The best hot dog and hot dog bun combination is ultimately subjective, depending on individual tastes and preferences. However, high-quality ingredients, proper preparation, and thoughtful pairings can elevate this humble food to new heights. Whether you prefer a classic beef hot dog with a soft white bun or a more gourmet option, the joy of eating a hot dog lies in its versatility and the endless possibilities for customization. So fire up the grill, toast those buns, and enjoy the perfect hot dog tailored to your taste.

Which Hot Dog Brand Is Best? A Blind Taste Test of Oscar Mayer, Hebrew National, and More

Because your summer BBQs deserve the best. (Or at the very least, not the worst.)
A variety of hot dog packages and hot dogs on a blue background
Photograph By Alex Huang, Food Styling By Mieko Takahashi

In our Taste Test series, BA editors conduct blind comparisons to discover the best supermarket staples (like vanilla ice cream or frozen pizza). Today, which hot dog deserves a spot on your grill?

Do you know the difference between sausages, wieners, frankfurters, and hot dogs? If, like me, you hadn’t ever really thought about it and assumed they were all pretty much the same, I’m thrilled to tell you that you’re wrong.

For the unilluminated: A sausage refers to any meat wrapped in a casing. It’s the umbrella term for wieners, franks, and hot dogs. Wieners trace their lineage to Vienna and contain seasoned beef, pork, poultry, or some combination thereof. Franks come from Germany (Frankfurt, to be exact) and are made of pork seasoned with things like salt, pepper, garlic, sugar, mustard powder, and nutmeg. The hot dog, our person of interest today, is like an American remix of the frankfurter—made with beef and/or pork as well as spices like paprika, nutmeg, pepper, garlic, and coriander; they’re a bit shorter in length and usually contain some preservatives too.

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Regardless of which type of sausage is your favorite, there’s one that screams summer louder than the others: hot dogs. Our staff tasters were sure childhood standbys like Oscar Mayer and Hebrew National would sweep the competition but, as always, the results of our taste tests are full of surprises.

To cut down on variables, we boiled and tasted only all-beef hot dogs. And though we offered up buns, ketchup, and mustard, most testers boldly chose to taste their dogs plain. In the end we blind tasted seven of the most popular brands and judged them on flavor, casing snap, and the satisfying firmness of the meat each bite. There was only one brand that we settled on as our summer grilling pick.

Oscar Mayers brand hot on blue background
Photograph By Alex Huang, Food Styling By Mieko Takahashi

The Biggest Loser: Oscar Mayer

The ingredients: beef, water, cultured dextrose; contains less than 2% of salt, distilled white vinegar, cultured celery juice, sodium phosphate, cherry powder, flavor, extractives of paprika.

The verdict: Firmly in last place, it seemed that Oscar Mayer couldn’t catch a break with our tasters. “I hate this one?” senior cooking editor Kelsey Youngman said, her inflection rising as if she couldn’t quite figure out why. “It tastes waterlogged,” recipe production assistant Carly Westerfield declared firmly. For associate editor Zoe Denenberg, it was the slimy-soft texture that was the nail in the coffin. She also noticed that the casing had split on many of the dogs. “Eat it if you hate yourself,” she said with a frown.

Applegate brand hot on blue background
Photograph By Alex Huang, Food Styling By Mieko Takahashi

Suspiciously Sweet: Applegate Organic

The ingredients: organic grass-fed beef, water; contains less than 2% of sea salt, organic vinegar, baking soda, organic granulated garlic, organic paprika, organic spices, organic dehydrated onion, cultured celery powder, organic cherry powder.

The verdict: To put it plainly, Applegate Organic hot dogs tasted weird. Denenberg and Youngman both specifically mentioned an artificial butter taste (though we do like that in microwave popcorn), and digital operations associate Alma Avalle noticed a slight fishy flavor. Many tasters also had issue with the texture, which they deemed somewhat flabby. The dogs lacked the soft snap we love in our sausages.

Trader Joes brand hot on blue background
Photograph By Alex Huang, Food Styling By Mieko Takahashi

Not Totally Tasty: Trader Joe’s

The ingredients: organic beef, water, potassium lactate; contains 2% or less of sea salt, celery powder, organic minced onion, organic garlic, organic coriander, organic white pepper, organic nutmeg, organic mace, organic ginger.

The verdict: “Tough to cut through,” “squeaks against your teeth,” and “too much snap” were all descriptors shared within a few seconds of our tasters first chews. Aside from these slight textural qualms, our tasters said the Trader Joe’s hot dogs tasted fine. Westerfield wished they were slightly more seasoned or smoky, but otherwise, with a round of silent nods, our panel placed Trader Joe’s hot dogs squarely in the middle of the pack.

Ball Park brand hot on blue background
Photograph By Alex Huang, Food Styling By Mieko Takahashi

Unflinchingly Flaccid: Ball Park

The ingredients: beef, water, corn syrup; contains 2% or less of salt, potassium lactate, hydrolyzed beef stock, sodium phosphate, flavorings, sodium diacetate, sodium erythorbate, sodium nitrite, extractives of paprika.

The verdict: Ball Park hot dogs were juicy, everyone could agree. Otherwise, tasters were divided. Some enjoyed the familiar, slightly smoky flavor; others found the flavor to be unremarkable and the texture to be off-puttingly soft. For a moment, things got contentious. Pauses became pregnant, side-eyes became bombastic, but soon our brave tasters reached across the aisle to arrive at a decision: Ball Park was good but not mind-blowing.

Hebrew National brand hot on blue background
Photograph By Alex Huang, Food Styling By Mieko Takahashi

Happily Herby: Hebrew National

The ingredients: Kosher beef, water; contains 2% or less of salt, spice, sodium lactate, paprika, hydrolyzed soy protein, garlic powder, sodium diacetate, sodium erythorbate, flavoring, sodium nitrite.

The verdict: “Coriander,” Denenberg exclaimed a few chews into her first bite of Hebrew National. Other tasters felt that these hot dogs were “so much more seasoned than I expected,” as Youngman put it. Though it took us by surprise, we agreed that a little extra herbiness never hurt anybody. Although we have legions of Hebrew National devotees on staff, this blind tasting revealed it was, in fact, not the best. Still the Hebrew National dogs tasted quite good, and, at number three, are a perfectly respectable dog.

Sabrett brand hot on blue background
Photograph By Alex Huang, Food Styling By Mieko Takahashi

The Superb Standby: Sabrett

The ingredients: beef, water, salt; contains less than 2% of sorbitol, flavoring, potassium lactate, paprika, garlic powder, hickory smoke flavor, sodium diacetate, sodium erythorbate, sodium nitrite, encased in sheep casing.

The verdict: Our tasters enjoyed the simple, familiar taste of Sabrett. It had an even, easy smokiness, and it wasn’t too spiced. It would be perfect to add to a bowl of Kraft Mac and Cheese but, many tasters said. But, as cooking editor Kelsey Youngman pointed out, the texture was “a little pasty.” Overall Sabrett was a solid contender—it tasted like classic American hot dog—but it stacked up just shy of our winner.

Nathan's brand hot on blue background
Photograph By Alex Huang, Food Styling By Mieko Takahashi

Not Just Any Hot Dog: Nathan’s

The ingredients: beef, water; contains 2% or less of salt, sorbitol, sodium lactate, natural flavorings, sodium phosphates, hydrolyzed corn protein, paprika, sodium diacetate, sodium erythorbate, sodium nitrate.

The verdict: Nathan’s hot dogs got high marks from every taster, and they were quickly deemed our favorite. Their intense, beefy flavor and lovely sparks of garlic made this brand stand out from the competition. Youngman described the dog as “juicy but not pasty,” and Avalle predicted that Nathan’s would be a crowd pleaser at any cookout. It would appear she’s correct—the dish full of Nathan’s hot dogs was the only one left empty at the end of our taste test, after our tasters went back for seconds and thirds.

Think outside the bun:
Closeup of bacon kimchi pizza.
Plus, a tip for crispy—never floppy—crust.

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