Announcing that one doesn’t like hot dogs seems to be just a step below announcing that one doesn’t like baseball, apple pie, or Mother’s Day. Good old Uncle Sam himself might show up to waggle an admonishing finger after such an announcement. But I freely announce it– I don’t like hot dogs. I also don’t like baloney. They taste pretty much the same to me, and it’s my opinion that they are in fact both made from the same yecchy substance.
So what is this mysterious meat-like stuff? Well, it is meat, ground into a fine paste. It’s also fat and water. According to federal standards, hot dogs may contain no more than 10% water and 30% fat (or a combination of 40% fat and added water.) Up to 3.5% of the hot dog may consist of non meat binders, such as dry milk or cereal. Beef franks and pork franks should not include "by-products" such as heart, liver, or kidney. However, chicken and turkey franks include skin and fat in the proportion found on the original bird.
These ingredients, meat, fat, and water, are whipped into a foam-like emulsion, in which tiny globules of the fat float in the water, or vice-versa. The ingredients are then forced into casings for smoking. Hence the term, emulsified forcemeat. The casings may be plastic, in which case they are removed after smoking, or the casings may be natural, in which case they may be left on.
It’s claimed that the natural casing hot dogs are superior to the "skinless" variety because of the texture a crispy casing creates. I can’t say I so far agree. It adds a texture, all right. It’s like eating a soggy sponge wrapped in paper as opposed to eating the soggy sponge alone.
This is not to say that if you invite me to your barbecue and then offer me a hot dog, that I’ll be so rude as to throw it on the floor and stomp on it. Who knows, you might just be serving some secret brand of hot dogs that could change my mind completely.
I’d really prefer a hamburger, though.