We’ve eaten a lot of hot dogs in our day. In fact, we meticulously taste-tested 18 of the best hot dog brands out there for grilling season. From turkey franks to vegan brats to cheese dogs, there was certainly no shortage of variety in our experiment. Although, one hot dog that’s become the topic of heated conversation on social media was missing from our list: the iconic round dog. That’s right: Burger patty-shaped hot dogs are totally a thing (read: a divisive, surreal thing), thanks to Rastelli’s, a butcher shop that specializes in sustainable beef, pork, poultry and seafood. We chatted with Ray Rastelli, Jr., Rastelli’s founder and butcher of 40-plus years, to find out why he sought to shake up the grilling game forever. We also gave the round dogs a taste ourselves to find out if they’re worth the hype (or horror), because that’s how we roll. Read on for our honest take.
Meet the Round Hot Dog That Almost Broke the Internet (and Might Break Your Sanity)
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What Is The Round Hot Dog?
The round dog is, well, exactly what it sounds like. It’s a burger patty-shaped hot dog that’s round instead of tubular. Like all Rastelli’s products, it all starts with top-tier meat. “We get our beef and pork from small family farms that have been our partners for over 40 years,” says Rastelli. “We know where our meat comes from and combine that with the old-world German recipe that we use for the round dogs.” Most notably, it fits just so on a hamburger bun, offering the eater more surface area for toppings and condiments.
Despite this major perk, the Internet had many choice words for Food and Wine editor Maria Yagoda when she shared a photo of them on Twitter. Her initial Tweet (“I’ve just been informed that round hot dog burgers exist and I am LOSING IT”) inspired a wide range of emotions and feelings from modern foodies and hot dog purists alike. “Wait…I want one,” said one Tweeter. “These would be perfect to pan-fry and save the hassle of different buns at a BBQ. I’m kind of into it?” said another. A third reminded us of the nostalgic importance the O.G. holds for many by exclaiming, “This reminds me of my childhood dream to make an entire restaurant menu featuring nothing but hot dogs called Hot Dog’s Hot Dogs!”
We’re betting that nostalgia is *exactly* why other Twitter users were so offended by the flat, round rendition of the iconic barbecue food. Some knocked it as unappetizing, chiming in with comments like, “This is disturbing, at the least,” “Downright un-American” and “this is an atrocity.”
Many even went as far as revoking the round dogs’ hot dog license altogether, claiming that they’re essentially just thick-sliced, flower-shaped hunks of bologna. (For the record, bologna meat is usually emulsified or liquified, while Rastelli’s round dogs are made of chopped black angus beef and premium pork.) Some Tweets pointed out that even if they were thick-cut slabs of bologna, that wouldn’t mean they aren’t tasty, and that they’re also visually reminiscent of New Jersey’s famous Taylor ham, German leberkäse and Swedish Parisare.
Well, the haters may be surprised to know that the Round Dog was born as a solution to countless customer requests. “One of the most unique and interesting requests was if we could sell hot dogs pre-sliced,” says Rastelli. “One of our main issues was condiments always falling off the hot dog when you take a bite. The next was worrying about our grandkids possibly choking on traditional hot dog casing.” Round dogs solve *both* those issues, and they seem to be taking with Rastelli’s customers: In fact, they’ve already sold out twice this summer.
With so many opinions being flung around, we threw our prejudices to the wind and abandoned tradition for the sake of hot dog science (again).
The Pros And Cons Of Round Hot Dogs
Rastelli’s round dogs arrive frozen. The moment we opened the package, we smelled the round dogs’ sweet-and-salty aroma. Round dogs can be grilled, boiled, air-fried, broiled or pan-fried, but Rastelli recommends grilling them to get the most drool-worthy caramelization. We fired up our grill pan and popped one of the patties on after a quick defrosting in the microwave. They have wavy edges and grooves that will fit right onto your grill’s grates or ridges.
The first pro we noticed was how much surface area makes direct contact with the grill. With a standard hot dog, only one tiny sliver gets charred to smoky perfection. With a round dog, there’s way more caramelized meaty goodness to savor on each side. (It’s the same reason many cooks butterfly their hot dogs before grilling them.) Their sizzle is just as intense as a burger, and TBH, the round dog became ten times more appetizing to us once we heard it sing.
It took about six minutes to cook through (though we could totally get behind leaving them on even longer for an extra dark char). We popped it on a burger bun (imagine hosting a barbecue and only needing to buy *one* type of bun!), slathered on our favorite spicy mustard and took a bite. In short, it’s a pretty damn tasty hot dog. You can truly taste the quality of the meat and it has a delightfully sweet smokiness that’s enhanced even further once it’s charred.
They’re significantly bigger than standard hot dogs, about twice the weight to be exact. So, if you’re one of those people who considers weenies to be nothing more than an appetizer for your cheeseburger, you may find that they take up too much precious stomach space to eat a whole one. But to that we say: Split it with a friend, friend. (You can also follow Rastelli’s lead by cutting them up for casseroles and mac and cheese instead.)
The main downside for us was the lack of snap. Because only the outer rim of the round dog is covered in casing, it’s softer in texture and doesn’t have that signature juicy “crunch” you may expect from a standard dog. That’s not to say that it’s totally snap-free—the texture is honestly pretty on par with regular dogs. Plus, less casing is a price you may be willing to pay for an extra-caramelized flavor and more condiments. “Unlike standard hot dogs, the Round Dog has no casing,” says Rastelli, “which allows the meat to become slightly more permeable, so condiment flavors can really sink in, and helps reduce the chances of choking.” So, slather it in everything from ketchup to relish for maximum flavor.
Overall, the round dogs were a unique edible experience that pushed us out of our comfort zone in a delicious way. As long as you’re willing to sacrifice snappiness for condiments and char, the round dogs are far from an abomination. In fact, they’re…pretty darn ingenious.“Some people can be skeptical at first,” says Rastelli, "but once you try them, it’s hard to go back to a standard dog. They are just unique, kid-friendly and at the end of the day, fun.”
Go ahead and add a pack to your virtual shopping cart for your next barbecue. You know you want to.