The Meatist Measures Up Supermarket Weenies
|Photo by Flickr user Jay B Sauceda|
My mother's storied Jeannie's Weenie Supremies guaranteed the hot dog a permanent place of honor in our fridge when I was growing up. The Supremies consisted of a hot dog, split and stuffed with cheddar cheese and wrapped in bacon. My father also had an unnatural love affair with a simple boiled dog wrapped in white bread.
It therefore seems appropriate that my first piece for Clean Plate Charlie is a review of some of the hot dogs (call them tube steaks and risk an immediate and well-deserved bitch-slapping) you can pick up at the local supermarket. I grabbed packs of Nathan's Bigger Than the Bun, Boar's Head Beef, Applegate Farms Stadium Organic Uncured Beef, and the classic Oscar Mayer Wiener (which is the only acceptable use of the word "wiener" when referencing a hot dog), all of which can be purchased at my local Publix, and prepared boiled and grilled (outdoors) versions of each.
I tasted them with and without mustard; ketchup on a hot dog is a disgusting crime and acceptable only for children and animals. In a lame attempt at scientific impartiality, I tasted the boiled versions while blindfolded, with my wife feeding me random meaty bits. For the rest of the tests, I fed myself, because I'm all grown up.
Nathan's Bigger Than the BunSans mustard and boiled, it's quite good if a bit mild. Add mustard, though, and the son-of-a-bitch comes alive. The best of the boiled bunch when paired with mustard. Grilled, it only gets better; greasier, tastier, and hands down the hot doggiest dog in the bunch -- it takes me back to my youth in New York. The hot dog that every hot dog wishes it could be when it grows up. The Meatist's Pick.
Applegate Farms Stadium Organic BeefThis is a fairly dense dog, with a slightly offbeat but nice beefy flavor, unique spice profile, and peppery finish. The addition of mustard complements it nicely. Grilled makes very little difference to the texture or flavor profile, but it looks a hell of a lot nicer. Very good though not outstanding, this is the dog to feed your kids if you want to massage your parenting ego while being lazy: The organic beef and lack of nitrates and nitrites almost make it sound healthy.
Boar's Head BeefEaten without mustard, this is obviously a quality dog with a nice balance of spices that falls hard to Nathan's when you add the yellow. Grilled, it comes alive aesthetically, with the natural casing staying dry and the swelling beef within straining to get out (too phallic?). Occasionally spouts a tiny stream of grease while grilling, making it a good choice if you tend to stand around the grill with friends but happen to be a shitty conversationalist. The gourmet vibe and sub-Nathan's flavor make it the dog to pick if you value form over function; just be prepared to look like a hot dog poseur to people who know better.
Oscar Mayer WienerFirst of all, I don't really consider this a hot dog, as it's made from "mechanically separated" turkey, pork, and chicken. Why they have to tell us that, I don't know, but it sounds like it's the most likely to make you shart. Second, the flavor profile of an OMW is closer to sausage than hot dog, with a distinct smoky flavor, but it's still way better than I expected. Mustard actually degrades this bad boy, and no matter how you prep one, I say wrap it in white bread and eat it plain, like Dad. The cheap choice (only $1.50 at Wal-Mart) and way better than it has any right to be, it's the economical choice for barbecues, though its trashy rep might make hot dog elitists think you cook speed for a living. Fuck 'em; they'd probably serve the Boar's Heads.
Finally, my 12-year-old daughter, who wasn't scientific about this at all, ranks them thusly: Nathan's, Oscar Mayer ("Mmm... is that the one that tastes smoky?"), Boar's Head, Applegate Farms. Still, though, I've fed my kids those Applegates and gotten no complaints, so how smart is she?
Next week: Pulling pork at home.
Bradford Schmidt is The Meatist. He's also author of the blog Bone in the Fan. He lives in northern Palm Beach County and believes that any conflict can be resolved with the help of meat.