Hot dogs are one of those ultimate comfort food items. They're equally popular with ketchup and mustard at your summertime backyard barbecue, as they are smothered in chili and cheese that's been simmering for hours on a cold, fall day. But buying commercially-produced hot dogs is always a little bit sketchy. You never know what they put in there, what quality the meat was, or whether they are using fillers and other unappealing ingredients. You don't want to serve your family hot dogs that aren't healthy for dinner. The good news is that you can make hot dogs at home easily with our favorite recipe.. All it takes is having the right equipment and following the steps for the Bearded Butchers best hot dog recipes.
The Right Tools for the Task
Before we get into talking about the process for making hot dogs, there are some tools you will need. First and foremost, you will need a meat grinder. When you make summer sausage or deer smokies, you can use a manual hand grinder because the finished product is fairly chunky. With a hot dog, you want an almost cookie batter or toothpaste consistency, and the only way to make that happen is with an electric meat grinder.
We use the #32 grinder from our friends over at MeatYourMaker.com. This thing is a beast, and it'll handle anything we throw into it, but it's also rather pricey. If you don't plan on making sausages or hot dogs very often, you can invest in a lower cost model, like the company's personal kitchen-friendly 500 watt grinder. It'll take a little longer, but if you aren't doing 25 lbs of meat at a time, that's not such a big deal.
You will also need a mixer. An electric mixer will give you a lot better finished product than trying to do it by hand, and it'll help prevent having too much protein extraction too quickly. We are using a massive, 50 lb mixer from MeatYourMaker.com that attaches directly to the drive on our grinder. The company also sells a smaller, 25 lb model that is more affordable and better suited for at-home hot dog recipes.
The other item you'll need is a sausage stuffer. Ours is large, capable of handling as much as 15 lbs at once. A smaller, 5 lb capacity stuffer is more practical for your kitchen, and is also a good value. When you pick a stuffer, the key thing to find is one that has an air release valve on the top. This little device prevents air from being forced into the hot dog, which can cause green mold to form and prevents the hot dog from properly cooking.
Buying these items is a bit of an investment, but something we learned a long time ago is that having the right equipment makes the task so much more fun. Trust us on this, once you have the equipment, you'll find excuses to make sausages, hot dogs, and your own custom ground meats as often as possible. In the long run, you may even save money and you'll be serving better quality and flavor to your friends and family.
Ingredients for Making Hot Dogs
You've probably seen packages of hot dogs in stores made from "100% Beef," "Beef, Chicken, and Pork," and even "Turkey." That's because you can make hot dogs out of just about anything. But, what you don't know about store-bought dogs is what parts of those animals are used. Making hot dogs at home means you can select the parts you want to use and avoid gross additives, parts, and nastiness. There are a ton of hot dog recipes and different ways to make hot dogs, but this is our favorite.
For our hot dog recipe today, we are going to use lean trimmings from a deer we harvested last season. Hot dog making is an excellent opportunity to clear room in your freezer for hunting season, and basically, that's what we are doing today. Our venison hot dogs are made from good, high-quality trimmings we have processed in-house. All the tendons, veins, membranes, and other nasty parts have been removed, along with a significant amount of fat. We will be adding in about 20% of our total weight back in with pork fat to improve texture and flavor and keep the hot dogs from being dry.
Like most hot dog recipes, you will also need to add a curing agent, like Morton's Quick Cure. This is a salt product that contains nitrites and nitrates, which help preserve the meat and give it that characteristic pink color. To up the flavor a little bit, we are going to add in some minced garlic and hickory smoke powder, along with our favorite Bearded Butchers Blend Seasoning, the Original.
Hot dogs are easiest to make using a cellulose wrapper that is removed after cooking rather than a natural casing like we would use for sausage. The casings are inexpensive, easy to remove, and work great for your hot dog recipes.
Getting Started Making Hot Dogs
A key to making any sausage is to start with really cold meat. Hot dogs are particularly important to keep cold, as we are going to grind the meat five times rather than the two to three times we usually do for sausage. We are going to add 20 lbs of partially frozen venison (cut into roughly golf ball size) into our mixing tub. Then, we will add five pounds of pork fat and start mixing by hand. Add in 4 oz of minced garlic and 4 oz of hickory smoke powder, but hold off on the curing agent for now. The final addition to our recipe is the Original Bearded Butchers Blend Seasoning. For a batch this large, we are going to use two bottles. We prefer to mix the flavorings in prior to the grind because it gives a more uniform flavor.
Start with the large grinding plate and run all of the meat through once, then switch to the smaller, 1/8" plate. You'll want to keep an eye on the ground meat as you go to keep it cold. After the third grind, you may need to bring the temperature down. Our trick here is to add in 10%, or 2.5 lbs of ice. This drops the temperature and helps add moisture to keep the proteins from extracting too quickly. After the fifth grind, you'll see that the meat is a paste-like consistency. You don't want to continue grinding because at this point. You won't get any finer texture and the grinder will just back up.
With our mixer attached to the grinder drive, we just transfer our meat in. Now, you can add in your curing agent. You want to mix the meat for about eight minutes, changing directions every minute. This ensures the meat is properly and completely mixed and the curing agent is worked through all the way. Don't forget to unplug the mixer before reaching in to remove the meat. No one likes fingers in their hot dogs.
So, as we mentioned above, we are using a cellulose casing for our dog recipe. Simply slide the casing onto the nozzle, and pack the stuffer with your ground meat. Try to press as much air out as possible by hand before putting the lid on. A good stuffer will have an air release valve on the top, like the one we are using from MeatYourMaker.com. The valve prevents air from being forced into your hot dogs, which will quickly ruin them. Use your thumb and forefinger to guide the casing and prevent air from entering until you have stuffed all your dogs.
The Right Way to Tie
Some people will tell you that you can just spin the casings, but our experience is that always results in untied, long hot dogs rather than the bun-size we are aiming for. So, the right way to do it is like this: First, twist one, then fold over and twist again to make two, then pull the next section through the loop you just made and twist again, making three dogs in a bunch. It'll take a little practice, but you'll get the hang of it pretty quickly.
How to Cook Hot Dogs
In order to craft a stable product, you'll need to cook the dogs. Our favorite method is to use our Traeger 885 Ironwood smoker. This thing is big enough we can get all 25 lbs of dogs on at once. When you place them on the smoker, make sure each dog has a little space around it, otherwise they won't cook evenly. We are going to cook these at 165 degrees for two hours, then raise the temperature to 185 degrees for an hour or two. Finally, we will raise the temperature to 205 degrees to finish them. Use a remote meat thermometer to monitor your temperatures. Insert the probe into the thickest part of the dog in the middle of the grill.
Once the internal temperature of the dogs has hit 165 degrees, they are done. Place the dogs in an ice bath to quickly reduce temperatures. This step helps prevent the growth of bacteria. Once the temperature has dropped, removing the casings is easy. Just make a small incision along the dog, and slide it right out. Easy and quick, and now you have a classic looking delicious hot dog that's ready for the grill or oven.
Serving the Meal
One of the best things about these dogs is how versatile of a food they are. Serve them with a regular hot dog bun or go upscale and use a pretzel bun. Toast the bun for extra texture, or you might even melt cheese before laying the dog in the bun. Smother them in sauteed onions and chili, or dice a red onion for extra flavor. Different types of pickle relish can even take your dog to the next level, so feel free to get creative. You can make a quick and delicious dinner party platter by offering lots of condiments (mustard, ketchup, maybe even barbecue sauce!) for a great way to bring different flavors together. Hot dogs for dinner can be a delicious and quick way to grill up a fantastic meal even picky young eaters will get on board with.
Storing hot dogs is best done with a vacuum sealer. Once sealed, they will keep for weeks in your fridge and months in the freezer. Even though the investment in tools is a bit high, once you start stuffing your own dogs and sausages, you'll find all sorts of creative ways to make an excellent and quick meal for your family. We hope you enjoyed learning how to make fresh, home-made hot dogs.
Step-by-Step Recipe for Hot Dog Making
- Mix meat and fat, garlic, smoke powder, and seasoning by hand in a tub.
- Grind mixture with a large disc once, then four times with a small disc adding ice after the third or fourth grind.
- Place ground meat in a mixer and add curing agent. Mix for 8 min, changing direction every minute.
- Stuff mixed meat into casings.
- Tie casings using the European method.
- Smoke the tied dogs for 2 hours at 165 degrees, then increase temperature to 185 degrees for one to two hours. Finish for about one hour at 205 degrees until internal temperature is at least 165 degrees.
- Chill in an ice bath.
- Remove casings and vacuum seal finished hot dogs for storage.
- 20 lbs cubed meat, your choice
- 5 lbs pork fat
- 4 oz each, minced garlic and hickory smoke powder
- 2 bottles of Bearded Butchers Blend Seasoning, Original or your choice of flavor
- 1 oz Curing Agent
- 28 mm Cellulose Casings
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