Opening the grilling season with homemade hotdogs

In the land of Wurst and Bier, I’ve been hankering for some hotdogs for a couple years. We’ve had great success in our attempts at various homemade fresh sausage varieties, but I still wanted a plain old hotdog. I hit upon this recipe but found I was lacking an important ingredient: pink curing salt, sometimes known under the brand name “Instacure.” I’d found 10kg buckets of it via, but considering we make sausage in the <10lb batch, and a batch calls for a teaspoon at a time, that seemed like overkill. 1 I found Prague Powder #1 online2 in the USA and I had some shipped to my parents, and they brought it to Mexico for us. Finally I had all the ingredients necessary — or so I thought. We still couldn’t find powdered milk in any of the stores around here, and I discovered too late that we were out of ground coriander.3 But I pressed on, relentless in my quest for a homemade hotdog.

Some preparation notes

  • I started with ground beef and pork from the grocery store.

  • I emulsified the meat and spice mixture in our food processor to give it that extra smooth, unnatural hotdog texture, in small batches, like the recipe suggests.

  • I used cold milk during the emulsification step inside of powdered milk and ice water. That seemed to work OK.

  • I used our sausage stuffer for the first time to fill hog casings. We bought it last year after running into trouble with the KitchenAid sausage stuffing attachment. The KitchenAid attachment just doesn’t have a good enough seal once the meat is any temperature above freezing to stuff the casings — we got a lot of air and fat separation. You really have to work quickly to stuff the casings with the KitchenAid before the meat warms up. The purpose-built stuffer is much more reliable and convenient to use, but is less convenient to store when not in use.

  • This was the first time I’d ever tried curing any meat. Not having access to a smoker to cure them with smoke, I used the pink curing salt and simmered the water up to around 200 °F and the dogs up well above 152 °F. After simmering, the meat turned a little pinker than the gray color visible through the casing. Then I packed them into freezer bags. After grilling, the insides were much pinker — hotdog-colored, even.

What’s up next?

I’d do these again, but I’d like to have real hotdog buns available (perhaps adapting our homemade hamburger buns recipe) and I think I’d go with sheep casings next time for a more authentic size. Synthetic casings are something I want to look into as well. I’m OK with the natural casings, but it seems you either get small or large — nothing in between. I wonder if the synthetics offer some middle ground.

Sometime in the future I’d like to try an all-beef dog, emulating that $1.50 Costco miracle. Even if the raw materials work out to a comparable price, the labor involved is way out of proportion — but that’s just enough to keep us from doing it too often.

  1. If we ever run out of the one-pound package I bought, I guess I’d consider the 10kg bucket (it’s not very expensive) provided other local sausage enthusiasts — a LOT of them — will be willing to share it with me. Unlikely! []
  2. after finding nothing in local and chain grocery stores in rural Michigan near hunting season — weird! []
  3. Indeed, I couldn’t even find our whole coriander, which I then could have ground up by hand, given that it only called for a teaspoon. []

One thought on “Opening the grilling season with homemade hotdogs”

  1. shoreacres

    I can’t remember the last time I’ve had a hotdog. That’s a real hankering you were dealing with, there. On the other hand, I’ve been trying to replicate the homemade orange sherbet from Hesse’s Ice Cream in Newton, Iowa, for about forty years, and haven’t made it yet.

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