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20070614hirams.jpg Sometimes, dare I say often in my experience, nothing tastes better than a grilled hot dog, on July 4th or any other day of the year for that matter. The key is buying the right hot dog, and as I pointed out a couple of weeks ago on Ed Levine Eats, you can't count on Consumer Reports to provide that info.. Regional tastes vary when it comes to hot dogs, but as someone who has had a hot dog in at least forty states, spread evenly through every region of the country, I feel comfortable (and confident) saying that garlicky all-beef hot dogs with natural casings are the best-tasting hot dogs you can buy. There are two widely available natural casing all-beef hot dog brands, Boar's Head and Vienna Beef, but both companies make many different kinds of hot dogs, so scour the label before you plunk down your hard-earned money. The natural casing seals in the flavor and the juices when you grill the dogs. Papaya King hot dogs also have natural casings, but they're harder to find except in select New York area stores. Beware of most Nathan's Hot Dog packages you see in supermarket. They are usually skinless, though they do make a natural-casing dog that you almost never see in supermarkets for some reason.

If you can't find an all-beef hot dog with a natural casing, Niman Ranch's Fearless Franks, Empire National Kosher Hot Dogs, and if you can't find any of the above, Hebrew National hot dogs (as a last resort) are all acceptable alternatives. I don't really understand why Bill Niman doesn't put a natural casing on his dogs, but he doesn't. The kosher rabbis in their inimitable wisdom decided some years ago that natural sheep casings are not kosher, so there is no such thing as a natural casing kosher hot dog. Kosher hot dog makers like Empire National sometimes offer a collagen casing instead, but collagen doesn't provide the same snap.

Are there other great grilling hot dogs I don't know about?

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