Cheap and crowd-pleasing, hot dogs and sausages are an old cookout standby, and understandably so. They're thought of as easy to cook—although I've suffered through enough carbonized hot dogs and mealy brats to know that it's not quite as simple as all that. Sure, you can cook a pretty decent sausage without much thought. But a great one? That takes just a smidge of extra effort (or a glob of it, if you're going to tackle making your own sausages). Kenji's video below, demonstrating our preferred method for grilling dogs, is a good place to start.
Once you've got the technique under control, the toppings are all that remain—and the sky's the limit on that front, really. Ours run the gamut from good old sauerkraut and mustard to potato salad, chips, and coleslaw. Just in time for the Fourth, here are 11 of our best hot dog and sausage recipes, including bacon-wrapped dogs, mango chicken sausages, and step-by-step instructions for cooking sausages sous vide.
The Best Grilled Hot Dogs
There's more to grilling a great natural-casing hot dog than just throwing it on the grates. Usually that does the trick, but there's always the risk that they'll burst and leak juices. To make better grilled dogs, we use a treatment that's more common for brats: Poach them until they're warm, then quickly sear them over a hot flame.
Grilled Hot Dogs With Sauerkraut
If you do decide to poach your hot dogs before grilling, you have a few options for the cooking liquid. Using sauerkraut makes perfect sense—it comes packed in a flavorful liquid, and it's something you'll already have on hand (you are making hot dogs, after all!). Pour a whole package of the stuff, juices and all, into an aluminum pan and nestle the dogs inside. Once they're warmed through, sear them and serve with the same kraut you just used for poaching.
Hot Slaw Dogs
Since sauerkraut, a condiment made of cabbage, is the hot dog topping par excellence, doesn't it stand to reason that another cabbage-based side—coleslaw—would work just as well? Better, maybe, since coleslaw provides a cool, creamy counterpoint to the meat, plus a little bit of tang. There's nothing to it except to cook your dogs any way you like, then pile on our Creamy Coleslaw.
Bacon-Wrapped Hot Dogs With Avocado, Tomato, Onion, and Potato Chips
Sonoran hot dogs are big, messy beasts, wrapped in bacon, deep-fried, and loaded with a comical assortment of toppings, including beans, tomatoes, onions, and jalapeño mayonnaise. This recipe derives its inspiration from that concept, but changes up the components a bit: We pile our bacon-wrapped, deep-fried links with mayo, crushed potato chips, and a guacamole-like mixture of avocado, onion, tomato, jalapeño, and lime juice.
Grilled Bratwurst With Beer, Mustard, and Sauerkraut
Trying to cook sausages just by throwing them on the grill is a surefire way to end up with dry, sooty links. Just like with hot dogs, poaching them first until they're cooked through, then searing them so they're well browned and crisp outside, is a much better route. Here, we use a classic lineup of brat flavors, poaching the sausages in a mixture of sauerkraut, mustard, and beer. Once they hit 140 to 145°F—yes, you really ought to use a thermometer!—they're ready to be transferred to the grill.
Grilled Italian Sausage With Sweet and Sour Peppers and Onions
Grilled Italian sausages are excellent when pre-poached with a sweet and tangy mix of onions and peppers, cooked down on the stovetop with vinegar and sugar. You can do it all outside if you like by grilling the vegetables, then combining them with vinegar and sugar in the aluminum pan. Settle the sausages down inside the pan, poach, then sear.
Grilled Bratwurst With Warm German Potato Slaw
Brats, German potato salad, and red cabbage all cook in the same pan on the grill together, leaving the sausages flavored by the aromatics and ready for a quick sear. Adding a beef base, like Better Than Bouillon, to the pan adds extra meaty flavor. This is a juicy dish, so make sure to use thick, sturdy sausage rolls, and don't forget the mustard.
Sous Vide Sausages
For the finest possible control over temperature and timing, you can't do better than cooking your sausages with a sous vide circulator (or a beer cooler), which will all but guarantee the juiciest and most flavorful sausage you've ever eaten. But, as with poaching, you'll still want to finish them on the grill to give them that nice charred exterior.
Orange and Leek Loukaniko (Greek Sausage)
If you have a meat grinder and want to go the extra mile for your guests this Independence Day, making your own sausages is a fun and rewarding project, and allows you to customize the meat in all sorts of unusual ways. Case in point: loukaniko, a Greek pork and lamb sausage, which we flavor here with leeks and orange zest. The combination of those aromatics lends a strikingly bright flavor that feels like summer.
Grilled Spicy Mango Chicken Sausage
Because chicken is so mild, it's full of possibility as a base for other flavors. These homemade links are infused with tropical-fruity mango and powerful seasonings—cilantro, paprika, jalapeño, and garlic. A mixture of dried mango and mango juice gives them the most intense flavor.
Buffalo Chicken Sausages
Making Buffalo chicken sausages isn't just a matter of combining ground chicken and Buffalo sauce—the amount of butter in the sauce tends to make the links blow out on the grill. To get around that, we use bottled Frank's RedHot Buffalo Wings Sauce, which has a buttery flavor but no actual butter. Because the wing sauce is a bit mild for our taste, we spike it with cayenne pepper for extra heat.