When you’re hungry and craving a snack, hot dogs and corn dogs are the perfect foods to sate your hunger. Here’s how they differ.
Both the hot dog and the corn dog are American fast food dishes made with frankfurter or wiener sausage. This, however, is where the similarities between the two end and where the differences begin.
And these differences—as any food connoisseur will readily attest—go far beyond the fact that one is eaten at baseball games and the other at state fairs.
The Story of the Hot Dog
America’s favorite fast food, the hot dog, consists of a frank or wiener sausage cooked in a hot dog roller, steamed in a pot of salty water, or grilled and placed inside the split of a partially sliced bun, with or without the addition of condiments.
Many condiments can go on a hot dog, from sliced tomatoes and diced onions to pickle relish and sauerkraut.
When you consider that there are tens of varieties of hot dogs across the country, the options are limited only by the imagination and ingenuity of the eater and the cook.
And yet the two most popular condiments that go on a hot dog by far are brown mustard, also known as “deli mustard,” and sweet ketchup.
One can say that the origins of the hot dog are hotly debated.
According to the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council, the hot dog most probably originated in Frankfurt, Germany, and/or Vienna, Austria. (Hence why the two styles of sausages that go into it are named the “frank” and the “wiener.”)
The difference between a frank and a wiener is subtle but important: Franks are made entirely out of beef, while wieners are made from a mixture of pork and beef.
In addition to that, manufacturers have to follow the guidelines of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which says that hot dogs—regardless of the variety—should not contain more than 30% fat and more than 10% water.
These days, most hot dogs are skinless, meaning that the casing of the sausage has been removed during packaging or before cooking. The best hot dogs, however, have an edible natural casing that gives them a “snap” when you bite into them.
Related: What Are Sausage Casings Made Of?
There’s general consensus among foodies that potato buns make for the best hot dog bread. The buns should be soft and chewy, but never crumbly. They should be fluffy and hearty, with a slight sweetness to them that balances out the saltiness of the sausage.
Charles Feltman, German immigrant and baker by trade, opened America’s first hot dog stand in 1867 on Coney Island, New York. His hot dogs were a convenient way for beachgoers to have a bite of frankfurter sausage on a split bun with mustard.
His dish—the hot dog—became an overnight sensation.
So much so that, by the 1920s, Feltman owned an entire city block with nine restaurants, a beer garden, and an amusement park that began with a humble street cart. His beachfront restaurants served millions of diners every year and sold tens of thousands of hot dogs a day.
We celebrate hot dogs on National Hot Dog Day, in the peak of summer on July 20th.
Origins of the Corn Dog
A state fair without a corn dog stand is a state fair wrongly named!
The corn dog, sometimes spelled “corndog,” is a sausage on a stick that’s dipped in cornmeal batter and then deep-fried until the sausage is juicy and tender on the inside and the batter is golden brown and crispy on the outside.
The variety of sausage that goes in a corn dog is usually a frank or a wiener, the same that goes on your hot dog. Once cooked, the final product resembles a cob of corn.
Corn dogs are said to have originated in the late 19th century in the great state of Texas.
German immigrants, who were sausage makers by trade, were struggling to sell their sausages to Texans. So they came up with the idea to dip those sausages in cornmeal batter, deep-fry them, and try selling them again.
The sticks, as Rome Neal reports for CBS News’ Early Show, came later. With or without them, though, the trick obviously worked! The recipe for corn dogs spread like wildfire, and it didn’t take long for this fast food item to take the country by storm and become the de-facto food at fall fairs.
This method of preparation has become a staple of the American Midwest. While corndogs are the essential fast food at a county fair, pork chops, candy bars, and even Twinkies are also delicacies everyone should try at least once in their life.
Like a hot dog, a corn dog is often topped with—or dipped in—deli mustard and sweet ketchup (although traditionalists prefer to eat theirs without any). Hip dips that often raise eyebrows include Miracle Whip, BBQ sauce, sweet chili sauce, honey mustard, and decadent mayo.
National Corn Dog Day, when we gather ’round to celebrate the many pleasures of corn dogs, takes place on March 18th.
The Long And Short of It
We make corn dogs and hot dogs from franks or wiener sausages. The former is dipped in cornmeal batter and then deep-fried to golden brownness, and the latter consists of cooked sausage served on a semi-split bun with or without condiments.
Consider these two foods as a national treasure that come in many varieties and styles, each highlighting the ingredients and the character of the state, county, and town that they originate from.
When in doubt, keep to the originals—good sausage with crispy batter or soft bread—that made these humble and honest foods a favorite of generations upon generations of Americans.