hot dog taste test 3x2

We Tried 11 Types of Hot Dogs and These Were Our Favorite

Let's be frank - not all hot dogs are created equal.
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Frankly, there's never bad time for a hot dog. And that means that you should keep a few packs of hot dogs in stock that can be thrown on the grates or roasted around a campfire at a moment's notice. Even if you don't have a way to cook up a few franks outdoors, you can still enjoy a charred brat by using your oven's broiler, or even a toaster oven, as long as you monitor the hot dog's progress carefully. 

Before you start cooking up a frank or two, you'll want to decide which brand to reach for. To help you figure out which brat most deserves your buck, we tested 11 varieties of hot dogs, all of which are available online or in stores. Here are our rankings from best to worst. 

Best Hot Dogs at a Glance:

What We Looked For When Ranking Hot Dogs

Taste: Flavor is top priority in our search for the perfect frank. For this test, we considered how much actual meat flavor was in each dog compared to just salt taste; we also made sure to point out different varieties of hot dogs so that those who prefer beef to pork (or turkey to either) can find their best bites. 

Price: Hot dogs aren't just a summer staple; they're a year-round grocery list favorite. On top of that, they're famously made from inexpensive meat cuts, so they shouldn't cost more than a few dollars. Most of the hot dogs we tested cost $4 or less, and one brand cost less than $0.50 for a pack of eight. 

Texture: For this test, we were looking for which franks would have the best texture when either grilled or broiled. By and large, most of the brats we tested plumped up well and didn't split while cooking. Most also achieved a pleasantly crisp exterior; we'll point out the few that didn't. 

Additional Features: As mentioned above, some hot dogs can suffer from an abundance of salt flavor. That's because some contain more than just a bit of salt. In addition to noting the protein heavy hitters in this list, we also pointed out which brands contained a notable amount of sodium. Some brands we tested contained less than 300 milligrams of sodium per hot dog, but a few packed in nearly half a day's recommended serving in just one frank.

How We Tested Each Hot Dog

Technically, I do own a grill. Problem is, it's second-hand, and we haven't yet tested it to see if it works properly. So, rather than risk conducting the taste test on unproven cookware, I saved that project for another time and used the oven broiler instead. I placed the top rack of my oven as close as it would go to the broiler and used a baking sheet to catch drippings. Each frank was broiled on high for five to seven minutes total; I turned them halfway through to ensure even cooking. After each hot dog was cooked, I put it in a plain white hotdog bun and dressed it simply, with either ketchup and mayonnaise or with dijon mustard. I made sure to taste each frank plain so that I could better judge how it tasted by itself. This test was largely conducted solo. 

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hebrew national jumbo
Credit: Hebrew National

Best Overall: Hebrew National Beef Franks

Hebrew National has topped our charts in previous hot dog taste tests, so it was no surprise that it offered the best brats in this one. Besides containing quite a bit of beef flavor, each hot dog packs 10 grams of protein. Unfortunately, each brat will also equal a third of your daily recommended sodium (770 milligrams); additionally, Hebrew National's packs contain only four franks, which seems stingy until you remember that each dog has 3 oz. of meat. But if you're judging based on flavor alone, you'll find few better than Hebrew National.

Buy It: $3.72, Walmart

runners up in hot dog taste test
Credit: Target, Walmart

Runners-Up: Ball Park Franks and Nathan's Famous Restaurant-Style Jumbo Beef Franks

Ball Park and Nathan's Famous didn't quite measure up to Hebrew National, but they came close. Both crisped up beautifully in the broiler, usually in less than seven minutes, as well as plumping up amply to fully fill out a hot dog bun. Unfortunately, Nathan's Famous franks suffer from the same problems as Hebrew National, in that they are both sodium laden (740 milligrams per serving) and overpriced for the number of franks you receive. In comparison, Ball Park's franks contain nearly half the sodium at 480 milligrams per serving. If sodium, price or quantity is a concern, you're better off grabbing Ball Park's eight pack.

Buy It: $3.79, Target; $3.86, Walmart

best beef hot dogs taste test
Credit: Instacart, Kroget

Best Beef Hot Dogs: Teton Waters Ranch Hot Dogs and Simple Truth Uncured Beef Hot Dogs

Looking for flavorful beef brats without the salt overload? Both Teton Waters and Simple Truth provide fantastic franks that, while slightly less tasty than our top picks, still make for great cookout material. Teton Waters and Simple Truth's hot dogs also both have six grams of protein and 370 milligrams or less of sodium per serving. If you're particularly watching your salt intake, you'll want to reach for Teton Waters, which contains only 320 milligrams of salt per serving. 

Buy It: $6.49, Instacart; $4.99, Kroger 

hillshire farms cheddarwurst hot dogs
Credit: Walmart

Best Pork Hot Dog: Hillshire Farms Cheddarwurst Smoked Sausage Links

Generally speaking, I'm not a huge fan of cheddar brats. Most cheese-filled hot dogs seem to taste too artificial, or worse, lose their signature ingredient on the grill. Hillshire Farms' cheddarwurst links are the first I might reach for again, however. The cheddar melts well without running completely out of the link, and the sausage also crisps well in the broiler without frequently splitting, which can be a problem even in bigger franks where extra ingredients aren't included. Cheese loving kids (and adults) in your lives will thank you if you bring these to the grill. 

Buy It: $2.44, Walmart

oscar mayer natural turkey dogs
Credit: Walmart

Best Turkey Hot Dog: Oscar Mayer Natural Selects Uncured Turkey Franks

Looking for a frank that's more on the lean side? Then Oscar Mayer's uncured turkey franks may be the best pick for you. Admittedly, these hot dogs aren't very long, so they probably won't fill a standard bun. However, they do plump up magnificently, so you'll still get a good meal. These turkey franks unfortunately do still have a lot of salt; each hot dog contains 560 milligrams of sodium per serving. Still, it's better than our top picks without sacrificing a ton of flavor. 

Buy It: $3.48, Walmart 

lightlife plant dogs
Credit: Target

Best Vegan Hot Dog: Lightlife Plant-Based Smart Dogs

Shoppers searching for a low sodium option with good flavor, decent protein and no animal products can rest at ease, because Lightlife meets all of their qualifications. These vegan hot dogs are not the veggie dogs that I first tried a decade ago, which largely tasted of unflavored soy packed in notably fake-feeling casings. There's still the tiniest bit of soy aftertaste with these franks, but by and large they are indistinguishable from the turkey or chicken and pork-based hot dogs we tried. Beyond that, they only contain 270 milligrams of sodium per serving and pack eight grams of protein per serving. Best of all, they cost about the same as most of the brands we tried for this test, so you know you won't be overcharged for purchasing meat-free food. Whether your family is made up of vegetarians, omnivores, or both, Lightlife is a great choice.

Buy It: $3.79, Target 

best budget hot dogs
Credit: Safeway, Kroger

Best Budget Hot Dogs: Signature Select Uncured Jumbo Beef Franks and Heritage Farm Hot Dogs

Our recommendation here comes with the caveat that both of these options have arguably the worst sodium stats in the line-up (1150 milligrams and 550 milligrams of sodium per serving respectively). However, if you're looking to cook out on the cheap, then both of these brands are good choices. Signature Select jumbo franks provide a slightly cheaper alternative to top brands like Hebrew National (and pack in 14 grams of protein per serving), while Heritage Farm provides basic hot dogs for less than a dollar. For those gatherings where you're not sure how many guests to expect, either of these brats are worth the grab.

Buy It: $7.99, Safeway; $0.44, Kroger 

bar s jumbo franks
Credit: Walmart

Not Our Favorite: Bar S Jumbo Franks

If Bar S is the best budget buy in your area, then by all means reach for it. It still will taste delicious. We've placed this brand in the bottom ranking not because of its flavor profile, but because of its texture. We broiled these dogs for the same amount of time as the others, and the outside looked beautifully crisp. The crispy exterior was an illusion, however; we're not sure how, but the franks we tried were still soft. Still, if texture isn't a big deal for you, then you'll still find a great buy in Bar S. 

Buy It: $1.28, Walmart

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