Sunday, December 5, 2010

To grill or not to grill - OR: Steam or boil?

I am asked quite frequently about grilling dogs. It's a great question. I think if you could ask 100 different vendors their opinion on grilling, boiling or steaming you would find that boiling is most preferred. I will expand on this to help you decide your method of attack.

Steaming: This is the process of using a spillage pan with the bottom filled with water. Inset into this pan is a perforated pan that allows the boiling hot water below to steam thru onto the food.

Pros: Steam is attractive coming from a cart and allows for quick cooking of frozen foods and steaming buns. Many of the long time doggers use this method with great success.
Cons: Steaming can change the color of the hot dogs. It also doesn't allow for long holding periods. Too much steam and your dog will shrivel and some dogs, all depending on the type of casing and meat, will split and turn grey.

Boiling: This method requires no explanation. Boil water, drop in hot dogs.

Pros: Quickly boil 30 or 40 dogs at a time. Turn off heat when done and they can sit in hot water while awaiting their fates. Tip: Add in a beef bullion cube or a can of beer to the boiling water prior to cooking the first batch. This will saturate the water with flavor and prevent the water from sapping out the flavor of the dogs. A garlic clove is a great addition also.
Cons: Often referred to Dirty water dogs, it holds no negatives for me. I love to boil my dogs and find that I have less waste and great looking and tasting hot dogs, no mater the brand. However, dogs can split and bust if boiled too long. 6 minutes from frozen to done is my rule, practice on your cart to get the timing down.

Grilling: Grilling dogs is the most attractive and customer friendly way to serve dogs and involves cooking your dogs over an open flame.

Pros: They seem to taste better. They are more appealing with grill marks. Grilling creates smoke from the drippings hitting the hot interior of the grill body, this often has an attractive smell and can bring folks a running.

Cons: Grilling frozen dogs is difficult, this means you have to have more open and thawed stock. Grilled dogs do not hold long. If you aren't serving them immediately, the skins get tough and start to shrivel. Grilling requires more space as you can not stack hot dogs on a grill like can be done when boiling or steaming.

A grill either brought with you or attached to a cart makes for great eye candy to customers. I know I just explained that boiling and steaming would be better, but if you are boiling and steaming and then using the grill to create the aroma and ambiance that customers love. When customers start lining up, I often will throw my soaking wet dogs from the boiling pan onto that super hot grill, steam and smoke rise and it all smells so good.

Bottom line, I would use a grill, but only to touch up the hot dogs, not to cook and serve.

Sausages, Italians, brats or whatever, are great split lengthwise and then opened up and laid on top of the grill, this creates beautiful grill marks and adds to the delicious smells coming from your cart.

Please post your experience and opinions below. Contradictory information does not offend me and I welcome any and all advice and experience as it helps us all.

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