Why It Works
- Partially freezing the meat helps it grind better and with less smearing as it hits the blade.
- Adding ice keeps the mixture chilled as it slowly melts and emulsifies.
- Vertical sausage stuffers provide better pressure and stuff without overheating the mixture, which leads to faster, better textured sausages.
I've been a fan of Ryan Farr, the proprietor and butcher at 4505 Meats in San Francisco, ever since I took my first bite of his transcendent breakfast sandwich from their stand at the Ferry Plaza Market. In a world of sub-par sausages made from excellent meat, here is a man who really has his technique nailed down, I thought to myself. The maple sausage patty was perfectly juicy, with a springy, meaty bite, and just the right level of salt. It's everything you look for in a good sausage.
Since then, I've had the joy of trying a slew of his other creations—their understandably celebrated bacon hot dog, their bags of chicharrones, their head cheese and cheddar brats—all have been outstanding. So when I was contacted a couple months ago about an opportunity to mess around in the Serious Eats kitchen with the man himself, I jumped on it. The first thing that came to mind? Let's see Ryan's take on the classic New York hot dog.
As it turns out, Ryan has spent time in New York and has acquired an appreciation for the snappy, lightly smoked, garlic and paprika-flavored all-beef dogs served at Gray's Papaya and Papaya King.
"When I think of all-beef hot dogs, I think of the small, snappy links served at Gray's Papaya in New York City. They're rich and juicy, griddled until crispy on the outside: the perfect all-beef dog. If you can't find neck, plate, or shank meat, substitute chuck for all of the meat and fat called for in the recipe." - Ryan Farr
Made with excellent beef from Greenwich Village's Florence Meat Market, these hot dogs are just about the juiciest, snappiest, and most flavorful anyone at this office has had, and they came 100% start to finish out of our tiny, Ikea kitchen.
As Ryan demonstrated, there are a few tricks to making the perfect hot dog at home. The right level of fat and lean meat is essential to a good sausage. Partially freezing the fat and meat helps it grind better and with less smearing as it hits the blade. Ryan suggests freezing the meat and fat in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet until it starts to get crusty around the edges.
The spice mixture for a New York hot dog consists of paprika, garlic, black pepper, regular salt, and pink salt—a curing salt which improves both flavor and color. Salt content is perhaps even more important than fat: without salt, muscle proteins don't cross-link and you end up with a mushy hot dog instead of a snappy one.
Ryan passes the mixture through a standard grinder with a 1/4-inch plate into a bowl set inside another bowl filled with ice water. When grinding, the end result should look like finely chopped meat with distinct pieces of fat and lean. If your meat is coming out as a pink paste, there's probably something gumming up the works. Stop, clean out your grinder, re-chill your meat as necessary, and start over.
Water is the final element in a good sausage, and in this case, Ryan adds his in the form of partially melted ice, which keeps the mixture chilled as it slowly melts and emulsifies.
Ryan adds the spice blend to the meat, along with some of the ice water to give it a preliminary mix by hand. "You want the mixture to stick to the bowl," says Ryan. As you work the salt and water into the grind, it becomes stickier and stickier, like a good bread dough.
Like mortadella or bologna, a hot dog is an emulsified sausage, which means that the fat and lean are ground together until completely smooth. Ryan uses a food processor, adding ice to the bowl. "It's important that the meat never rises above 40°F (4°C) at this stage if you want a snappy hot dog," Ryan warns.
Before putting the meat into the casings, you should fry up a small test piece to check for seasoning and texture. When you gently squeeze the patty, you should see it bulge. If it weeps water like a sponge, it means your emulsion is broken.
Ryan recommends using a vertical sausage stuffer for stuffing sausages rather than the screw-driven stuffers on grinder attachments. They provide better pressure and stuff without overheating the mixture, which leads to faster, better-textured sausages.
New York hot dogs use sheep casings, which are thinner than the hog casings used for, say, a hot Italian sausage. Ryan twists off links, alternating the direction of twisting so that they stay closed as they cook.
Normally you'd want to cook the hot dogs in a smoker at 170°F (77°C) until they hit around 145°F (63°C) internally, but we don't have a smoker in our office. Instead, we're placing the hot dogs directly on a rack in a low oven... and lighting things on fire. Ryan uses a blowtorch to get chunks of applewood smoldering in a skillet placed in the oven.
The oven quickly fills with smoke, which adds flavor to the hot dogs. If you have a gas oven, you may have problems keeping the smoke in the oven (gas ovens vent air). To overcome this, you can place the hot dogs on one side of a rack in a wide, deep baking dish, place smoldering wood chunks on the other, and cover the whole thing tightly with foil to trap the smoke before placing them in the oven.
The hot dogs are fully cooked after smoking, but you can further improve texture by finishing them off either in a steamer, on the grill, or in a skillet, as Ryan does here. To crisp them, he melts a bit of extra beef suet into the skillet.
Adapted from Sausage Making: The Definitive Guide with Recipes with permission from Chronicle Books.
949g boneless lean beef such as neck, plate, or shank, cut into 1-inch cubes
137g beef fat, cut into 1-inch cubes
23g fine sea salt
5g granulated garlic
4g coarsely ground black pepper
3g onion powder
1g Instacure #1 or Prague powder #1
230g crushed ice
20 feet of rinsed sheep casings
Place the meat and fat on a rimmed baking sheet, transfer to the freezer, and chill until crunchy on the exterior but not frozen solid.
In a small bowl, add salt, paprika, granulated garlic, black pepper, onion powder, and Instacure #1 and stir to combine.
Nest a large mixing bowl in a bowl filled with ice. Grind the meat and fat through the 1/4-inch plate of the grinder into the bowl set in ice.
Add spice mixture to the meat and stir with your hands until well incorporated; the mixture will look homogenous and will begin sticking to the bowl.
Transfer meat to the bowl of a food processor, add half the crushed ice and process until all of the ice has dissolved, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the remaining crushed ice and continue processing until the mixture is completely smooth, 4 to 5 minutes more. Note: The temperature of your meat during this mixing step is critically important. Its temperature should never rise about 40°F (4°C); work efficiently during this step of the process.
Spoon 2 tablespoons of the meat mixture into a nonstick frying pan and spread into a thin patty. Cook the test patty over low heat until cooked through but not browned. Taste the sausage for seasoning and adjust as necessary.
Press a sheet of parchment paper or plastic wrap directly on the surface of the meat to prevent oxidation, then cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Alternatively, you can vacuum seal the farce.
Stuff the sausage into the sheep casings and twist into links.
Smoke the links at 170°F (77°C), using a smoker or the oven set-up described above until the internal temperature of the sausage reaches 145°F (63°C), 45 to 60 minutes. Remove sausages from the smoker, let cool slightly, then transfer to the refrigerator and let stand, uncovered, overnight. The hot dogs are then fully cooked, and can be finished on a grill, steamed, or pan-fried.
Meat grinder, food processor, vertical sausage stuffer, smoker
To smoke in a gas oven, you can place the hot dogs on one side of a rack in a wide, deep baking dish, place smoldering wood chunks on the other, and cover the whole thing tightly with foil to trap the smoke before placing them in the oven.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 8g||10%|
|Saturated Fat 4g||20%|
|Total Carbohydrate 1g||0%|
|Dietary Fiber 0g||1%|
|Total Sugars 0g|
|Vitamin C 0mg||0%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|