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What’s Really in Your Hot Dog?

Asking what’s in your hot dog – especially once grilling season starts – is usually a road paved with heartache and regret. Much like with the prices on the other end of the menu, if you have to ask there’s a good chance you don’t want to know. But, this is <a title="Outdoor Cooking" href="http://www.atgstores.com/outdoor-cooking_860.html?linkloc=tn" target="_blank">grilling season</a> and it’s an important question. What exactly are in hot dogs these days? Well, obviously it depends on the dog. <strong>Your ‘Average’ Hot Dog</strong> Your average dog is a blend of mechanically separated meat, water, salts, starch and “flavoring” the likes of which can be just about anything edible thanks to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (USDA) extraordinarily lenient approach to what qualifies as flavoring. The meat in question will likely be a blend of poultry, pork and beef, although probably won’t include the choicest cuts. That’s okay, though, because it will also contain enough salt to kill anything that’s not supposed to be in there – or in your body. <strong>Your ‘All-Beef’ Hot Dog</strong> The differences between this all-beef dog and that all-beef dog can be boiled (grilled?) down to whether it’s organic, because mechanically separated beef has been outlawed in the U.S. since the whole mad cow thing, so they're all made the same way - unless they're being ground by hand by your butcher (see "gourmet" hot dogs below). Organic all-beef dogs will be free of hormones, antibiotics, nitrates and nitrites, whereas the alternative will be loaded up with all of the above. <strong>Your Turkey (or Chicken) Hot Dog</strong> The same rules apply here as they do above regarding organic vs. not organic, but with a twist – the USDA <em>does</em> allow for the mechanical separation of our feathered friends. Keep in mind that this rule also applies to organic fowl, and it’ll tell you on the package if you care to look. The rest of the ingredients amount to various flavorings and the more you can pronounce, the better. <strong>Your ‘Veggie’ Hotdog</strong> The important thing to remember here is that vegetables don’t taste like hot dogs. Your average veggie dog is most likely a soy product made with water and held together with starch or gluten. Again, being able to pronounce the flavorings is a sign of quality. <strong>Your ‘Gourmet’ Hot Dog</strong> Now, we’re talking! A typical gourmet dog crafted by a trained charcutier will contain premium ground meat from quality cuts and be seasoned with fresh herbs. They typically don’t sell these in the deli aisle because they contain no preservatives – inquire at your local butcher shop and enjoy this year's dog-grillin' season!
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