They say that laws and sausages are the two things you don’t want to get made (“they” being people misquoting Otto von Bismarck, of course), and that may be true. But in today’s food system, which swings between extremes of small-batch sustainability and pink slime, we at least want to know what’s in our wieners—especially those suspect-but-delicious hot dogs coming off the grill all summer.
In this video, DNews offers a flyover history of the hot dog (created in Frankfurt in the 1850s, blah blah) before getting to the real question: “What is really up in that thing.”
The foundations of a basic hot dog are not that weird: meat, fat, maybe some grains for filler, egg whites to bind it all together, and spices. But it’s the mass-produced tubesteaks that get a bad rap, and for good reason: It’s common to find mechanically separated meats, corn syrup, sodium erythorbate, and sodium nitrate in those varieties.
More upsettingly, the American Cancer Society has shared studies linking some of the chemicals in hot dogs to cancer in animals, while high consumption of hot dogs (more than three a week) is associated with increased risk of colon cancer.
Our advice: Don’t skimp on quality when buying your franks. Here are our favorite mail-order hot dogs from around the country.