What Makes a Great Tasting Beef Hot Dog?

High Quality Everyday Favorite Beef Hot Dogs should be pink to brick red in color. The skin or outside of the hot dog may be darker in color than the inside. The grind of the hot dog may vary from fine to coarse. A hot dog with coarse grind should not appear to have particulates, though it may appear speckled, and a fine grind should not appear too emulsified. The meat of the hot dog should appear moist, without looking overly greasy. Hot dogs should have a ‘signature’ aroma consisting primarily of beef, slight organ/liver aroma akin to bologna or lunch meat, and warm spices. There may also be aroma notes of smoke, paprika or similar pepper, or aromatics such as onion and garlic. There should also be an aroma of fat. It is important that the organ/liver aroma not be too strong. Any smoke aroma, likewise, shouldn’t take over. The basic taste profile of a high quality hot dog should be: salt, at moderate intensity; sweet, at low-moderate intensity; and sour and bitter should be slight to low. Salt should not be so high as to overwhelm the palate, and the sweetness should seem to be the natural sweetness of the meat rather than added or enhanced sweetness. The signature aromas of a high quality hot dog should also be the most evident flavors. The beef or meat flavor should be evident, and the organ/liver flavor should be subtle. Any smoke flavor should not mask other flavors, and the smoke flavor should not suggest ash or burnt notes. Some fatty flavor is expected and desirable. High quality beef hot dogs should offer a snap or pop during the initial bite. The meat inside should be juicy, toothsome, and tender. The meat should not be too soft, mealy or crumbly. The skin should not be tough, and remain after the meat has been chewed. With a jumbo or similar large hot dog, the meat texture is particularly important as it is that much more evident. It is also important that there be minimal particulates or ‘hard parts’ in a high quality hot dog. As the hot dog clears the palate, it should leave an aftertaste of saltiness and some greasy coating. There may also be some pepper heat if paprika or a similar spice was featured. There should not be bitterness in the aftertaste. When served on a bun, a high quality hot dog should offer some texture and flavor contrast to the bun. It should not ‘become one with the bun’ by being sweet like the bun, or being too soft so there is no texture contrast. The flavors should still be evident, and elevated saltiness or greasiness may be tempered when served this way.

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Tasting terms

  • aroma

    The smell that emanates from food. Along with appearance, texture, flavor and taste, aroma is one of the five dimensions used to evaluate a product. Example: Brownies should have an aroma that includes chocolate as well as egg, toasty and sweet notes.

  • taste profile

    The expected levels of each basic taste in any given food; defines the overall taste balance. Example: The taste profile of baking chocolate is led by bitterness that is balanced by a low amount of sweetness.

  • salt

    One of the basic tastes; tasting of or containing salt. Example: Potato chips, sea water and cured meats all have a strong salt component.

  • sweet

    One of the basic tastes; often considered pleasing while exhibiting characteristics of sugar. Example: Honey, ripe fruits and syrup all have a pronounced sweet component.

  • bitter

    One of the basic tastes; often considered harsh and unpleasant in abundance, but a key basic taste for foods like coffee and dark chocolate. Example: Unripened fruit, aspirin and coffee all have bitter components.

  • sour

    One of the basic tastes; often considered sharp, tart and acidic. Example: Lemon juice, vinegar and fermented foods often have a strong sour component.

  • flavor

    A combination of a food's basic taste and its accompanying aroma, flavor is the distinctive taste of a food or ingredient while it is in the mouth. Along with aroma, appearance, texture and taste, flavor is one of the five dimensions considered by ChefsBest Master Tasters. Example: Chocolate chip cookies should have a moderate chocolate flavor accompanied by a slightly lower level of complex dough flavor that includes egg, flour, vanilla and brown sugar notes.

  • initial bite

    The sensation of texture from the first bite of a particular food, as opposed to the sensation while it is being chewed. Example: A cookie might offer resistance on its initial bite, but it will crumble easily when chewed. Corn should have a snap on its initial bite.

  • texture

    A dimension used to organize attributes like mouthfeel, graininess and initial bite, it is one of the five dimensions used by ChefsBest Master Tasters to evaluate food. Example: Glazed popcorn will have a crunch texture. The texture of milk chocolate should be creamy and smooth.

  • snap

    When a food breaks apart cleanly. Example: Fresh corn, grapes, carrots and the casing of a hot dog will have a snap when bitten.

  • aftertaste

    The taste remaining in the mouth after eating or drinking; sometimes associated with unpleasant flavors or bitterness. Example: Some diet sweeteners contain notes of bitterness.

  • heat

    The intensity of spiciness or the perceived warmth of food in the mouth. Example: Hot sauce has a distinct flavor, but it also possesses a heat component that warms the mouth.