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How to Grill Hot Dogs on a Pellet Grill

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Is there a better comfort food at a backyard barbecue or baseball game than a good old-fashioned hot dog? Hot dogs are an affordable crowd-pleaser and more versatile than people give them credit for.

Whether you’re sticking to mustard or are interested in experimenting with bacon, cream cheese, and more, we’ll tell you everything you’ve ever wanted to know about grilling hot dogs.

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What You'll Need for Grilled Dogs

If we're being honest, there's not much to grilled hot dogs. Indeed, because most packages of franks come pre-cooked, all you really need to do is heat them up. But there are some basic considerations to make before you even light the grill, specifically what kind of dog and what kind of bun (we'll get to toppings later).

Take a look at the hot dog section in your supermarket and you will see that you will not only have many choices of brands but also styles. Do you want a regular sized dog or a foot long? All beef or a mix of beef and pork? Skinless or in a casing? Cured or uncured? Most of these are a matter of personal preference, and can, in some cases, matter to religion as for those who look for kosher hot dogs, meaning they contain no pork. Perhaps the most important choice is whether your dog has a natural casing or skinless. (Side note, all dogs begin with casings, but the ones labeled skinless have it removed after cooking and before packaging.)

Fans of hot dogs with a natural casing prize the snap the dogs give when bitten into, especially when prepared by simmering in water or other liquid. Those who choose skinless for grilling usually do so because that natural casing can get tough when grilled.

As for the bun, the two basic kinds are side-loading and top-loading, also called split-tops. Top loading-buns are especially popular in New England where they do double duty for lobster rolls. If you're piling a lot of toppings on your dog, you may prefer the latter, but if you're just doing mustard or ketchup, side-loading is fine. There are potato buns, brioche buns, and other options as well. If the hot dog wil not be loaded, a delicate bun works great, but you may want a heartier roll if going with a chili dog.

As for tools, about all you need are a pair of tongs for putting the dogs on the grill and taking them off.


How To Grill Hot Dogs On a Pellet Grill

Grilling dogs on a Traeger pellet grill is as easy as grilling on any other kind of grill but with the benefit of wood-fired flavor. Here are the basic steps for grilling hot dogs on a pellet grill:

Pick your pellet. Just about any Traeger pellet would taste good with hot dogs. If you want a strong smoke taste go with mesquite or hickory. For more subtle wood-fired flavor, consider apple or cherry.

Heat your grill. Heat your Traeger to between 375°F and 500°F. Go for a hotter grill if you like grill marks on your dogs and a lower temperature if you want a classic, supple frank.

Cut your dogs, if you like. Though there's not much prep involved with hot dogs, some people like to cut them to either promote more browning or to keep them from bursting. If cooked at the lower temp range, a grilled dog is not likely to burst (and poking it before cooking as some suggest lets the juices run out). That said, if you like crispy edges on your dog, you may want to spiralize your frank. This means cutting into it slightly while turning it so that it resembles a corkscrew. Spiralizing creates more surface area and any toppings will penetrate the hot dog more deeply.

Place your dogs on the grill. We prefer setting our hot dogs at a 45-degree angle on the grates to get those beautiful, angled grill marks.

Cook until heated through. Because they are likely already cooked, it's not vital to temp a hot dog, but if you do take its internal temperature, between 155°F to 160°F is a good temperature to pull them off.

Toast your hot dog buns, if you like. You can toast them dry or brush them with a little butter first for added richness. Then put the hot dog in the bun and top as you like.

For more general pellet grilling tips, look here.


Consider Smoking Hot Dogs for Great Flavor

When you cook a hot dog at high heat you get just a hint of wood-fired flavor. If you want more, consider smoking your dogs. To do so you basically follow the same steps as grilling but set the temperature of the grill to 225°F and cook until heated through to about 160°F, 45 minutes to 1 hour. If you want to eat them sooner, smoke for 15 minutes then increase the temperature of the grill and finish over high heat to get some grill marks. Pro tip: Give the dogs that spiral cut mentioned earlier for more smoke penetration.


What Temp To Grill Hot Dogs

No matter if you are smoking or grilling, your hot dogs should be tasty to eat when they have an internal temperature of about 160°F. Because of their size, you should use an instant-read meat thermometer to check, inserting its tip into the center of the dog.

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Different Hot Dog Styles

Hot dogs are one of those fun BBQ foods with regional preferences. If you grab a hot dog off a street vendor in New York City, it'll likely be offered with brown mustard and sauerkraut. In Chicago, foot-long hot dogs are grilled and topped with tomato wedges, onions, pickle relish, peppers, and mustard, all in a poppy seed bun as done here. A Sonoran, which hails from Arizona, features a unique bun and a dog topped with pinto beans, tomatoes and onions, mustard, green salsa, and mayo while the dog itself is wrapped in bacon. There's uncertainty about where the chili dog originated (Los Angeles? Michigan?) but no one doubts how delicious it is. Try it yourself by making our Grilled Chili Cheese Jalapeno Dog. In Seattle they top their dogs with cream cheese, jalapeños, onions, and mustard like the Seattle Dog shown below. And in the South, cole slaw is a preferred topping.

You might also want to try your hand at cooking bratwurst, which, to be clear is not just a thicker hot dog. Brats, usually made with pork, have a more coarse texture and ae flavored with spice. They're often sold fresh but sometimes are cooked or smoked. Like hot dogs, they're often served on a bun with mustard. For more information on how to cook brats, look here.

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Best Hot Dog Toppings & Sides

Mustard, relish, and ketchup may be the most common hot dog accompaniments. Sauerkraut and onions are also popular as well as pickles, chili, cheese, baked beans, mayo, and more. For an unusual but amazing topping for hot dogs, make some Cowboy Candy aka candied jalapenos. (But be warned, you may never want to eat a hot dog without it again.) When you have a Traeger you also have the option of topping your hot dogs with homemade brisket as is done here or pulled pork as in this recipe.

As for sides, whatever you would serve as a side dish at a barbecue would go well with hot dogs. For inspiration, look here.

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Hot Dog Tips

Experiment with flavorings. We season steaks and burgers without a second thought, but it's not as common to season a hot dog. Next time you're going for grilled hot dogs, season the wiener all over. (To get it to stick coat it with a little oil first.) Many of our Traeger rubs would work with hot dogs, including Traeger Beef Rub and Traeger Anything Rub. After cooking, consider slathering with a Traeger BBQ sauce or hot sauce for even more flavor.

Toast your buns. While you don't have to toast your hot dog bun, doing so allows the bread to hold up better to wet toppings like relish and chili. It also adds a nice toasty flavor.

Skewer your dog if spiralizing. As mentioned earlier, using a knife to cut a spiral pattern onto the dog gives it more surface space and encourages a crisp finish. If you skewer the dog, it will be easier to rotate it as you cut.

Grilled Chicago Hot Dog

by Traeger Kitchen

Prep Time

10 Min

Cook Time

15 Min

Serves

6

Pellets

Pecan

Hold the ketchup and serve up these dogs Chicago-style. Foot-long hot dogs are grilled and topped with tomato wedges, onions, pickle relish, peppers, and mustard, all in a poppy seed bun.

Ingredients
main
8 Foot-long Hot Dogs
8 foot-long hot dog buns
For Serving
yellow mustard
3/4 Cupsweet pickle relish
1 Cupdiced white onion
2 tomatoes, cored and sliced into wedges
8 dill pickle spears
16 pickled sport peppers
    Steps
  • 1

    When ready to cook, set the Traeger temperature to 375℉ and preheat with the lid closed for 15 minutes.

  • 2

    Arrange the hot dogs directly on the grill grates. Close the lid and grill for 15 minutes, turning every 5 minutes.

  • 3

    Place the buns on the grill for the last 3 minutes of cook time warm them.

  • 4

    Assemble the Chicago dogs: place the hot dogs in the buns and top with mustard, relish, and onions. Arrange the tomato slices on one side of the dogs, the pickle spears on the other, and the sport peppers down the middle. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

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