Franfurters to Fireworks

Hot Dog Burnt Ends…

Have you ever stopped to wonder how and why hot dogs became the unofficial meal for the Fourth of July? Why do we eat German sausages on America’s birthday?

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce first named the observance of National Hot Dog Month in July 1956. The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council jumped on the opportunity and has declared the month of July as National Hot Dog Month ever since.

This year, Americans will eat 150 million hot dogs, enough to stretch from D.C. to L.A. more than five times, according to the NHDSC. And if that doesn’t blow your mind, here’s another statistic: From Memorial Day to Labor Day, peak hot dog season, Americans typically consume 7 billion hot dogs. That’s 818 hot dogs consumed every second for those 95 days!

Hot dog history
The sausage has existed for millennia. Homer’s Odyssey, written around the 8th or 7th century BC, mentions the processed meat product. But the sausage most similar to our beloved American hot dog is the German frankfurter, created in the 1600s by butcher Johann Georghehner. 

The frankfurter took hold in the United States in 1893 during the Colombian Exposition in Chicago. It was inexpensive, convenient and a bit of a novelty. That same year, the hot dog became a staple at baseball parks. This baseball-hot dog tradition is believed to have been started by a St. Louis bar owner, Chris Von de Ahe, a German immigrant who also owned the St. Louis Browns major league baseball team.

Hot dog eating as a competition?
But hot dog eating is not merely standard fare at sporting events; it has become a “sport” of its own. In 1972, Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest made its debut. Today, the event is a cultural phenomenon that draws about 35,000 fans to the corner of Surf and Stillwell avenues in Coney Island. Millions more watch the ESPN telecast of the contest.

Joey Chestnut currently holds the title of hot dog-eating world champion after consuming 76 hot dogs and buns in 2021. Last year, Joey won his 16th Mustard Yellow Belt after eating 62 hot dogs and buns. Miki Sudo was last year’s female champion, chowing down 39.5 hot dogs. She is a nine-time champ and holds the women’s record with 48.5 hot dogs.

It seems that every time I grill hot dogs for a large gathering, there are always a dozen or so leftovers. It is inevitable. And let’s not even get into the 10-dogs-to-8-buns ratio discussion. This recipe, inspired by The Online Grill, ignores the bun and will be a big hit at your Fourth of July festivities. Enjoy!

Hot Dog Burnt Ends

Servings: 4
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 1 hours, 35 minutes
Equipment: Aluminum pan or baking tray

• 1 pack hot dogs
• 2 T dry rub
• ½ cup barbecue sauce
• 2 T butter
• ¼ cup brown sugar

Step 1: F ire up your grill or smoker to 225 degrees. If you are using charcoal, set it up for 2-zone cooking/indirect grilling.

Step 2: Sprinkle dry rub on hot dogs. Place hot dogs on grill or smoker grates for one hour.

Step 3: Remove hot dogs from the smoker and cut each sausage into 1-inch pieces. Put hot dog pieces in an aluminum pan or baking tray. Add the butter, allowing it to melt over the pieces. Mix in the brown sugar and barbecue sauce with a spatula or spoon.

Step 4: Place the pan or tray back in the smoker. Increase temperature to 400 degrees. Cook for another 20 minutes, or until brown sugar has caramelized on top.

Step 5: Remove from smoker. Apply more barbecue sauce on top if needed.

About Terry Olson

Terry loves culinary arts, adult beverages and hiking in the North State wilderness. You may find him soaking up the sun at one of our area’s many state or national parks or sitting on a barstool sipping on a cold locally brewed craft beer.

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