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7 fascinating facts about hot dogs, plus fun recipes for National Hot Dog Day

Is a hot dog really a sandwich? Here’s what the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council says.
Lots of classic hotdogs with mustard sause over green background, creative pattern
July is National Hot Dog Month.Prostock-Studio / Getty Images stock
/ Source: TODAY

There are plenty of great food-centric holidays to celebrate in July. There's Independence Day, National Ice Cream Day and Wednesday, July 21 is National Hot Dog Day!

The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council estimates that Americans eat about 7 billion hot dogs between Memorial Day and Labor Day each year, so it might not seem like anyone needs another excuse to enjoy a delicious dog.

But there might be some surprising things you don't know about this beloved meal-on-a-bun. Here are seven fun facts about hot dogs — including the council's position on the ongoing debate about whether a hot dog is a sandwich — as well as some tasty hot dog recipes to dress up those buns.

1. The best way to cook a hot dog is...

Some like their hot dogs boiled, steamed, microwaved, pan fried or even deep fried, but the majority of Americans (63%) prefer their hot dogs grilled, according to the council.

2. The best topping for a hot dog is...

America's favorite hot dog condiment is mustard, followed by ketchup and chili. But why stop there? Salsa, bacon, pinto beans, onions, peppers and cheese are also popular toppings, depending on where you live.

3. About that ketchup...

It may be a popular condiment, but according to the council's official hot dog etiquette guide, people should stop putting ketchup on a dog after their 18th birthday. Most Chicagoans would certainly agree ketchup doesn't belong on a real hot dog.

4. Hot dogs are made from...

Everyone knows where chocolate milk comes from, right? But do people know what's in a hot dog? In 2018, a whopping 72% of Americans said that the ingredients in a hot dog are a "mystery" to them, according to a council survey. That, the council pointed out, is despite the fact that hot dog producers are required to list ingredients on product labels.

To help shed some light on those mystery dogs, the council put together a handy guide to common hot dog ingredients.

5. Beef, pork or turkey?

The majority of Americans who do know what's in their hot dog prefer them to be made with beef, with 61% saying beef hot dogs are their favorite, according to the council, followed by pork (12%) and then turkey (7%).

6. The best celebrity to share a hot dog with is ...

Betty White's love of hot dogs has been reported frequently, and she was also the celeb with whom most people polled by the council said they would like to share a hot dog. White beat out eight other celebs with some sort of hot dog connection in a multiple choice questionnaire that asked what famous person people would most like to share a hot dog with.

7. Is a hot dog a sandwich?

And finally, on the philosophical question of whether a hot dog is a sandwich, the council has definitely declared that a hot dog is not a sandwich. "And yes, I literally get asked that question every single day," Eric Mittenthal, president of the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council (aka The Hot Dog Top Dog), told TODAY Food.

Ready to get grilling? Check out TODAY's favorite hot dog recipes.

Giada's Signature Hot Dogs

Giada's Signature Hot Dogs

Los Angeles' iconic hot dog restaurant, Pink's, created a hot dog named after Giada DeLaurentiis. It's topped with peppers, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes and mozzarella cheese.

Sonoran Hot Dog

Sonoran Hot Dog

This Arizona-style hot dog is wrapped in bacon and topped with pinto beans, yellow mustard, jalapeño salsa, pico de gallo, shredded cheese, grilled banana peppers and grilled scallions.

The Swanky Franky Hot Dog

What makes this all-beef hot dog swanky is the shredded gruyère cheese. What makes it absolutely irresistible is the applewood smoked bacon wrapped around the frank.

Seattle-Style Hot Dogs

Seattle-Style Hot Dogs

These dogs are different because of the combo of spicy chilies and cool cream cheese. They're like jalapeño poppers and stadium-style hot dogs rolled up into one tasty bite.

Nacho Hot Dogs

Nacho Hot Dogs

Speaking of fusing two exceptional bar foods, if you're not up for spicy poppers try nachos. You'll get that perfect snap of a grilled hot dog with the spicy, cheesy crunch of nacho chips in each bite.

Siri's Beer-Soaked Hot Dogs

Siri's Beer-Soaked Hot Dogs

Siri Daly is a big fan of creating hot dog bars for easy summer entertaining. Here, she steams up beer-soaked dogs and all the toppings in foil, making cleanup a breeze!

Hot Dogs and Rice

Hot Dogs and Rice

One of Joanna Gaines' favorite comfort foods comes straight from her childhood: Her mom's hot dog and rice dish that's bursting with Korean flavors.

No-Bake Twinkie "Hot Dogs"

No-Bake Twinkie 'Hot Dogs'

It's hard to celebrate National Hot Dog Day without ending it with a sweet treat. Why not make one that looks like a hot dog?

"I'm all about recipes I can whip up in no time that still have people saying 'wow.' These Twinkie hot dogs are a classic favorite re-imagined and they always get a great response," Elise Strachan said of her impressively deceptive dessert.