A long-time contributor to SeriouslySmoked. Jim has had a lifelong relationship with the art of grilling, passed on from his father and grandfather to him.
Annabelle is an experienced food writer and editor. She focuses on common sense, easy to replicate recipes formulated
to help keep things fresh and exciting while fitting into her day to day life as a wife and mother.
Hot dogs may seem simpler to cook than hamburgers, but they require careful consideration of temperature and timing. The exact size and shape of your hot dogs also make a difference, especially if you’re aiming for a particular level of charring.
Hot dogs usually give some visible signs that they’re done, especially if you look closely at their skin. However, it’s possible to overcook the hot dog if you let it burst too much because it allows juices to escape and drip away. Use these tips for how long to cook your hot dogs to make your next batch your best yet.
1. Grill Temperature Matters
The biggest variable to track when deciding how long to grill hot dogs is the grill’s temperature. Grill enthusiasts debate how high the heat should be, but as a general rule, low temperatures increase the risk of the hot dog ending up mushy. Since hot dogs are sold fully cooked, it’s tempting for grillers to under-cook them, but the resulting meal is less than satisfying.
When determining how long to grill hot dogs, make sure your grill allows you to make precise temperature adjustments. If you’re making multiple meats on the same grill, a grill with two or more zones is essential.
Preheat the grill to at least a medium heat, or around 350°F, for 10-15 minutes. Some grilling experts recommend preheating to 425°F, which is closer to high heat on most grills, but this may be too much for smaller and thinner hot dogs. If you’re using a charcoal grill, ensure the charcoal briquettes’ surface has turned white before throwing the hot dogs on.
Keep in mind that, like all meats, hot dogs are harder to grill evenly when frozen. Give your hot dogs plenty of time to thaw before grilling them. Alternatively, since hot dogs keep for a long time without freezing, store them in the fridge until you’re ready to use them.
Read more: Excellent grill thermometers.
2. Monitoring the Hot Dogs
The main sign that a hot dog is finished cooking is it starts to expand, so you can’t leave your hot dogs unattended while grilling. Watch for this expansion to start, but don’t let it continue for so long that the hot dog ruptures. This should happen after 5-7 minutes, or perhaps a little longer if it’s not directly over the coals or flame.
Cutting 3-4 small slits in each hot dog makes it easier to see their progress, even if they’re already skinless. You can see the juices bubbling in the meat of the hot dog just after it reaches the correct internal temperature. Without these slits, the hot dog may burst at a random location, which is a sign that it is overcooked.
Use a temperature probe on at least one hot dog to make sure they reach the correct internal temperature. Even though hot dogs are sold fully cooked, they taste best and are safest if they reach an internal temperature of between 150°F and 160°F. This is true no matter what meat or combination of meats is inside the hot dog.
Temperatures below 140°F result in a spongy texture and may not kill all lingering foodborne bacteria, while temperatures above 165°F may dry out the meat. It may take a little practice to get the right temperature consistently, but once you figure out your grill’s temperatures and the hot dogs you’re using, you’ll learn the precise time when a hot dog has reached perfection.
3. Large Hot Dogs
Thicker hot dogs need to reach the same internal temperature as regular-sized hot dogs but require more time to do so. Use the same temperature range as you would for regular hot dogs, veering closer to 425°F if you like your hot dogs crispy. Jumbo hot dogs need 7-10 minutes to cook, while even larger quarter-pound hot dogs may need up to 15 minutes.
Keep in mind that bratwurst and other sausage products sold raw require more careful cooking than actual hot dogs. Although their overall cooking strategy is similar, they require more time to cook thoroughly and reach a minimum internal temperature of 160°F.
4. Getting the Right Char
Although most grill enthusiasts appreciate a few burned lines on their hot dog, some children are picky eaters and won’t touch a lightly charred hot dog. Figuring out how long to grill hot dogs while avoiding any charring or burning is tricky, but as a general rule, decrease the temperature while increasing the cook time. With multi-zone grills, you can also move the hot dog to a cooler area of the grill if it’s nearly done cooking but needs a little more time.
No matter what type of char you want, turn the hot dogs frequently. This is easiest to do if you set up the hot dogs perpendicular to the grill grates and leave room to push them back and forth. Rotating the hot dogs at least a quarter-turn every 1-2 minutes helps you avoid excessive charring.
5. Weather Variables
Like any meat, hot dogs’ cooking speed may vary slightly depending on air temperature. Although a few degrees won’t make a difference, cooking on a 50°F day may take noticeably longer than on a 95°F day. This is especially true of larger hot dogs that need constant high temperatures to cook through.
Humidity rarely has a noticeable impact on grilling, but a breezy day may blow heat away from your hot dogs before it cooks your items properly. If weather conditions are windier or colder than usual, use your temperature probes to double-check the internal temperature before removing them from the grill.
6. Getting the Right Practice
Learning how long to grill hot dogs is tricky because of the number of variables involved, but you can master it in just a few sessions like any kind of cooking. Take advantage of opportunities to grill during the summer months, especially if you live in warm climates.
If you run into difficulties, remember that grilling hot dogs is easier with a well-designed grill with multiple zones. Having highly customizable temperatures at your fingertips helps you deal with variables in hot dogs’ shapes and sizes. Once you’ve gotten the hang of your new grill, you can grill hot dogs like a pro for small family get-togethers or huge neighborhood block parties.
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