The best of the wurst: Rating all-beef frankfurters
"Many people think all frankfurters are the same. Nothing could be more wrong. Too often the frankfurter in the market display case is a dreary hunk of pressed meat. There is not much you can do to give it flavor. Hunt out German shops, Greek or Kosher delicatessens for the well-seasoned franks." James Beard
Technically, hot dog is the name of the sandwich and frankfurter is the meat in the sandwich. Now that we've got the jargon straight, let it be said that I prefer all-beef franks, and here are my ratings of more than 30 all-beef franks. All were tastinged double-blind, which means I did not know what franks were being served to me.
I judged them on smell, taste, aftertaste, and the texture of the skin and filling. Some of the franks were skinless, so I did not rate those on snap. Size, price, ingredients, or other label info were not considered in this blind tasting.
So what is a good hot dog? If there are casings, they should have snap but not be tough, and the filling should be resilient but not be rubbery or crumbly. The meat should be juicy and taste like beef (doh!). Spices, especially garlic, should be pronounced, but not overwhelm the meat. Salt enhances flavor, but it should not taste briny. Smoke, if present at all, should not dominate. Balance is the key, but that does not mean blandness is to be praised. No rancidity, no bitterness, no greasiness, no mealiness, no egg flavors, no artificial undertones.
What about lowfat franks? I tasted the "healthier" reduced fat and fat free versions of several of my favorite franks, and all of them scored low. Perhaps, if you're loading them up with toppings their innate deficiencies may get buried, but all alone on their own, well, they just plain sucked.
What about organic franks? Made without preservatives, often from cattle that graze in pastures rather than gorging on antibiotic laced grains, organic hot dogs are starting to make their mark. Using such additives as celery juice, lactic acid, and sea salt to extend their shelf life and create the normal pink color, organic dogs typically are lower in fat and sell for 15-25¢ more per link in the grocery store. One producer, Applegate Farms, has to go all the way to Uruguay to get meat that meets their specs. So far, the results have been unremarkable tastewise.
Below are my ratings in four groupings and listed alphabetically within groupings.
Killer Dogs: The Best of the Best
Hebrew National Beef Franks
Sabrett Beef Frankfurters
Hans' All Natural Uncured Beef Hot Dogs
Joe and Franks Beef Franks
Nathan's Famous Beef Franks
Original Chicago Style Hot Dog
Oscar Mayer XXL Premium Beef Franks
Red Hot Chicago
Scott Peterson Beef Franks
Applegate Farms Organic Uncured Beef Hot Dogs
Ball Park Beef Franks
Bar S Beef Franks
Boar's Head Beef Frankfurters
Daisy Brand Beef Wieners
Oscar Mayer Beef Franks and Oscar Mayer XXL Deli Style Beef Franks
Safeway Select Beef Franks
Usinger's Beef Frankfurters
Vienna Beef Franks
Bobak's Chicago Style Beef Wieners
Eckrich Beef Franks
Jewel Beef Franks
Wellshire Farms All Natural Premium Uncured Beef Frank
This page was revised 6/19/2009
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