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So, its summer its another BBQ season without COVID restrictions. So, as appropriate for the season, I had a question about hotdogs.

I know that it's possible to prepare hotdogs by boiling, and indeed, many restaurants do so. It's also possible to prepare them on a BBQ. But, I notice BBQed and grilled hotdogs at ye ol' family get-to-gether or beach episode tend to turn out blistered and very ugly looking.

I want a hotdog that looks like its boiled and isn't blistered. And, then with those dark black grill marks. What should I do to achieve this look?

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    Hi, we have somewhat strict guidelines on what kind of question we take. The question about a technique for a specific look is a great fit. I removed some of your background musings on how others prepare hotdogs, because it not only distracts from the question, but also creates unnecessary friction. We don't believe in the idea that there is a single "right" way to prepare food, and we're happy to help you no matter which way you prefer your hotdogs.
    – rumtscho
    Jul 11, 2023 at 13:34
  • Let me rephrase @rumtscho‘s comment: Asking about how to achieve a certain result is perfectly fine. Lengthy discussions about real or perceived cultural faux-pas‘, merits or other issues that don’t contribute to the basic technical question are not ok.
    – Stephie
    Jul 20, 2023 at 18:21

5 Answers 5

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Use a two-tiered cooking method. First set up your grill with a "really hot" side and a "less hot" side. The idea is to gently heat the dogs on the "less hot" side of the grill and get them up to a good temperature for consumption, then use the really hot grates on the other side to quickly put some grill marks on the dogs without causing them to blister and so forth.

I don't know which order that these events happen for the best results. You could maybe do a "reverse sear" kind of thing by slowly heating the dogs and then applying the grill marks, or hit the dogs with high heat at the beginning to get the grill marks before moving them over to the lower heat side of the grill to gently come up to temperature. This may require some experimentation to get it perfectly right. I've done it both ways without really paying attention to which method worked better.

The advantage of this is the dogs get added flavor from the smokey grill without boiling them.

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  • This makes sense, thank you. Raise the temperature, slowly, then sear at highest heat. So, on a BBQ its on heat and off heat. But, I use a griddle. Wonder if that changes anything. Jul 13, 2023 at 19:19
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    Sorry you didn't mention a griddle in your original question. You could use the same approach I suppose. Heat the griddle very hot, get your "grill marks", remove the hot dogs and then let it cool some, then reintroduce the dogs and let them heat through more slowly. Honestly I think you'll find it easier to use a charcoal or gas grill, but only marginally so.
    – gnicko
    Jul 15, 2023 at 13:58
  • I suggested the reverse sear as you mentioned as the alternative in your helpful tips, but, in hindsight, I think the straight sear-then-cook is the better way because the hotdog is colder so you don't risk blistering or busting the dog. Great post. I think you're the winner here! Thank you. Oct 6, 2023 at 14:07
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It's the high direct heat from the coals that chars, the metal bars that make the stripes, so stripes without flame - a grill [griddle] pan.

enter image description here

Pre-heat dogs & pan, then a minute or so each side to put the stripes on. Works for steaks too.


This seems to be dividing the field somewhat on up- vs down-votes.

Maybe this is more useful for the Brits, who tend to have a shoebox-sized live-flame charcoal BBQ about twice per summer [one of which will be ruined by the rain anyway] so we are used to grills that will turn anything put on early into pure charcoal in under three minutes, whilst anything put on half an hour later stays raw. For those too eager to get the food on it there's also that delightful smell of paraffin to add zest to the first round of charcoal-crisp burgers.
We also pre-cook our chicken portions in the oven, for fear of killing the guests by serving thighs burnt to a blackened crisp on the outside, whilst still being raw in the middle.

For the US with your football pitch-sized grills powered right from mains gas, with smokers, mesh lattices & assorted steel hot-plates at various heights - generally looking more like an office block under construction - this might be less useful. Or you already have one built-in, over in a far-flung corner of the structure out of easy reach, behind the half a cow currently slow-cooking…
;)

…plus, the Brits can take this indoors & put it on the stove when it rains - so long as they also remember to bring the buns in, and send one or two of the more water-resistant kids back out to fetch the beers too. Everybody can then have lovely looking hot dogs whilst gazing out of the window at another bank holiday ruined.

My comment on another answer would work too - get a George Foreman grill [They didn't have a hot dog recipe to borrow from, so here's some chicken] …

enter image description here

That would work for the Brits too, if they're expecting rain ;)


Examples, for those who have never visted both sides of the pond…
US barbecue

enter image description here

enter image description here

British barbecue

enter image description here

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    I don't think grill pans are useful for very much. But if you want grill marks, they're even better at making grill marks than actual grills are.
    – Sneftel
    Jul 11, 2023 at 12:36
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    I find the "rant" about American grilling highly entertaining and totally accurate
    – Yorik
    Jul 12, 2023 at 17:54
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    @Yorik - It's nice to feel appreciated ;))) I'm sure someone could write a book on the "joys" of British barbecuing too. I once spent a month staying with a friend in Laguna Beach, California, & I'm sure his barbie cost as much as the house… and looked about as permanent. We ate in the back … acreage… about 4 nights a week. He could fire it up without even going outdoors. We'd stagger out, well-lubricated, to enjoy the sunset & things you just cannot cook on your typical UK service station aluminium one-time carton. Also, seemed far less chance of setting the garden alight.
    – Tetsujin
    Jul 12, 2023 at 17:59
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    As a USian, I am offended to be lumped in with those god-awful aircraft-carrier sized grills. I have a very functional Weber grill. It's the bestest. Jul 14, 2023 at 1:30
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    @XanderHenderson I also am generally quite content with my Weber but I have used the trailer grill shown in the second picture quite a few times. It is somewhat difficult to grill half a hog to feed 40-60 people using a Weber. (North Carolina born)
    – doneal24
    Jul 14, 2023 at 18:45
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If you’re more concerned about the looks of your food, you should probably be looking to ‘food stylists’ rather than people who cook food to eat.

You basically take a straight heating element, and use it as a branding iron to put lines on the food where you want it.

There are a devices made to do exactly this, with multiple elements so you don’t have to worry if all of the lines are parallel and evenly spaced: https://www.tastingtable.com/906146/the-real-reason-some-restaurant-grill-marks-arent-real/

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    Or a George Foreman grill, as we mere domestic cooks use instead [indoors] ;) Makes decent panini too… & grilled cheese…
    – Tetsujin
    Jul 12, 2023 at 17:37
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    @Tetsujin Yeah, but they actually cook the food, so risk overcooking it. If you just want likes to be decorative, you just use something to burn the lines on there. This woman mentions ‘charcoal starter’ which is the electric devices to put in with your charcoal to get it lit: m.youtube.com/watch?v=f2Y_hTFpJus&t=9m28s (and she mentions just painting the lines on)
    – Joe
    Jul 12, 2023 at 19:42
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It's the high heat for too long that blisters and/or bursts your dogs. If you want to use a grill make sure the coals are burned down...or the grate is high enough...or use a combination of direct and indirect grilling. Don't leave them on long enough to blister and burst. Alternately, if you keep them moving, they may not get pretty grill marks, but they will be nicely browned.

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  • I've plan to use a water solutions. Best of both worlds. Jul 13, 2023 at 19:18
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Use a pigment and "paint" those grill marks instead. I advise finely ground food-grade activated charcoal and a "mask" cut out from a wrapping paper. Submerge the hotdogs in oil so that the charcoal sticks, then apply your cutout mask and cover the openings with charcoal powder.

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    Dislike without a comment = not helpful.
    – user105056
    Jul 17, 2023 at 21:09
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    Please note that votes don’t express “like/dislike“, but instead indicate issues with quality, effort, or accuracy of a post. Comments on reasons for downvotes are entirely optional as per cross-site policy.
    – Stephie
    Jul 19, 2023 at 11:32
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    This one got a dislike but this may actually be quite valid and true. As another alluded to here, this is almost a "food stylist" question. And, a lot of products on TV and on food packaging likely have a "painted" on faux grill mark. I have a feeling the person answering here actually knows what he/she is talking about. I gave it a like here. Stack Exchange is overly toxic, I notice--maybe its the hot dog mafia protecting their trade secrets, who knows! Jul 20, 2023 at 18:11
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    @PettyCashPrash h​​ey t​​h​​a​​nk y​​o​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​u a lot!
    – user105056
    Jul 21, 2023 at 1:22
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    I cannot overstate what an awful idea this is. Oil is not going to make the charcoal powder adhere at all strongly. Do you want your hot dogs to smudge and run in black rivulets? Do you want black smudges — not “charred” looking, but filthy like a boiler room — on your buns? Do you want your diners to have blackened teeth and tongues from your charcoal slurry?
    – Sneftel
    Oct 6, 2023 at 23:36

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