Simply put, traditional hot dogs can be made from ground meat of any kind and this is perhaps why they're commonly subjected to averse descriptions from the non-meat eating community.
The popular derision can, however, be stifled by a proper understanding of how this popular snack item is made. Here's an explicit 9-step guide to how traditional hot dogs are made:
1. Meat Trimmings Are Collected to Make the Traditional Hot Dogs
Hot dogs are traditionally made from trimmings of lesser than premium cuts of meat, whether it's pork, beef, chicken or otherwise. According to The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO):
"The raw meat materials used for precooked-cooked products are lower-grade muscle trimmings, fatty tissues, head meat, animal feet, animal skin, blood, liver and other edible slaughter by-products."
Although it might sound bizarre, this method has helped to cut back on food waste and sustainability is a concept we definitely approve of!
2. Grinding the Trimmings
After the trimmings are collected, they are blended into a uniform consistency that allows for easy molding. This blend typically contains a mix of pork, beef, chicken, or turkey. In some countries, like the United States, hot dogs that contain unpalatable cuts of meat must be labeled as containing "Byproducts" (organ meats) or "Variety Meats" (raw skeletal muscle).
The trimmings, alongside the assorted by products and variety meats, are loaded into giant meat grinders. The ideal product has a loose texture that can easily be packaged in different forms.
3. Addition of Salt, Sweeteners, and Spices
After grinding, the meat trimmings are combined with spices, salts and sweeteners to make the signature taste of the hot dogs that is popular around the world. This stage not only adds flavor but also lends texture to the hot dogs, giving each one a unique taste profile depending on the materials used.
4. Pureeing the Mixture and Removing Air
After seasoning and adding preservatives to the ground mixture, manufacturers add water to it and blend until smooth, forming a pale pink meat mixture. The water softens the mixture keeping it loose, while the removal of excess air keeps it just firm enough for the molding that comes next.
5. Casing the Meat Puree
After pureeing the meat mixture into the ideal consistency, the next step is to transfer them into cellulose casings. Although this step isn't practiced universally, it is perhaps the easiest way to keep the sausage meat in place during manufacturing.
The process is performed using an automatic stuffing and linking machine that blasts the meat at high pressure into tube-shaped, cellulose casings (made from synthetic material). The hot dogs are then twisted at precise intervals to produce a long string of hot dogs.
6. Baking the Hot Dogs
Next, the hot dogs are fully cooked in a conveyor oven. First, they are loaded onto giant conveyor racks and rolled through a shower of liquid smoke before they are moved into an oven with numerous cooking zones.
The hot dogs are completely cooked in the oven and while the temperature and humidity are closely monitored. After cooking, the cased meats are doused in cold saltwater which helps to quickly lower their temperature and get them ready for packaging.
7. Removing the Casing
After adequate cooling, the hot dog links are conveyed to an automatic peeling machine, where they are stripped of their inedible casings. The machine slices the cellulose casings open before blasting the hot dogs with a burst of high-pressure steam that removes the casing.
This process is very fast thanks to the efficient machine; it can peel off about 700 hot dogs every minute.
8. Inspecting the Hot Dogs
The hot dogs are nearly ready for packaging but not before a thorough inspection. The quality control check ensures that they're the proper weight, and feature no irregularities. Any hot dog that fails the check is removed from the lineup so you'll never find anything less than perfect when you buy them!
9. Packaging and Shipping
The final step is to transfer the hot dogs to the packaging machinery where they are wrapped in sheets of plastic film and vacuum-sealed to preserve their flavor and keep them long-lasting. After packaging, the hot dogs are transferred into boxing machines, loaded onto pallets, and shipped in refrigerated trucks to supermarkets.
Although the explicit look at this process might make it look tedious, its entirety actually takes much shorter time than expected!