We Taste-Tested 13 of the Best Hot Dog Brands. The Results, from 'Meh' to 'Seconds, Please'
Whether we’re firing up the grill or tossing the world’s easiest dinner into a pot of boiling water, hot dogs have a very special place in our hearts and tummies. So when it comes to buying hot dogs, why do we tend to shrug and just grab whatever dogs are on sale? It turns out there are some big differences in each brand’s taste and texture. So, we sampled 13 grocery store hot dogs to answer the question once and for all: Which one reigns supreme? Each was scored based on five 20-point factors: beefiness (in the case of non-beef hot dogs, meatiness and juiciness), snap and crust, seasoning, texture and price.
13. Bar S Classic Franks
Listen, we love a deal. So, when we saw an eight-pack of Bar S dogs for under $2 at our local supermarket, we had to give them a go. As much as we wish we could say they’re a steal, in this case, you get what you pay for. Made with chicken and pork instead of beef, these dogs were a disappointment. Both boiled and grilled attempts left us with a gelatinous, jiggly dog. Even after being browned, there was no real outer skin or snap; our fork just slid right in. And the texture was tough to swallow, thanks to these itty-bitty flecks of something that feels like chewing on fat or cartilage. On a positive note, they developed nice char marks from being grilled. But weirdly enough, the char didn’t make the dog any crispier or snappier. In fact, the parts that turned brown could be peeled right off, along with the rest of the frank’s outer skin. So, unless you’re going to merely look at the dogs and not eat them, it’s best to steer clear.
Total PureWow100 Score: 40/100
12. Lightlife Smart Dogs Veggie Hot Dogs
Don’t eat meat? Soy and pea protein to the rescue. At only 50 calories a link with 7 grams of plant protein each, these veggie dogs fit into just about any diet (unless you’re allergic to soy). While their coloring is similar to beef franks, it’s obvious that they’re meatless in both taste and appearance. We wouldn’t suggest boiling them: They end up looking a bit unappetizing because the outer skin and inside are the exact same color, so they gave us some franken-food vibes. The boiled ones were also spongy, rubbery and so slippery that when we tried fishing it out of the pot with silicone tongs, it broke. But when grilled, it kept its color plus some random spots of browning and bubbling. The real perks here are the price and nutrition facts.
Total PureWow100 Score: 70/100
11. Diestel Uncured Turkey Franks
Those of you trying to cut down on processed or red meat may be looking for a leaner alternative. Enter this antibiotic-free swap, made from nothing but turkey, water and seasonings. We’ll give major props to their appearance because they look like regular beef hot dogs. Nevertheless, they taste like straight-up turkey, so don’t expect them to be an identical trade. You may need to adjust to their inner texture (they’re not as soft and silky as generic franks), but the skin does get nice and bubbly with a slight char when grilled. All in all, this is a solid (and juicy) replacement for someone seeking a healthier substitute. If you can’t find this brand at your local supermarket, order them online.
Total PureWow100 Score: 73/100
10. Beyond Meat Beyond Sausage Plant-Based Brat
We had to see if all the hubbub around this popular vegan brand was warranted. And TBH, we’re impressed. These got the best char marks of all the dogs on this list! The alginate casing (aka made from algae) gets bubbly and crusty when grilled while the inside remains savory and juicy. And while it’s a plant-based brat made from pea protein rather than a plant-based hot dog, we think it’s safe to assume any herbivores at the barbecue won’t mind one bit. (Especially since it’s GMO-free and offers 16 grams of plant protein per link.) It imitates sausage in flavor with subtle notes of fennel and has a mouthfeel similar to ground meat. The package doesn’t have explicit boiling instructions, but we tried it anyway. The skin does still get a little bubbly and textured, but it pales in comparison to the grilled version.
Total PureWow100 Score: 76/100
9. Applegate The Great Organic Uncured Chicken Hot Dog
Here’s another alternative for anyone trying to avoid red meat. Not only are they organic, these uncured dogs are also antibiotic-, hormone-, GMO-, sugar- and nitrate-free. Unlike the turkey dogs, these are light beige rather than hot-dog red. But they’re also strikingly flavorful, like well-seasoned chicken rather than chicken trying to imitate beef. We definitely recommend grilling these (they’re a bit dull when boiled, mostly because of their color) to get light char marks and blistered, crisp skin that makes for a decent snap.
Total PureWow100 Score: 76/100
8. Hebrew National Kosher Beef Franks
We were curious to see if these hot dogs lived up to their cult following. Before we even tasted them, we fell in love with the easy-to-open package (most of the products on this list needed scissors). They’re meaty and slightly smoky in flavor. The dogs turn deep red, tender and plump when cooked. Grilling one results in a thick, chewy outside that’s pleasing, but not notably snappy. Boiling, on the other hand, gives them a nice snap, extra juiciness and a distinct sweetness, so we’d pick these for boiling indoors on the stove.
Total PureWow100 Score: 82/100
7. Hillshire Farm Beef Hot Links
We saw that Hillshire Farm commercial too many times (“I said a brat, beef kielbasa, hot-smoked sausage, cheddarwurst!”) to not give these a try. They're deep-red smoked beef sausages made with spicy red pepper, sans-fillers and MSG. We love the easy-to-open package. Grilled, the links browned beautifully and developed char marks on-par with Beyond Meat’s brat. Their inner texture is a little uneven, closer to sausage than a hot dog; but they have a distinct outer skin that offers some chewiness (it falls a bit short of snappy). You can smell the red pepper while it cooks and taste the unique flavor it gives the links compared to regular dogs, though they’re not overly spicy at all. They're just as tasty boiled, but without those pretty char marks. So, if you’re hosting, fire up the grill.
Total PureWow100 Score: 83/100
6. Oscar Mayer Uncured Cheese Dogs
As the classic idiom goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. These cheese-filled dogs taste like our childhood and are guaranteed to win over every kid who tries them. They're giving us a "grilled ham and cheese sandwich made with Kraft Singles" vibe, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. The creamy, cheesy flavor and decent snap come through best when grilled, plus they brown up pretty well. But they’re sweet and melty both boiled or grilled. If you’re hosting or have a bunch of kiddos coming to a cookout, look for the resealable ten-pack designed with families in mind.
Total PureWow100 Score: 83/100
5. Nathan’s Famous Skinless Beef Franks
A Coney Island staple with robust, meaty flavor that can hold its own underneath all your favorite condiments. It’s juicy without being greasy and super tender. But if you love your dogs snappy, keep looking; there’s no crunch on these when boiled and grilling only gives them a modest snap and light-brown color. We also noted a questionable soapy aftertaste when we bit into the boiled dog, so definitely fire up the barbecue or grill pan for these. So, definitely fire up the barbecue or grill pan for these. That being said, this was one dog that we kept going back to for one more bite. Something about the mildly sweet flavor and soft texture make want to have a whole bunch of these on a hot summer day instead of just one before a cheeseburger.
Total PureWow100 Score: 84/100
4. 365 Everyday Value Organic Uncured Grass-Fed Beef Hot Dogs
These dogs from Whole Foods are made without antibiotics or growth hormones, so you don’t have to worry about any freaky hidden ingredients. And the difference is apparent, because they taste like ~real~ meat and contain a unique blend of spices including minced onion and garlic, white pepper, nutmeg, ginger and paprika, which give them a one-of-a-kind flavor. When boiled, the outer skin turns a nice red-brown color and they maintain their snappiness. Grilled, the skin turns bubbly, crackly and even snappier, almost like the deep-fried rippers native to New Jersey. These will cost you a few cents more per dog, but the difference in quality is noticeable and well worth it.
Total PureWow100 Score: 85/100
3. Ball Park Angus Beef Franks
Grilling for a crowd? The Angus upgrade can make a difference. We’re talking ridiculously juicy franks, a distinct outer crust and gorgeous char marks that’ll make you look like a total grill master. Made with uncured Angus beef, the dogs are heavily on the smoky, ham-like side of the flavor spectrum. Their texture is soft and consistent, versus other dogs that look more uneven like ground meat on the inside. When boiled, they maintain their crisp outer skins and mildly sweet flavor. But grilled, they get a dreamy brown crust that’s tough to turn down. The skin could be a bit snappier, so some extra time on the grill might get you closer to where you want to be.
Total PureWow100 Score: 87/100
2. Best’s Beef Frankfurters
Doesn’t the retro packaging just warm your heart? One bite and we’re transported to the barbecues and block parties of our childhood. Despite its only semi-decent browning, the outer crust remained snappy while the inside stayed juicy and tender, both boiled and grilled. The highlight here is really its savory, smoky flavor packed in a distinctly chewy, crisp outer skin. Because they don’t char as immaculately as you may want for serving guests, this pick is prime for cooking either on the stove or grill for a casual backyard family dinner. The price isn’t too shabby either, coming to only about 79 cents per dog.
Total PureWow100 Score: 89/100
1. Sabrett Skinless Beef Frankfurters
These dogs will have you singing “New York, New York” at first bite. They’re just like the ones you get with the works from a Manhattan street cart. They’ve got hickory smoke flavor added and a natural casing that makes them the snappiest hot dogs on our list. The casing is tied off at the end of each dog, so they have a homemade look. They're super juicy and flavorful when boiled; prepare them this way if you want all the spices and seasonings to shine through. Grilled, the snap and outer crust are at their crispiest despite only mild browning. But honestly, if a dog is all about the texture and snap to you, you won’t even miss the char marks.
Total PureWow100 Score: 90/100