noticeable, for those of use who love hot dogs, each hot dog variation is just one more way to enjoy our favorite food.
As with other hot dog variations what they are cooked in can also affect the finished product. Like most sausages, hot dogs must be in a casing to be cooked. Traditional casings are made from the small intestines of sheep. The products are known as natural casing hot dogs or frankfurters. These hot dogs have firmer texture and a "snap" that releases juices and flavor when the product is bitten.
Natural hotdog casings are made from a layer of the intestine that consists mainly of naturally occurring collagen. This should not be confused with collagen casings, which are artificially processed from collagen derived from the skins of cattle. Natural casings are derived from the intestinal tract of farmed animals, are edible and bear a close resemblance to the original intestine after processing.
Natural casings are traditional products that have been used in the production of meat specialties for centuries and have remained virtually unchanged in function, appearance, and composition. Salt and water are all that is used for cleaning and preservation. Natural casings are also the only casings that can be used in organic sausage production.
A large variety of sausage is produced world-wide using intestines of pigs, sheep, goats, cattle and sometimes horses. Although the intestines were previously flushed, scraped and cleaned by hand, more recently, machinery has been used for large scale production.
Natural casings breathe, allowing smoking and cooking flavors to permeate the casing and infuse the meat, giving the sausage a rich, even flavor throughout. Natural casings have unique natural curves and sheen, with rounded ends where the sausage is linked giving the sausage visual appeal.
Due to their non-uniform appearance, sausages stuffed in natural casings are clearly distinguishable from mass-produced products and are therefore acceptable as a higher quality, premium product. However, newer machinery has enabled sausage producers to develop mass production scales of efficiencies in their processing plants. Processors of natural casings have developed long-stranded casings with uniformity and strength to support this new technology, as well as new tubing (Shirring) systems that speed up the stuffing process. This has revolutionized the sausage manufacturing world and kept natural casings preferred by some manufacturers and consumers.
Kosher casings are expensive in commercial quantities in the US, so kosher hot dogs are usually skinless or made with reconstituted collagen casings.
Skinless Hot Dogs
"Skinless" hot dogs must use a casing in the cooking process when the product is manufactured, but the casing is usually a long tube of thin cellulose that is removed between cooking and packaging. This process was invented in Chicago by Erwin O. Freund. The first skinless hot dog casings were produced by Freund's new company under the name "Nojax", short for "no jackets" and sold to local Chicago sausage makers.
Skinless hot dogs vary in the texture of the product surface but have a softer "bite" than natural casing hot dogs. Skinless hot dogs are more uniform in shape and size than natural casing hot dogs and less expensive.
Artificial casings are made of collagen, cellulose, or even plastic and may not be edible. Artificial casings from animal collagen can be edible, depending on the origin of the raw material.
Collagen casings are mainly produced from the collagen in beef or pig hides, and the bones and tendons. It can also be derived from poultry and fish. They have been made for more than 50 years and their share of the market has been increasing. Usually the cost to produce sausages in collagen is significantly lower than making sausages in gut because of higher production speeds and lower labour requirements.
The latest generation of collagen casings are usually more tender than natural casings but do not exhibit the “snap” or “bite” of natural casing sausages. The biggest volume of collagen casings are edible. Collagen casings are permeable to smoke and moisture, are less expensive to use, give better weight and size control, and are easier to run when compared to natural casings.
Cellulose, usually from cotton linters or wood pulp, is processed, then released into clear, tough casings for making wieners and franks. They also are cooked for easier use and can be treated with dye to make "red hots". The casing is peeled off after cooking, resulting in "skinless" franks. This type is also permeable to smoke and water vapor and can be pretreated with smoke, caramel color, or other surface treatments.
Why does the size of my favorite weiner really matter? In some cases maybe none, especially if you not putting many toppings on it, but if you're doing a specialty hot dog or like a lot of condiments on your Frank, it can make a world of difference. Just the other day I made a recipe for a steak dog I had found and used a bun sized beef frank instead of a quarter pounder. While the toppings were great the hot dog got lost and took away from the taste of my hotdog. Needless to say once again I realized that in Hot Dogs size does matter!
When looking at hot dogs the usual everyday frank is going to be a 10 to 1, which is why they come 10 to a package. All the 10 to 1 means is that there are 10 hot dogs to 1 pound. So when you want that great gourmet dog or a awesome steak dog you might want to find that package with 4 wieners in it so you get to taste that great hot dog under those amazing toppings. Most packaged hot dogs will not say 4 to 1 or 6 to 1 on the package this is usually used when they are sold by the case, but hot dogs are normally sold in a 1 pound packages, so counting the number of dogs will give you their size.
Another thing to consider is that a bun size hot dog is a 10 to 1 wiener that is longer but smaller in circumference. The hot dog is not bigger, which some people tend to think. So when looking for a bigger size dog don't be fooled into thinking you are getting more with a bun sized vs a regular frank.
As you can see even small hot dog variations can have a large impact on the enjoyment of your next Hotdog. Whether it is skinless, natural casing, a frank, a wiener, a 10 to 1 or 2 to 1 the right combination can turn a great hot dog into an amazing experience!