My local grocery stores have a large selection of hot dogs. Though out of habit I reach for two brands—Hebrew National and Nathan’s—this year I am determined to find the best hot dogs before my family heads into the summer when we’ll be eating lots of hot dogs outdoors.
So I drove around and picked up a nice variety of hot dogs, cooked them, blind-tasted them, and asked my family to share their opinions about each. (My family includes my wife, my two kids, and me!) We had clear favorites and let me just say, I was surprised by our top picks.
The 7 Brands of All-Beef Hot Dogs We Taste Tested
To level the playing field, I only picked up all-beef hot dogs, avoiding hot dogs that use a mixture of meats like pork or poultry. Some brands have extra-long or extra-thick hot dog options—I stuck to the bun-length, standard-sized hot dogs. Also, I grabbed the options that were easy to find and available at my local grocery stores, whether natural, organic, grass-fed, or none of the above.
My family taste tested the following seven brands of all-beef hot dogs:
- 365 Uncured Beef Hot Dogs
- Applegate Natural Uncured Beef Hot Dog
- Ball Park Angus Beef Hot Dogs
- Hebrew National Beef Franks
- Nathan’s Famous Jumbo Restaurant Style Beef Franks
- Oscar Mayer Natural Angus Bun-Length Beef Franks
- Simple Truth Grass-Fed Uncured Beef Hot Dogs
How We Conducted the Hot Dog Taste Test
I cooked each brand of hot dogs together on a griddle so that they would all have the same heat and be done cooking at the same time.
Then I placed each cooked hot dog in a standard white hot dog bun and cut them into six pieces for easy eating. I numbered each hot dog so that I could keep track of each brand without giving it away.
While I did offer ketchup and mustard for dipping, I encouraged my family to try one bite without a condiment to get a real taste of the hot dog.
My Kids’ Top Hot Dog Picks
My two kids are aligned in their preferences. Both liked the middle-of-the-road hot dogs with a soft casing—nothing too thick or with a snappy, tougher natural casing. A bummer since those tend to be my favorites!
My daughter (age six) said that Nathan’s was “too puffy” and my son (age eight) was quick to say that Ball Park “is the best for sure!” I suspect that by “too puffy” my daughter was referring to the bubbles or air pockets hot dogs with natural casings get as they cook. She didn’t like those.
Both really liked Simple Truth Grass-Fed Uncured Beef Hot Dogs, which is Kroger’s private label, because it’s a standard hot dog with a thin casing, not a lot of snap when you bite into it, and mellow flavors.
The Adults’ Top Hot Dog Picks
I was absolutely sure that Hebrew National or Nathan’s was going to win because those are the hot dogs that I most often buy. My wife and I are familiar with those two brands. I was wrong!
In fact, my wife called out Hebrew National as being her least favorite! I don’t agree with that, but we do agree with our top two picks: Whole Food’s 365 Uncured Beef Hot Dogs and Applegate Natural Uncured Beef Hot Dogs. The 365 hot dog was plump, juicy, and had a more substantial bite to it. The Applegate hot dog had the most distinct flavor of all the hot dogs—a lightly smoked flavor that tasted really nice.
If I were to grill the hotdogs, I think Hebrew National and Nathan’s would be best because both have thicker natural casings that would be really crispy and snappy.
Different Ways To Cook Hot Dogs
Though the grill is the best way to cook hot dogs, I do often cook them on a griddle or in a large skillet with a little oil over medium heat. This will slowly warm them through while crisping up the casing a bit.
You can serve them as-is tucked in a hot dog bun, or bake them with cheese and toppings, like these cheesy baked hot dogs. Also, don’t forget that your air fryer is an amazing way to cook hot dogs!