When last we saw Doug Sohn he was making the kind of hot dogs that people wait hours in line for, get tattoos of, and make documentaries about. But just because the affable owner of Hot Doug’s has retired, it doesn’t mean his years of encased-meat wisdom are any less valuable. We asked Doug for his 10 commandments to constructing the ideal hot dog -- after asking him several times when he’s going to open a new restaurant (he’s not) -- and here’s what he had to say.
You may end up owning a hot dog stand and no one should have to take that abuse. (Yes, for those wondering, this does come from personal experience -- you've been warned.) Overcooked, mushy, or burnt dog, stale bun, inferior condiments, crappy vegetables (especially bad pickles); these are just a few of the things that can go wrong when preparing a hot dog.
2. Thy wiener shall be naturally encased
No one wants a mushy wiener and, trust me, you want the “snap.” Natural casings also taste better -- just don’t overcook them or the casing gets too tough -- that snap will be obvious and the actual mouthfeel of the wiener will be much more palatable. It's either going to be a hog or lamb casing. Both are quite acceptable (it's a size thing... what isn't?). The casing can be what makes or breaks your hot dog.
3. Thy wiener shall be made of meat
(... or not, for you vegetarians.) For carnivores, beef, pork, veal, or some combination thereof are preferred. As with all meats, the source is important. Your local butcher is usually going to be your best bet and there are certainly acceptable brands in your supermarket. In Chicago, just use Vienna Beef. They're the best.
4. If thou is in Chicago, thy relish must be sweet and nuclear green
Thou shall not ask why. It just goes like that sometimes. Also, that sweet/salty thing is recommended. Adding shredded cheese or a crunchy topping (onions, sauerkraut, jalapeños, etc.) is also highly recommended. But in moderation: don’t overpower the hot dog. Sometimes the simplest combination of condiments is the best.
6. Thou shall grill, steam, boil, deep-fry, pan-fry, or microwave (only in an emergency) thy hot dog
They’re already cooked -- just get ’em hot! Seriously, you can eat them raw!
7. The ends of thy hot dog can hang past the ends of thy bun, but not the other way around
And thy bun shall be fresh. Steamed or toasted is preferred. Some people like the side cut, others the top cut. I guess this is a regional thing. Buns must be sturdy enough to hold the wiener and toppings without falling apart.
Oh wait, that’s from the movie The Ten Commandments. Um, how about... support your local hot dog stand. Find a good one and eat there often. It's a tough business, a local business, and most often a family business. Have you noticed there are no nationwide hot dog chains?
9. Thou shall treat the hot dog as thou would treat the finest fish, fowl, or expensive food item
Love, care, and attention to detail shall not be ignored. Having said that, hot dogs are very forgiving and will last a pretty long time in a steam tray or the indirect heat part of the grill.
10. Oh yeah, the ketchup thing: thou shall do whatever thou wants
Just don’t let me know.
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Sean Cooley is Thrillist's senior editor and he felt like a cheater by not waiting in line before talking to Doug. Follow him: @SeanCooley.