Guide to Grilling Hot Dogs and Sausages

Hot Dogs

Hot dogs come in all shapes, sizes, and ingredients, just like burgers. You can get the fancy deli style dogs that “snap” when you bite them, you can buy cheap dogs in bulk, and they can be made of beef, pork, chicken, soy, or any combination of ingredients, plus who knows what else.

Buy what you like; the grilling process is again very similar, and very simple. Hot dogs, like burgers, are cooked on high heat with the grill cover open. A hot dog is already fully cooked, so like a veggie burger, it just has to be hot inside to be ready to eat.

If you have a top rack on your grill, this is a great place to cook hot dogs while you cook burgers on the main grilling surface. If you’re cooking hot dogs along with another food and don’t have a top grill rack, but your grill has multiple burners, turn the area where you’ll cook your hot dogs down slightly (on a charcoal grill, just put less coals under one side of the grill). If you’re cooking just dogs, just keep the grill on high and turn the dogs often to keep the skin from burning.

The key is to use tongs when turning the dogs, not a fork. Stabbing the hot dog will allow juices to leak out, drying it out. Once you get the hang of it, you can grill a dog so that it’s nice and hot inside, with nice, uniform grill lines on the outside and no black, burnt spots.

Of course, it’s nice to ask people how they like their dogs. For years I worked to perfect my dog-grilling skills so that the dogs didn’t get black or burned on the outside – only to find out that my mother really enjoys her dogs burned. Now, if I’m cooking burgers and dogs together, I cook all the dogs on the top shelf except one for her, I throw that down with the burgers and let it get blacked up a bit. Just keep turning it if you do thisâÂ?¦you want it blacked a bit, not for it to become a lump of coal.

While burgers can be cooked either fresh or frozen, I find it best to defrost a hot dog before throwing it on the grill. If it’s frozen, it’s likely it may burn or dry out before the center is completely up to temperature. If you must cook a frozen dog, use your top grill rack or keep the temp down low until the dog is heated throughout.

Want to kick up your dogs a bit? Warm up some chili either on the stovetop, on a side-burner if your grill has one, or in a small saucepan right on the grill surface. Chili Dogs!

Sausage

Sausages, be they sweet or hot, are a cookout staple. Cooking a sausage is similar to cooking at hot dog, with one important difference. While a hot dog comes already cooked (you can eat it raw), most sausages are not fully cooked. Because of this, they not only take longer to cook than a hot dog, but require you to be a bit more careful. A cookout that ends with all of your guests getting sick from food poisoning is no fun!

Words of warning over with, cooking sausage is not hard. On a hot grill on high heat, top open, drop your sausages evenly across the grill surface. The key here is to keep turning the sausage so that it does not get burned as they cook. Again, use tongs to turn the meat�never stab with a fork.

Telling when a sausage is done is a bit trickyâÂ?¦cooking time will vary depending on the type of sausage; it’s thickness, your grill, and a bunch of other factors. When you think they’re done, cook them another minute, then cut into one of the sausages and make sure there’s no pinkness inside. I call this the “sacrificial sausage”âÂ?¦the one who must die so the others are cooked to perfection. If the sacrificial sausage is cooked, cut it up and enjoy it as a little appetizer before you bring the rest of the food in. You’re working hard! You deserve it! Feel free to share it anyone who has been hanging out by the grill with you to keep you company. They’ve earned it, too.

If the sacrificial sausage isn’t quite done, throw it back on the grill. Cut into it a few minutes later and check again, making sure to keep cutting into the middle of whatever is left, to assure that you’re seeing the least cooked part.

Toast Those Buns

One of the greatest little things you can do when grilling dogs, or sausage to add to the “grilled food experience” is to toast the buns you’re serving your meat in. It’s quick, easy, and just a nice touch.

If you have a top grill rack, toss your buns up there about the time you start cooking your burgers and dogs, maybe a few minutes later (especially if you’re doing hot dogs on the top rack, too). Flip them about half way through so both sides get nice and toasty, and just be careful not to burn them. As you’ll soon find outâÂ?¦if you’re grilling for a bunch of people, juggling all these items on your grill can be trickyâÂ?¦even with a fairly large grill. Like most of grilling, it’s an art more than a science, but a little experience is all it takes to get to the point where everything comes out cooked correctly and ready at the same time.

If you don’t have a top grill rack, the best way to toast buns is to wait until everything else is just about cooked, and if room permits, throw the buns on the main grill surface. The buns will toast rather quickly down on the main grill surface, so keep an eye on them to avoid burning, and flip often. If grill space is an issue, you can probably remove everything else from the grill and cover them while you toast the buns. Everything should stay plenty hot during the time it takes to toast the buns, and nothing beats a nice juicy burger or dog on a warm, toasty bun.

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