June 25, 2014 at 2:53 PM ET
It may be no filet mignon or even gourmet sausage, but from the ballpark to the backyard, the humble hot dog is the taste of summer. Cheapism.com put together a seven-person panel for a blind tasting of some inexpensive frankfurters. They sampled five beef and three pork-based hot dogs to determine which ones deserve a spot in a bun with a squiggle of mustard (or another topping approved by the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council, which has declared ketchup unacceptable for adults 18 and older).
Oscar Mayer Classic Beef Franks (starting at 39 cents per serving) surprised the tasters by emerging as the top choice of five out of seven panelists, despite being one of the cheapest beef options. This hot dog stood out for its flavor and plump, juicy texture. Although that might suggest that everyone would be in love with other Oscar Mayer wieners, the classic variety made with chicken, turkey and pork (starting at 19 cents per serving) inspired exactly the opposite feeling. (Where to buy)
Kroger Value Beef Hot Dogs (starting at 31 cents per serving) cost less than half the price of brand-name franks from Nathan’s Famous but performed just as well. The judges enjoyed the smoky, salty flavor, and one ranked the hot dog tops out of all the candidates. Another Kroger-brand dog, Simple Truth Uncured Beef (starting at 64 cents per serving), distinguished itself with a number of health claims: humanely raised, vegetarian-fed beef; no antibiotics or hormones; no fillers; no preservatives, MSG or gluten. Despite all that, it didn’t impress the tasters, who judged it merely average and largely flavorless. (Where to buy)
Nathan’s Famous Beef Franks (starting at 66 cents per serving) will be shoveled into the maws of competitors at the brand’s infamous annual hot-dog-eating contest July 4 in Coney Island. Although a handful of panelists expressed a preference for the brand going in, the blind test proved otherwise: Only one ultimately chose it as a favorite. (Where to buy)
Ball Park Original Franks (starting at 31 cents per serving) rated the best of the pork-based bunch, but in general the tasters eschewed the entire category in favor of beef hot dogs. The panel deemed certain pork-based franks downright repulsive and found that they generally had an unpleasant, almost mushy consistency that lacked the snap of a good sausage. Ball Park Beef Franks (starting at 54 cents per serving) had a similarly disappointing texture and a flavor that some panelists described as artificial and reminiscent of bologna. (Where to buy)
Eckrich Franks (starting at 19 cents per serving) picked up one vote in the pork division, although the highest praise the lone supporter could muster was a remark that nothing about these very cheap hot dogs was offensive. Still, that’s more than can be said of Oscar Mayer’s entry. (Where to buy)
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