Chicago-Style Hot Dog

Chicago Style Hot Dog
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A Chicago-style hot dog, Chicago Dog, or Chicago Red Hot is an all-beef frankfurter on a poppy seed bun, originating from the famous hot dog city of Chicago. This delicious dog is topped with yellow mustard, chopped white onions, neon green pickle relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato slices or wedges, pickled sport peppers, and a dash of celery salt. A Chicago hot dog dressed this way is said to be “dragged through the garden” due to its many “healthy” toppings.

The “Chicago Style” hot dog began with street cart hot dog vendors during the Great Depression.

A beautiful and delicious Chicago style hot dog, prepped with a full garden of toppings.Money was tight, but hot dog vendors were doing a booming business because they offered workers a delicious hot meal on a bun for only 5 cents!  They started with an all beef hot dog, placed it in a steamed poppy seed bun, and topped it with a variety of toppings including: yellow mustard, neon green pickle relish, fresh chopped onions, slices of juicy red tomatoes, a kosher-style pickle spear, a couple of spicy sport peppers and finally, a dash of celery salt.  Many sources attribute the distinctive collection of toppings on a Chicago-style wiener to historic Maxwell Street and the “Depression Sandwich” reportedly originated by Fluky’s in 1929.

This unique hot dog creation has a wonderful interplay of hot and cold, crisp and soft, sharp and smooth, and quickly became America’s original fast food and a Chicago institution.

Variations of the Chicago-Style Hot Dog

The method for cooking the hot dog itself varies depending on the vendor’s preference. Most often they are steamed, water-simmered or grilled on a flat griddle.

The “dragged through the garden” style is heavily promoted by Vienna Beef and Red Hot Chicago, the two most prominent Chicago hot dog manufacturers, but exceptions are common, with vendors adding cucumber slices or lettuce, omitting poppy seeds or celery salt, or using plain relish or a skinless hot dog.

Whatever you do, remember a Chicago-Style hot dog does not include ketchup.  There is a widely shared, strong opinion among many Chicagoan’s and hot dog aficionados that ketchup is unacceptable on any type of hot dog unless you’re under the age of 12. In fact a number of famous Chicago hot dog vendors do not offer ketchup as a condiment.

Preparation of a Chicago-Style Hot Dog

Chicago-style hot dogs are cooked in hot water or steamed before adding the toppings. A less common style is cooked on a charcoal grill and referred to as a “chardog.” Chardogs are easily identifiable because very often the ends of the dog are sliced in crisscross fashion before cooking, producing a distinctive cervelat-style (“curled-x” shape) as the dog cooks. Some hot dog stands, such as the Wieners Circle, only serve char-dogs.

The typical beef hot dog weighs 1/8 of a pound or 2 ounces (57 g) and the most traditional type features a natural casing, providing a distinctive “snap” when bitten.

The buns are a high-gluten variety made to hold up to steam warming, typically the S. Rosen’s Mary Ann brand from Alpha Baking Company.

Visit the Vienna Beef website for a great, interactive visual guide to building a Chicago-Style Hot dog.

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Recipe Comments

Comment (1)

  1. posted by Niamh on September 21, 2014

    I got a lot of interesting ideas here. Thanks.


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