I Tried 7 Store-Bought Hot Dogs & One Smoky, Snappy Frank Conquered All (2024)

The product recommendations in this post are recommendations by the writer and/or expert(s) interviewed and do not contain affiliate links. Meaning: If you use these links to buy something, we will not earn a commission.

How do you like your hot dog? Steamed? Boiled? Microwaved? If you're like most Americans, the correct answers are no, no, andheck no!

About 75% of Americans prefer hot dogs that are cooked on the grill, with campfire-roasted weenies coming in a very distant second, according to a survey by the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council.

The outdoor cooking connection means that summer is prime hot dog season. From Memorial Day through Labor Day, U.S. consumers will chow down on about seven billion hot dogs—that's roughly 818 every second, the tubesteak-focused group reports.

As you prepare for your next backyard cookout, you might wonder how to improve your grilling game. Choosing a top-quality hot dog is a good start.

I gathered up a selection of fine-looking franks from my favorite grocery stores—Costco, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, and Wegmans—in search of the best-tasting one for my summertime grilling pursuits. Then I cranked up the grill and tasked a group of friends to help taste-test every last one of them.

Here's how they fared, ranked in descending order from the least popular link to the literal top dog.

Costco Kirkland Signature Beef Dinner Franks

I Tried 7 Store-Bought Hot Dogs & One Smoky, Snappy Frank Conquered All (1)

Nutrition: (Per 1 Link)
Calories: 370
Fat: 31 g (Saturated Fat: 12 g)
Sodium: 1,250 mg
Carbs: 4 g (Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 3 g)
Protein: 16 g

If you're a Costco member, then you're probably all too familiar with these hot dogs. They're the same ones served up in the warehouse club's popular food court for the forever-low price of $1.50 each. You can also find them in Costco's freezer section, priced at $13.99 for a pack of 14—that's even cheaper than the food court!

The look: Massive. Measuring about 8 inches long, the quarter-pound Kirkland Signature-brand dogs were far and away the biggest of my haul—about three inches longer than your standard hot dog bun. (In the food court, the buns are an extra inch longer, too.) They make a stunning showpiece for your barbecue spread.

The taste: Super salty! As plump and popular as these hot dogs are, my tasters were put off by the palpable sodium levels: 1,250 milligrams per serving! The Costco dogs are also loaded with additives including sodium nitrate, and they pack a noticeable aftertaste, too. Even the actual dogs (i.e. canines) in our group seemed to enjoy them less, which is why I ranked them dead last on this list.

12 Hot Dogs That Use the Highest Quality Ingredients

Niman Ranch Fearless Uncured Franks

I Tried 7 Store-Bought Hot Dogs & One Smoky, Snappy Frank Conquered All (2)

Nutrition: (Per 1 Frank)
Calories: 130
Fat: 9 g (Saturated Fat: 3.5 g)
Sodium: 480 mg
Carbs: 1 g (Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 0 g)
Protein: 8 g

Niman Ranch is a highly respected meat company that prides itself on doing things the right way. The label on its Fearless Uncured Franks, made with a mix of pork and beef, reflects these high standards: no antibiotics, no hormones, no MSG, no added nitrates. At $8.49 for a pack of eight, they were also one of the priciest hot dogs in my haul.

The look: Lean and lengthy, albeit not quite as elongated as the colossal Costco dog. The 6.5-inch long Niman franks also quickly shriveled after cooking, which lessened their visual appeal and hurt their ranking.

The taste:With all the high-minded ethics and equally high expense, I expected to like these high-quality franks a lot more. However, my tasters did not appreciate the "mushy" texture. One noted it was missing the traditional "hot dog flavor." Another quipped, "You mean the nitrates?"

Trader Joe's Organic Uncured Grass Fed Beef Hot Dogs

I Tried 7 Store-Bought Hot Dogs & One Smoky, Snappy Frank Conquered All (3)

Nutrition: (Per 1 Hot Dog)
Calories: 110
Fat: 10 g (Saturated Fat: 4.5 g)
Sodium: 400 mg
Carbs: <1 g (Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 0 g)
Protein: 6 g

Beloved specialty retailer Trader Joe's has stepped up its hot dog game in 2024, replacing its regular uncured beef hot dogs with these organic grass-fed franks at my local store. A six-pack cost $5.99. That's less than a buck each.

The look: More stretched out than the prior stubby links, which could hardly fill a bun. These new, longer dogs are just as plump as the old ones, though, at about 2 ounces each.

The taste: Rich and juicy. The biggest knock on TJ's previous dog was how sweet it was. Each link contained 2 grams of sugar—the listed ingredients included both honey and cane sugar—whereas most others had less than a gram or none. The newer dogs cut out the sugar entirely, leaning more heavily on organic spices like ginger, nutmeg, paprika, coriander, minced onion, and garlic purée for a more savory and satisfying hot dog. It's a big improvement, though frankly not enough to overtake some of the better-tasting options on this list.

23 Best Hot Dog Toppings for Your Next Barbecue

Whole Foods 365 Uncured Beef Hot Dogs

I Tried 7 Store-Bought Hot Dogs & One Smoky, Snappy Frank Conquered All (4)

Nutrition: (Per 1 Hot Dog)
Calories: 190
Fat: 15 g (Saturated Fat: 7 g)
Sodium: 530 mg
Carbs: 2 g (Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: < 1 g)
Protein: 10 g

Naturally, you'd expect a Whole Foods-branded hot dog to uphold a higher standard in terms of ingredients. These humanely raised beef hot dogs, sold in six-packs for $6.49, lived up to expectations, both on the label and on the palate.

The look: Thick and meaty. These dogs were plumper than most, weighing in at nearly 2.7 ounces each. The length was perfectly bun-appropriate, too: about 5.5 inches.

The taste: Well-balanced. Flavored with sea salt, organic vinegar, just a pinch of organic cane sugar, and, most interestingly, cherry powder, they're a little briny, a little tangy, and just a teensy bit sweet. "It tastes like a higher-quality hot dog," one sampler said.

What Happens to Your Body When You Eat a Hot Dog

Honest Dogs Pasture-Raised Uncured Beef Hot Dogs

I Tried 7 Store-Bought Hot Dogs & One Smoky, Snappy Frank Conquered All (5)

Nutrition: (Per 1 Hot Dog)
Calories: 170
Fat: 13 g (Saturated Fat: 5 g)
Sodium: 520 mg
Carbs: 4 g (Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 2 g)
Protein: 9 g

Honest Dogs are another better-for-you option that taste as elevated as the ethical standards printed on the package. They're not cheap—regularly priced at $7.99 for a pack of five at Whole Foods, the highest cost per frank in my haul, though you can sometimes find them on sale (especially if you're an Amazon Prime member).

The look: Stout but not too short. The size perfectly aligns with your standard bun, measuring 5.25 inches long, nearly a full inch thick, and about 2.2 ounces in total.

The taste: Snappy, juicy, and complex in terms of flavors, with over a dozen listed spices, including allspice, coriander, nutmeg, red pepper, and rosemary. "That's what a hot dog should taste like," one sampler said. Though one griped that these were a bit on the greasy side, the flavorful franks still proved popular enough among my crew to make the top three.

Wegmans Organic Skinless Uncured Beef Hot Dogs

I Tried 7 Store-Bought Hot Dogs & One Smoky, Snappy Frank Conquered All (6)

Nutrition: (Per 1 Link)
Calories: 120
Fat: 10 g (Saturated Fat: 4 g)
Sodium: 470 mg
Carbs: 1 g (Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 0 g)
Protein: 7 g

Like most skinless weenies, Wegmans organic dogs don't snap like a traditional frank in its natural casing, but they more than make up for that textural gap by truly delivering great flavor. A pack of six cost me $6.89 at the popular East Coast supermarket.

The look: Pretty puny, measuring less than five inches long and a mere 1.5 ounces each. If I were judging based purely on appearances, these would fall at the far end of the spectrum. But you probably already know the old saying about looks and deception.

The taste: Distinctively delicious. These dogs offered perhaps the most unique flavors of the haul, with strong notes of vinegar and celery powder in the spice mix. My tasters were torn between Wegmans' luscious link and the eventual winner—it's the runner-up by the narrowest of margins, coming up short in a tight 4-3 vote.

6 Healthiest Hot Dog Buns—and 3 To Avoid

Teton Waters Ranch 100% Grass Fed Uncured Beef Hot Dogs

I Tried 7 Store-Bought Hot Dogs & One Smoky, Snappy Frank Conquered All (7)

Nutrition: (Per 1 Link)
Calories: 100
Fat: 8 g (Saturated Fat: 3.5 g)
Sodium: 310 mg
Carbs: <1 g (Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: <1 g)
Protein: 6 g

Proving that good guys don't always finish last, the high-principled purveyors at Colorado'sTeton Waters Ranchtake the top spot with these humanely decent and downright delicious hot dogs, made with 100% grass-fed beef and none of the nasty stuff: no hormones, no antibiotics, no nitrates. They're a bit pricier than others—$6.49 for a five-pack at Whole Foods, or $1.29 each. You can also find them at Sprouts, Albertsons, Safeway, and other retailers.

The look: Long and slender. Though they're certainly not the thickest dogs in this survey, they're lengthy enough (nearly six inches) to fill out a standard bun and then some.

The taste: Smoky and savory with a satisfying snap. My tasters loved the complex flavors of this dog. A stiff dose of paprika leads-off the winning list of spices, with sea salt, vinegar, and a potent blend of powders (celery, garlic, onion, and yet again, cherry) rounding out the mix. And while it might sound trivial, delivering that gratifying crackle when you bite in also gives the Teton dog a slight edge over the comparably delectable Wegmans offering.

With its top-quality ingredients and crowd-pleasing texture and tastiness, the Teton brand is simply the best dog for your dollar this summer.

Sign up for our newsletter!

This story has been updated to include additional entries, fact-checking, and copy-editing.

I Tried 7 Store-Bought Hot Dogs & One Smoky, Snappy Frank Conquered All (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Golda Nolan II

Last Updated:

Views: 5995

Rating: 4.8 / 5 (78 voted)

Reviews: 93% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Golda Nolan II

Birthday: 1998-05-14

Address: Suite 369 9754 Roberts Pines, West Benitaburgh, NM 69180-7958

Phone: +522993866487

Job: Sales Executive

Hobby: Worldbuilding, Shopping, Quilting, Cooking, Homebrewing, Leather crafting, Pet

Introduction: My name is Golda Nolan II, I am a thoughtful, clever, cute, jolly, brave, powerful, splendid person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.