Along with burgers, the hot dog is one of those staple summer cookout foods, and everyone has a preferred style. Whether you top yours with mustard and sauerkraut or chili and cheese, we bet there’s still a lot you don’t know about this humble and classic American food.
There’s a lot to love about hot dogs — their flavor and versatility, for example — but there’s admittedly also plenty to be desired. They’re high in fat and sodium, and get their pink color from nitrates and nitrites, which also aren’t exactly healthy. But as a guilty pleasure, few foods are more satisfying. Why else would hot dog stands be some of the most venerable of American institutions, and why else would they fly off the shelves every summer?
The facts and figures around hot dogs are staggering. Every Fourth of July, Americans eat about 155 million hot dogs, and purchase about 9 billion in retail stores over the course of the year, about 350 million pounds. According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, Americans consume 20 billion hot dogs in total every year, on average about 70 per person. They’re served in 95 percent of the homes in the U.S., and New Yorkers purchase more hot dogs at retail stores than anyone else, about $101 billion dollars’ worth annually.
So why does this fabled sausage — made of an emulsion of meat, curing agents, and spices including garlic, mustard, nutmeg, pepper, and coriander — have such a hold over the American consciousness and imagination? Your guess is as good as mine, but the popularity of these easy-to-cook, easy-to-eat, infinitely versatile flavor bombs shows no sign of slowing down.