People often ask how hot dogs are made, unfortunately they usually believe the myths rather than to find out the truth. The reality to how hot dogs are made is nowhere near as exciting as the tales that are told but it is worth knowing the truth. So the next time that neighbor who knows everything starts to give you a hard time about how your hot dogs are made, you can set him straight.
All of the ingredients that go into any hot dog are regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture. The Food and Drug Administration also oversees every aspect of the process in order to ensure that all hot dog ingredients meet federal standards of health and nutrition. The government regulates all of the raw materials used in the process of making hot dogs. The meat used is very heavily inspected because the use of substandard meat would pose a serious health risk. Quality control is a very important factor in any food processing plant and most manufacturers take very extreme measures to ensure the quality of the meat used meets the highest standards.
Upon arrival the meat is checked for things such as pH, moisture, odor, taste, and appearance to ensure they meet the highest standards. Once the meat passes the initial inspection all of the processing equipment is sterilized and checked before any processing can begin. During manufacturing all the products are continuously checked to assure that all the ingredients meet the company’s expectations. Since hot dogs are eaten, every precaution must be taken to ensure that they will be free from any type of contamination. As an added precaution tests similar to the ones run on the meat when it first arrived are performed on the final product.
Most of the complaints about how hot dogs are made come from a process known as mechanically separated meat, Naysayers will tell you that this means any variety of meat or part of any animal is used. As you have seen already every aspect of how hot dogs are made including mechanically separated meat is very highly regulated. So what exactly is MSM?
Mechanically Separated Meat is a batter-like meat product produced by forcing beef or pork bones, with attached meat, under high pressure through a device to separate the bone from the meat tissue. MSM has been used in meat products since the late 1970’s and in 1982, the Food, Safety and Inspection Service declared MSM safe. Mechanically separated meat must be labeled as "mechanically separated beef or pork" in the ingredients statement.
We can all continue to enjoy our favorite hot dogs with little fear or acknowledgement of the fear mongers outlandish claims about how hot dogs are made. Government agencies such as FDA and USDA strictly regulate hot dog ingredients and continuously monitor its safety for consumption. Due to these efforts, when one asks the question - “How are hot dogs made?” don't think twice, just smile and take a big bite!
When people ask how hot dogs are made most are looking to find out what are the ingredients used. Most hot dogs contain some form of meat (usually beef or pork, chicken or turkey),flour or bread crumbs, seasonings,spices, binding agents, and curing agents. The ingredients are then blended together into a batter and stuffed into casings, cooked, removed from the casings, and then packaged for sale.
We all use the terms Hot Dog, Frankfurter and Wiener interchangeably and in most cases that would be alright. Some manufacturers however produce different types of hot dogs and use the "Frank" and "Wiener" to differentiate the ingredients in the two. If a manufacturer produces two types of hot dogs, "wieners" tend to contain pork and are blander, while "franks" tend to be all beef and more strongly seasoned.
The USDA requires meat packers to disclose a hot dogs ingredients right on the label, so a quick glance will tell you exactly what’s in your frank. If you’re looking for the purest hot dogs available, select ones that are labeled “all beef” or “all pork.” These are required to contain meat from a single species, without variety meats or by-products. If the hot dog does contain organ meats, the label should specify it, along with what animal the organs came from. Hot dogs that are produced in traditional animal casings, such as those obtained from sheep or pigs, should be labeled as such. Animal intestines are the traditional casings for hot dogs and sausages, but like variety meats, those, too, are becoming less common. These days, most commercial franks are made with cellulose, a plant-derived product, and the casings are removed after cooking.
The journey of how hot dogs are made begins with the preparation of meat. After it passes inspection, the incoming meat is cut into small pieces and placed in a stainless steel mixing container. The container is equipped with high-speed choppers, which can reduce the size of the meat pieces even further. The other raw materials including the curing ingredients, flavorings and ice chips are blended in this container until a fine emulsion, or batter, is produced. This batter has a smooth paste-like consistency, which makes further processing easier.
After the batter passes quality control checks, it is pumped into an automatic stuffer/linker machine. In this machine, batter is put into tube-shaped, cellulose casings. These casing are then twisted at precise points to produce a long linked strand of equally sized hot dogs. Most casings are removed later in the process, however some manufacturers continue to use natural casings, which remain on and are eaten along with the hot dog. This is a more traditional method of how hot dogs are made and is done by smaller manufacturers and tends to cost more.
The linked hot dog strands are then conveyed to a large smokehouse. Here, they are thoroughly cooked under controlled conditions. The manufacturer has the opportunity at this point to impart a different flavor on the hot dogs by using a variety of smoke sources. The cooking times vary depending on the recipe, however typically it takes about an hour.
When the cooking is done, the hot dog links are moved via a conveyor to an automatic peeler. During their trip, they are showered with water to help equalize their internal temperature. In the peeler, the cellulose casings are cut away leaving only the bare hot dogs. It should be noted that this step is skipped by manufacturers who use natural casings.
From the peeler, the individual hot dogs are transported to the packaging machinery. Here, they are lined up and placed on a plastic film. The films are folded and vacuum-sealed to preserve the hot dog's flavor and increase shelf life. Printed on the films are all of the graphics and required text needed for marketing. The sealed packages are moved to a stamping machine, which prints on a freshness date. They are next transported to boxing devices, put on pallets and shipped in refrigerated trucks to local supermarkets.The entire process of making hot dogs from receiving the meat to boxing up the hot dog takes only a few hours. So Now you know how hot dogs are made and can tune out the myths and exaggerations.
The Frankfurter has taken a beating for years, From what ingredients are in them to actually how hot dogs are made. While hot dogs may not on the same level as filet mignon, their bad reputation is really undeserved. In the film The Great Outdoors, Dan Aykroyd says to John Candy “You know what they’re made of, Chet? Lips and a--holes!” for a long time hot dogs have had a reputation for being made with ingredients that most people would throw away in disgust. Rumors have even persisted that hot dogs include feathers, beaks, hooves, and other animal parts not even fit for pet food.
Companies who produce hot dogs may not use the finest cuts of meat, but they don’t use inedible scraps, either. The meat that goes into hot dogs is usually whatever’s left over after those choice cuts have been removed—tiny trimmings, fatty bits, tough sections, and other pieces of meat that aren't big enough, tender enough, or attractive enough to be sold on their own. Although it’s still common to add variety meats to handmade sausages for flavoring, it’s now far less common to include organ meat or by-products in hot dogs.
However, there are a couple of things that have led to the myths - Like "Variety meats," which include things like liver, kidneys and hearts, may be used in processed meats like hot dogs, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture requires that they be disclosed on the ingredient label as "with variety meats" or "with meat by-products." Also the term "made with mechanically separated meats (MSM)." Mechanically separated meat is "a paste-like and batter-like meat product produced by forcing bones, with attached edible meat, under high pressure through a sieve or similar device to separate the bone from the edible meat tissue,” These days, it is less common to use variety meats in hot dogs and when they are the entire process is carefully regulated and inspected for wholesomeness by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The basic Hot Dog ingredients found in your average supermarket frank are far less exciting than what some fear mongers would have you believe and the millions of us grilling; boiling, sauteing, and steaming them this summer will be pleased to find out that how hot dogs are made is not as sinister as they would like us to think. So the next time you’re at a barbecue or cookout and someone offers you a piping hot frankfurter with mustard and onion (or however you prefer to dress your dog), there’s no need to be concerned about those words of warning from The Great Outdoors. Hot dogs may contain a variety of ingredients, but lips and a--holes aren't among them.