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Best hot dogs for 4th of July: A taste test

A panel of tasters voted Oscar Mayer the best beef frank and Ball Park the best pork-based wiener, although the latter group was panned.

By Jul 1, 2014 4:47PM
This post comes from Raechel Conover at partner site on MSN MoneyJuly is without doubt the month of the dog -- hot dogs, that is. The hot summer month plays host to the International Hot Dog Eating Contest, a July 4 tradition, and National Hot Dog Day on July 23. To pull everything under one umbrella, July is National Hot Dog Month.

Girl eating a hotdog © Chris Williams Black Box/Getty Images

With so many hot dog celebrations coming up, you may be curious to know which hot dog will tickle your taste buds without leaving much of a scratch on your budget.

We stopped off at a Kroger supermarket one day and picked up eight packs of inexpensive hot dogs: beef franks from Oscar Mayer, Ball Park, Nathan's Famous, plus two Kroger labels (Value and Simple Truth) and pork-based wieners from Oscar Mayer, Ball Park, and Eckrich. We rounded up seven hot dog tasters, grilled up samples of each, and asked for their assessments without identifying which dog was which.

Overall, the pork-based hot dogs, which contain turkey, chicken, and/or beef, bombed in comparison with the all-beef franks. Even before taking a single bite, several judges said their favorite hot dog was Nathan's Famous Beef Franks. But the perceived top dog unexpectedly loped into a distant second place, bested in our hot dog taste-off by Oscar Mayer Classic Beef Franks. In the pork-based category, panel members struggled to identify a "best" wiener and reluctantly awarded the title to Ball Park (Original) Franks.

The results seemed unrelated to price. Pork-based hot dogs are the cheapest, by far. One wiener from Oscar Mayer and Eckrich each cost just 19 cents, although the Ball Park version costs 31 cents. On the beef side of things, Kroger Value hot dogs were the cheapest at 31 cents each, while Nathan's Famous hit the high spot at 66 cents a serving. Oscar Mayer, Ball Park, and Kroger Simple Truth ranged in between, at 39 cents, 54 cents, and 64 cents a serving, respectively.

Pork hot dogs
By the time the plates were empty, the judges had voiced very strong opposition to pork-based hot dogs. Even the most frugal of the bunch said he would never attempt to save money by buying pork hot dogs again. The common refrain: "Pork hot dogs are just gross." More specifically, our tasters said the "texture is all wrong" and the flavor, in general, is "off."

But we still had to rank the dogs. The results are as follows: Ball Park (Original) Franks took the lead, followed by Eckrich Franks as runner-up and the Oscar Mayer Classic Wiener in last place. One panelist who preferred the Ball Park brand over the rest liked the flavor and said the "okay" texture was better than some. Other judges described the texture as "mushy and weird," but that was the consensus about all the pork-based hot dogs. The Eckrich version earned even fewer compliments.

About the best that was offered: "Taste is okay, nothing great and nothing terrible." Oscar Mayer fared the worst, with panelists using descriptive terms like "gross," bad aftertaste," and "overpowering pork flavor."

Beef hot dogs
Beef hot dogs proved far more satisfying to our review panel's palates. The star in this category was Oscar Mayer Classic Beef Franks. Kroger Value Beef Hot Dogs and Nathan's Famous Beef Franks tied for second place, while Kroger Simple Truth Uncured Beef and Ball Park Beef Franks pulled in last. Our judges were surprised to learn that for half the price they could enjoy the best hot dog pick, Oscar Mayer, or the other second-place finisher, Kroger Value.

Tasters said the Oscar Mayer frank had a "good flavor," was appropriately salty, and showed off the "right texture with the right amount of juice." Reviews were mixed for the two runners-up. Nathan's Famous was said to convey a "good" or "great" flavor "but not a good aftertaste," and was "kind of tough." A couple of judges asserted that the flavor bordered on "artificial."

The Kroger Value hot dog was described as "smoky" more often than not, and while our tasters were okay with that, the slightly "grainy" texture was a turn-off for one. "Fake baloney taste" sums up comments about the Ball Park Beef Franks, while "bland" and "average" was the collective opinion of the Kroger Simple Truth selection.

More from
Jul 4, 2014 10:30AM

There sure is a big wiener in the Whitey's House.

Jul 4, 2014 6:40PM
Hebrew National are hands down the best Dogs you can buy.
Jul 4, 2014 12:56PM
what did the hot dog say when he crossed the finish line? i'm the wiener! 
Jul 4, 2014 6:20PM
0bama is a purist,... he insists on eating real dogs at his barbecue. You can take the boy out of Indonesia,..but,....
Jul 5, 2014 1:14AM
Jul 4, 2014 10:31AM
If I'm going to pick any hot dog I want , I actually prefer a brat or a specialty kind that has jalapeno in it . For a plain jane hot dog I gotta agree on the no pork , all beef is best by far and of course I am going to smother it with something , I like all the traditional toppings except ketchup , never touch the stuff .
Jul 4, 2014 2:28PM

On Coney Island, for years (1942-1980 at least) the best frankfurters were not Nathan’s (which were OK) but were those advertised as “Strictly Kosher, all beef high-grades”.

Nathan’s became famous because they were the only hot dog stand open all winter and it became the in thing to do to say “Let’s go to Nathan’s and have a hot dog.”

Then off we would go to freeze a bit at the open Nathan’s stand and eat one.

Folks who recall those days will also remember that right next to Nathan’s was “Teerza’s Wine Bath” where one paid a quarter (I think) to watch Teerza (an ancient stripper) sit in a tub of red-colored water in scant clothing. I believe she was a left over from the 1939 World’s Fair in Flushing (the toilet seat of the world … Ho, Ho).

Jul 4, 2014 2:59PM
Nothing good comes from a "HOT DOG", of any kind..... Period.
Jul 4, 2014 7:37PM
Hey ye'all!!! I'm home from visiting with family!  Not even dark yet.  I am going to bed soon, even before dark for one reason!  I have had a great fourth of July! The best ever!  Thsi year, I did not celebrate this day.  There is no reason to celebrate.  For the first time in recent memory and maybe the first time ever, I have had  a "me" day!  I have not felt I had to go or do anything for this day.  I see it as it is....a devil's day....this world belongs to the devil.  iiCorinthinans (4,4).  I have not turned on the "ask your doctor' box and don't intend to.  I am going to bed and going to sleep so this rathole day can be gone for another year!  Thank you, Jesus!  Thank you, God!  Thank you, Holy Spirit!!!  Amen! Goodnight, Ya'll.  We have a year now we don't have to deal with this day again!!!!  Praise God!!!
Jul 4, 2014 1:22PM
Thank God I wasn't born on the fourth of July!!!!!!!!!!!!  Thank you, God!!!!!
Jul 4, 2014 1:18PM
Saw a prettty sight today!!!!!!  I went for a biscuit at the local fast food place!  While there, the girl behind the counter was taping two US rags to the front of the cash register!  small rags.  She had them in a V shape something like racing flags!!!!  God was with us!!!!  I think even God is not happy with this degenerative country.  The tape gave way and the two rags fell!!  It was so funny to see.   They begin to move slowlly...then, a little faster!  Something like the country....and FLOP! They were down!  I just thought "Praise God!!"  I came home and cut grass and enjoyed working a little while.  Later, I will visit family if it is God's will.
Jul 4, 2014 2:32PM
Gonna lay down for a while.  Then, visit family  No crappy fourth of July celebration for me.  Nothing to celebrate!  I'm having the best fourth of July ever!!!! No stress!  No traffic!!! Just home!!!  Hope to get to bed early tonight and let this devil's day go by!!!!!!!!!!  Then, when I get up tomorrow, hopefully the junky parades and fireworks crap will be over!!!  but, I'm sure there will be articles about it for days.  Oh, well.....just another day for the devil to infect the minds of people.
Jul 4, 2014 2:11PM
I am home as I planned to be!!! I got a biscuit as I said I would.  then, I cut grass as I said I would.  Later, I will visit family.  But, I am NOT celebrating this devil's day!  I have not turned on the "ask your doctor" box at all.  I don't plan to until at least tomorrow.  I want nothing to do with any fireworks display or any celebration of this fourth of July.  It is just another day.  That is all it is.  It is not special to me.  I do not honor a rag today.  I do not honor any man today.  Thank you, God for sending Arthur!!!  It appears it is above DC now.  Maybe it ruined some political crap there too!!!
Jul 2, 2014 9:47AM

It didn’t happen all at once, but the dream that was the United States of America, the Great Republic, has died. Other countries hostile to the idea of true freedom didn’t cause it; it wasn’t caused by a radical religious organization. The downfall of the United States was all from within its own borders, by its own people. The people, for whom others have died, have allowed the country to die a slow death. The me too, me first attitude that started many years ago, along with the idea that all are entitled to the fruits of others hard work, has allowed this country to bleed to death. When the British raised the tax on tea, our forefathers should have just shut up and paid the tax. Almost 240 years later, what has changed? Thousands have died for absolutely nothing.

Jul 4, 2014 8:45AM
I will NOT CELEBRATE today.  It is a devil's day, nothing more, nothing less.  It is Friday, the fourth of July, the day between the third and the fitth, nothing more, nothing less.  It is another day, that is all.  I will celebrate God and family everyday but I will honor NO man today.  I plan to go for a biscuit as I sometimes do, then cut some grass just to work a while.  There will be NO fireworks, no rag flying unless upside down.  So far, I have not found one and I will NOT buy one.  This used to be a day for watermelon and I love watermelon but I will NOT buy one until tomorrow or after.  Our forefathers built a great country.  Our pretzeldint and CONgress have destroyed it.  I will NOT watch the parades or any news UNLESS I hear someone is attacking this rathole.  Then, I'll  watch it!!!!
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