In the course of prepping my world-famous Best Way To Cook A Hot Dog article, I learned some things. First, that hot dogs — the good ones, anyway — are probably better than you remember. Second, pan-frying a dog produces a shockingly good dog.
It was a hotly debated issue, everyone having their favorite ways to cook or eat a dog, and in the course of debating it, many of my coworkers were inspired to check my work and try their own. In the process, they came to confirm but also, perhaps, evolve my initial conclusion. Almost all of them were so delighted by how good their franks turned out that they felt the need to crow about it in the Uproxx Life slack channel.
Hot damn, a pan-fried frank really is that good!
The basis of our discoveries can probably be boiled down into a fairly succinct philosophy: If you treat a dog like real meat, it will eat like real meat. And what’s the best way to cook, say, an expensive ribeye? Probably by butter basting it in a hot cast iron pan. Thus, streamlining our conclusions, we give you our favorite new hot dog hack:
The butter-basted hot dog.
Before we get into it, I think we can all agree that this isn’t health food, right? Your cardiologist should probably not hear that you’ve discovered adding hot butter to your frankfurters as part of your health regimen. This is a once-a-month kind of calorie splurge we’re talking here. That being said, if you’re already eating a hot dog, how much worse is a tablespoon of butter really going to make it? If you’re already blowing your money on a fast car you might as well spring for the nice rims too, I say. Anyway, eat responsibly, weirdos.
- 2 tablespoons of butter (probably unsalted if possible, hot dogs are already pretty salty)
- 2-3 garlic cloves (you don’t even really have to peel them, the skins will come off in the pan)
- Your choice of herbs (I used a sprig of rosemary because I had it growing in the garden)
- 1 cast iron pan (non-cast iron will work just fine too)
- A pair of tongs or a fork for turning
- A spoon for basting (optional)
Melt your butter in the cast iron. Hot dogs are already cooked, so you don’t really need to get it screaming hot like you would a steak. Get it just to where the butter sizzles and sings, and give your smoke alarm a rest.
Admittedly this was kind of a fancy boy step. You don’t really need garlic and herbs in your basting liquid for a hot dog, but hell, why not? It’s good enough for a steak… Plus, I did this without dicing or chopping. You can just drop them in there straight out of the garden or fridge. Anyway, get your garlic and herbs in that hot butter and let them bloom a bit. At the very least, it will make your kitchen smell incredible.
Now that your butter is all hot and full of herbs, guess what? It’s time to stick your wiener in it. It should be hot enough to sizzle but not enough to explode.
Now, you can use a spoon to tilt the pan and pour the collected butter over top of the frank, but thanks to the tubular shape, you don’t really need to. You can kinda just roll it around in there for a while. Depends on how patient you feel like being, really.
This should take around five minutes or so. You want that skin to get nice and caramelized without bursting the dog (mine split a little, and that’s okay).
There she is. You want that skin to get nice and dark like it is in the middle there. Maybe it even bubbles a little. The beauty of pan frying is that that dark skin doesn’t get tough or chewy like it does with grilling; it just gets extra layers of caramelized flavor and melts in your mouth after a nice snap.
Our team feels confident that these will be the best hot dogs you ever have in your life. Period. They taste great on a bun with all the fixins — that’s how I like to eat my dogs. But also tastes pretty damn good plain. You can cut the dog on the bias, throw some toothpicks in there, and serve them as hors d’oeuvres. God, I hate typing that. Let’s just call them “snacks” instead, shall we?
Anyway, there it is, your Helpful Hot Dog Hack™ of the day. It’s fast and easy but it never disappoints — elevating this dish from “east grill staple” to “something you can be proud to serve” without any extra hassle.
Vince Mancini is on Twitter.