What Are Red Snapper Hot Dogs And Why Do They Exist?

While America is full of regional foods, one thing we all seem to agree on is hot dogs. Of course, some of America's best hot dogs are defined by their toppings, but one that stands apart due to its unique production is Maine's "red snapper" dogs. These take their name from the unique bright red hue that defines them and the satisfying snapping sound accompanying every bite. They pop up in a few other locations in the country (like North Dakota for some reason) but are most commonly found in Maine, where they are a longstanding summertime tradition.

The exact origins of red snappers are hard to track down, but easily the most famous purveyor of this unique hot dog is W.A. Beans & Sons, a Bangor, Maine butcher that has been in business for 150 years. They've been making their hot dogs since 1918 and produced more than four million in 2009 alone.

What makes red snappers unique

The defining characteristics of the red snapper are right there in the name. They are cartoonishly red and produce a bright snapping sound, but where do these qualities come from?

The red color can come from a variety of different sources, but most often, it is simply obtained through the use of good old-fashioned food dye. Some use sodium nitrite, but more often, the red snapper is made with red dye #40 or #3. The reason that most manufacturers give for this choice of color is that it was a clever marketing tactic. The bright red color supposedly helped red snapper manufacturers stand out from the other brown or gray dogs offered at the time.

The "snap" is a signature of the all-natural casings commonly used to make red snappers, which are typically made using parts of animal intestines. In the case of the red snappers, lamb is often the animal of choice. These natural casings are loaded with collagen, giving them more structure and a satisfying snap when you bite into them. W.A. Beans & Sons is one of the relatively few manufacturers that still use these natural casings today.

Where to find red snappers

If you're craving these naturally cased and unnaturally colored hot dogs, one of the best places to find them is at W.A. Beans & Sons, whose hot dogs are on sale through their website. While you're there, you should also order a pack of New England-style hot dog buns. These are the traditional buns for red snappers, defined by their flat sides, which help the soft white rolls stand upright.

If you find yourself in Maine, you can also stop by the famous Simone's Hot Dog Stand in Lewiston for a red snapper. This stand has been serving the same classic hot dog style for more than 100 years. Keep in mind, unlike the famous hot dogs of Chicago, the red snapper isn't defined by its toppings. Anything goes when it comes to decking out these dogs, and of course, classics like mustard, ketchup, and grilled onions are common highlights.