Step away from the highly-processed tube meat. You know who you are. Your last-second planning has you trapped in the aisles of your local grocery store. There are red and yellow bottles in your cart, next to crappy buns cooked four days ago. Hot dog cookouts are supposed to be simple, but that's no reason to be lazy. The least you can do is pick up some decent links.
Unlike heritage pork chops and grass-fed beef, even the best hot dogs you can buy are very affordable. They're also so much more delicious than the plastic-wrapped franks at your grocer that the extra cost is negligible. The locally made links in this list are made with high-quality meat, use natural casings for a snappy exterior, and in some cases are smoked in the same shop where you buy them.
The following photos and tasting notes will help get you started. Pick out your favorite, or try them all. Your hot dog cookouts will never be the same again.
Meat: beef and pork blend
Processing: right at the butcher shop in Deep Ellum
Price: $7.50 per pound.
Tasting notes: Rudolph's tastes a lot like the hot dogs you grew up on with the volume turned up to 10. There's lots of garlic powder in this mix, and the meat is ground a little more coarsely than your standard grocery store dog. Choose Rudolph's if you want to stay as close to possible to the traditional American hot dog while enjoying higher quality.
Meat: pork/veal blend
Processing: Kuby's facility on Mockingbird Lane
Price: $4.59 a pound
Tasting notes: Kuby's offers an all-beef frank, but we tested the pork and veal blend to offer a little variety at our cookout. One taster preferred the Kuby's dogs because they were so mild and delicately flavored. If you're looking for German-style hot dog, this is the link for you.
Meat: all beef
Processing: On-site. The smoker sits right behind the meat counter.
Price: $5.35 a pound
Tasting notes: "I've never seen a hot dog that big before." It was said more than once about David's links, which were big in every way. The dogs had more smoke, were the juiciest by far, and had casings that really gave you something to chew on.
Meat: Local Yocal locally pastured beef and pork
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Processing: Local Yocal
Price: $11.99 per pound
Tasting notes:This hot dog might be thin, but "it's got plenty of length," according to Brian Luscher. The dogs are coarsely ground and pack a ton of flavor into that spindly casing. One tester said the dogs "tasted hunted," hinting at some hard to describe but primal flavor. The rest simply called the dogs delicious. They were easily this group's most favorite.
If you've shopped the White Rock Local Market you've likely seen Luscher painting hot dog buns with house-made mustard and other condiments. If you want to cook them at home hit up the Green Grocer on Greenville Avenue, or Bolsa Mercado.