The Perfect Doneness For A Hot Dog

There are guides to determine the doneness of burgers and steaks. Why not hot dogs?

When grilling season comes around, one of the things I look forward to most is a good old-fashioned char dog straight off the grill. I'm talking about one with pronounced char marks, glistening from its own fat, best eaten underneath the hot sun. Sporked recently detailed the different stages of a hot dog's doneness, which got me wondering: Is there an ideal doneness to a hot dog?

Hot dogs are already cooked by the time you get them, which means you can tear into them cold, straight out of the fridge, if you're so inclined. (Yes, I have done this, and no, I do not want to talk about it.) So thankfully, you can't undercook a hot dog like you can other sausages, in which case you may be gambling with the toilet, in multiple ways.

How to cook a hot dog to perfection

I guess you could call me a Goldilocks hot dog eater: the best hot dog must have some grill marks on it, and it must still be juicy inside. Though they won't hurt you, undercooked hot dogs are no good (why even bother with the grill, in that case?), and those charcoal-blackened torpedoes are just too crispy for me to enjoy. Get those away from me.


Nick Kindelsperger (who, full disclosure, is a good friend of mine) wrote an in-depth article back in 2017 about the ideal temperature to which you should cook a hot dog in order for it to reach its truest form. He says it's 155 degrees Fahrenheit, which you can achieve by gently poaching the thing, and if you want some extra texture (since poaching seems boring, from a textural perspective), you can flash-sear it on the grill or beneath your broiler for a hot minute to get a crisp external texture.

Is this something you'll seek to accomplish at every cookout? Probably not. People can't easily socialize with the person at the barbecue fussing over hot dog temps to the literal degree. But if you don't mind spending a few minutes in your kitchen, out of the fray, while the dogs warm up on the stovetop, then this approach is definitely something to aim for. It could help build your reputation as the neighborhood's undisputed hot dog champion, and that seems worth the extra effort to me.