Score Your Hot Dogs For The Crispiest Bite Every Time

Of the 20 billion hot dogs consumed in the U.S. each year, a majority are enjoyed between Memorial Day and Labor Day, the U.S.'s official hot dog season. Although boiled frankfurters are perennial favorites that can be found on most kids' menus, if you're older than 12 and prefer yours to have a crispy bite, it's time to score your hot dog before grilling.

Since hot dogs are cured sausages, they don't require the same amount of cooking time that raw meat like chicken breast does. However, that doesn't mean we shouldn't respect the process. Cooking hot dogs at too high of a temperature — or not long enough — can result in cold centers or dried-out, shriveled meat that no one waited all winter to eat. An easy way to avoid the barbecue faux pas is to increase the wieners' surface area to reduce its time on the grill.

There are a few methods you can try, but this scoring tip is simple and effective. Start by slicing the hot dog in half lengthwise. Then, use a sharp knife to score the cut surfaces in a cross-hatch design. As the hot dog halves grill, the slits open up like a porcupine, enabling the center to cook faster and more of the hot dog to char. As a bonus, all the nooks and crannies make room for more toppings.

Tips for preparing crispy hot dogs

Hot dog varieties have grown in numbers over the years, meaning there's more than one way you can prepare them. The portable food may be produced from beef, pork, chicken, turkey, or plant-based proteins, and can come skinless or with natural casings, and with or without nitrates. While fattier meats stay moist longer, leaner options like turkey dogs are less forgiving. To always ensure your hot dog is juicy with a good snap, here are a few cooking tips.

In general, you'll get the best results by grilling beef and pork hot dogs over medium to medium-low heat. This range gives the center time to warm through as the exterior develops grill marks. Cooking the wieners over high heat may cause the casing to burst, drying the meat out. If the hot dog is left whole, it should take roughly 10 minutes to grill, while scoring the sausages cuts the time in half. To avoid under or overcooking, use a digital thermometer to know when the meat's officially done, cooked to at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

For hot dogs made with lean proteins, or if you'd like to prepare them in advance, start by poaching them in a flavorful liquid until cooked. You can do this on the grill over indirect heat by covering the hot dogs with beer or a seasoned liquid in a disposable aluminum pan. Then, just before serving, grill the meat over direct heat until the outside is charred to get a crispy bite that's guaranteed to be juicy.

Additional ways to score a hot dog

There's more than one way to score a hot dog, and some options come down to aesthetics. To keep the weenie in its tube form, use a knife to slash the outside without cutting through. This can be done in a spiral pattern or a series of slits, such as using this chopstick hack. For the spiral effect, roll the hot dog as you slowly score the surface from end to end. Once cooked, don't be surprised if the meat sticks out from the bun since this technique elongates it. Although a soft bun adds to the meal's enjoyment by providing a contrasting texture, if bread is not an option, pierce the meat with a long skewer before grilling to give it a handle. If the skewer is wooden, soak it in water first to prevent it from burning.

Instead of cutting the dog in half, you can also butterfly it so there are fewer pieces to flip on the grill. Don't forget to score the cut surface, creating a useful channel to hold any toppings when it's placed in a bun. This method is beneficial if you favor Chicago-style hot dogs like the late Anthony Bourdain — with yellow mustard, sweet pickle relish, white onions, tomato, a dill pickle, pickled peppers, and celery salt. Or, skip the toppings entirely and season the hot dogs before grilling by rolling them in salad dressing and then coating them with your favorite spices.