For Maximum Crispness, You Should Be Spiraling Your Hot Dogs

It can be hard to pin down "American cuisine" due to the country's diversity of cultures, which helps shape how individual states eat. But the hot dog is an undisputable American food, associated with summertime grilling, Fourth of July celebrations, and baseball. The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council explains that hot dogs technically are sausages, and sausage is one of the first processed foods dating back to the 9th century B.C. The NHDSC adds that though it's unclear whether the dog's predecessor was the frankfurter from Frankfurt-am-Main or the 1600s dachshund sausage from Coburg, what we now know as the hot dog hails from Germany.

People have been eating hot dogs for a long time (a foot-long time, even). With centuries to experiment, we've come to stir them into mac and cheese or serve them on buns with all manner of condiments ranging from ketchup, mustard, relish, and sauerkraut. There's even regional flairs to hot dogs, like Montreal's "all dressed" version with mustard, onion, relish, and cabbage slaw, per America's Test Kitchen, or the iconic Chicago-style, which is served on a poppy seed bun with dill pickle, tomato, celery salt, and pickled hot sport peppers, per The New Yorker. Franks are also prepared in various ways — boiled, steamed, pan-fried, deep-fried, and, of course, grilled. The best hot dogs have a "snap" due to their casing, especially if the exterior crisps up. And there's a fun way to achieve this perfection at home.

What is spiral cutting?

There's a wide world of hot dogs to try out there. There's the meat sauce-laden Michigan dog, the D.C.-based half-smoke, and the famous "Ripper" from Rutt's Hut in Clifton, NJ — which is deep-fried until it splits open in the hot oil (per Lacademie). But if you want the best franks for home consumption, there's a simple hack to take them to the next level: spiraling. According to Iowa State University, this slicing method creates maximum surface area during cooking. Chef Richard Blais (via Rachael Ray Show) calls these "hot dog hasselbacks," referring to a Swedish restaurant's way of serving baked potatoes with exceptional crispness.

Scoring and slashing food is a useful culinary technique with other practical uses. For instance scoring duck breasts results in crunchy skin and helps render out the fat, while scoring bread controls its expansion during baking, according to King Arthur Baking Company. A truly wondrous holiday ham gets shallowly scored so that the glaze has more space to seep into the meat, per Better Homes and Gardens. In hot dog terms, spiraling results in crispy edges and juicy interiors, and helps open up new topping possibilities with multiple nooks and crannies for condiments to find. For an artsy spin on hot dog cutting, check out tako sausage — a popular kid's bento box addition that is cut to look like an octopus (per Japanese Cooking 101).

How to spiral hot dogs

You can simply cut a few shallow, diagonal slashes in your hot dog with a small, manageable kitchen knife. The Rachael Ray Show uses a skewer to rotate the hot dog while cutting it, and Instructables reminds us that it can double as a handle for grilling your spiral-cut hot dog. There's also a gadget called the SLOTDOG that's taken social media by storm. It effortlessly creates a criss-cross pattern on your frank. An article by The Kitchn includes a photo of several possible scoring patterns, including spiralized, crosshatched, fish-scaled, and butterflied — where the hot dog is split lengthwise and also incised. They're fun and make for a nice presentation as well as a fine eating experience for this humble food.

To avoid drying out the hotdogs due to juices exiting through the cuts, Insider reminds cooks to warm hot dogs first and turn them over indirect heat on a hot grill. They also recommend quality, all-beef hot dogs. You can even bake hot dogs if you don't have a grill. Lastly, Insider urges consumers not to overlook the bun — it can be toasted right on the grill or steamed for a fluffy texture. If the annual Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest and whopping statewide consumption statistics are any indication, hot dogs are here to stay. So teach an old dog new tricks and don't settle for mediocrity. Instead, spiral that sausage!