Steamed, Charred or Boiled?

Plopping a hot dog in a pot of boiling water is akin to putting a prime filet directly into a slow cooker. What might have been a tasty, snappy, and delicious meal has become a soft, sodden, water-logged, timorous, and tasteless mess. And yet, how often do hot dog purveyors continue this barbaric practice? Before ordering the dog, look first to see if the dogs are doing the dead-man’s float in a pot of warm water behind the counter. For hot dogs, “Just like Mom used to make” doesn’t cut it.

Although I am a huge fan of what the flame does to bring out the full flavor of a hot dog, it is probably true that the Chicago dog should be steamed. It should not suffer the pain of being dropped into a roiling stockpot of water, but rather warmed comfortably to a nice temperature by a good schvitz – like a protagonist in a Saul Bellow novel. Steam is good for the dog’s pores – and it makes it much more flavorful.

Plus, you don’t encounter the dreaded water-logged bun. Many times, a hasty counterman has absolutely ruined what might have been a passable hot dog by plucking it from its tepid bath and putting it on a bun before it has had a chance to towel off. World-class hot dog eating champion Takeru Kabayashi may like to dip his hot dogs in water before sliding them down his gullet, but that kind of detracts from the enjoyment, don’t you think?

It may go against the grain of Chicago style hot dog purists, but Hot-C and I have found that the flame is definitely a dog’s best friend.  When the skin is nicely licked and branded by grill grates, it makes for a tremendous savory experience. Sometimes the skin gets char marks that would make it the envy of any weenie roast.

Steam is good – for the dog and the bun – but charring tastes better, in your Humble Narrator’s opinion.

Am I going too far afield? Is there such a thing as a good boiled dog? Does charring take a dog out of the running for a traditional Chicago dog? Or is steam the way to go?

Hot-C, with a char foot long.

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