While the concept of sausage is simple, thousands of variations can be found throughout the world. Sausages can be fresh, cured, smoked, or cooked. They are made of beef, pork, veal, chicken, and more. And they can include myriad ingredients, from spices and herbs to fruits, vegetables, and cheeses—and even liquids such as beer, whiskey, or blood. Our “Sausage in Profile” series aims to introduce you to different types of sausage—their flavor profiles, histories and uses—from familiar favorites to unique finds.
Grilling season is finally here and you know what that means—time to throw the hot dogs on the grill! While you may have enjoyed a boiled or pan-fried hot dog during the long, cold winter, there’s almost nothing better than a hot dog fresh off the grill.
The hot dog has become synonymous with American traditions like baseball and backyard barbecues. So you might be surprised to learn that the hot dog actually has German roots.
History of the Hot Dog
There are disputes about who exactly invented the sausage we currently refer to as the hot dog, but most agree that hot dog is very similar to the frankfurter, which is a pork sausage that originated in Frankfurt, Germany.
The hot dog became popular in America during the mid-late 1800s. German immigrants to the U.S. were selling sausages with milk rolls and sauerkraut out of pushcarts. The hot dog was very popular among the working class. The hot dog also made a big splash at the World Fair in Chicago in 1893. Visitors to the fair loved the hot dog because it was convenient, easy to eat, and inexpensive.
1893 is also believed to be the year the hot dog became a regular menu item at baseball stadiums. Chris Von de Ahe—a German immigrant who owned a bar in St. Louis and the St. Louis Browns Major League Baseball team—is credited with introducing the hot dog as stadium food.
What’s in a Name?
There are many debates about how the hot dog received its name. Some say that the name can be traced back to a Polo match on a chilly April afternoon in 1901. Food vendors at the match were selling a traditional German sausage called the dachshund. Because the weather was so cold, the vendors were yelling, “Red hot! Get your dachshund while they’re red hot!” Later they supposedly started just yelling, “Hot dogs.” It is said that a sports cartoonist named Tad Dorgan was at the match and though the phrase was very humorous. His cartoon depicted barking sausages snuggles in warm buns. However, historians have been unable to verify that this cartoon exists.
Other hot dog historians argue that the name “hot dog” may have just developed as a comparison to the Dachshund dog breed. The Dachshund is a German breed of dog that can be identified by its characteristic long, thin body and short legs. Compared to other sausages on the market, the German sausage that became known as the hot dog was also long and thin.
Enjoying a Hot Dog
There are many ways to enjoy a hot dog. This versatile sausage can be prepared in a variety of ways. It can be cooked on the grill, boiled, or pan-fried. Its mild flavor also lends itself to a variety of toppings including mustard, ketchup, relish, chili, and cheese. Check out our “Culinary Road Trip” article for regional variations on hot dog toppings from around the country. Hot dogs are used in the appetizer pigs in blankets. Hot dogs are also used in classic carnival food: corn dogs!
Do you prefer to grill, pan-fry, or boil your hot dogs? What are your favorite hot dog toppings? Do you remember the first hot dog you ever ate?