Hot dogs are one of America's go-to foods for snacks, quick meals, picnics, campfires and as a protein in dozens of quick casseroles and dishes. Loved by kids and adults alike, you'll find hot dogs in many forms such as frankfurters, wieners or bratwurst, and they may be made of beef, chicken, turkey, pork or a combination of meats. Look for meatless vegetarian versions, too. The dogs may be plump, slender, short or bun-size -- the variety is endless. Hot dogs are easy enough for kitchen-savvy children to cook, and busy moms can easily glamorize them for a quick and economical family dinner.
Place a steamer rack in a large saucepan or a Dutch oven. Put water in the bottom of the pan, keeping the water level low enough so the simmering water isn't deep enough to touch the hot dogs. Bring the water to a boil, then place the hot dogs on the steamer rack. Lower the heat and simmer the hot dogs for about six or seven minutes. Add more flavor by using broth, beer, or a mixture of liquids in place of water. You can also heat the buns in the steamer by arranging them on top of the hot dogs during the last two minutes of cooking.
Boiling is a quick and effortless way to cook hot dogs and works well if you're cooking for several people. Fill a large saucepan about half full with water. Bring the water to a boil, then add the hot dogs. Boil the hot dogs for a minute, with the cover on the pan. Turn off the burner and let the hot dogs stand in the hot water for six to seven minutes. Remove the hot dogs from the water with tongs.
Pan frying results in hot dogs that are crispy and golden brown, and works best if you're only cooking a few hot dogs. Heat a small amount of cooking oil in a skillet, then add the hot dogs when the oil is hot. Turn them frequently with a spatula or tongs. Frying hot dogs takes about five minutes. Sprinkle dry salad dressing and seasoning mix over the dogs as you remove them from the pan to give them a flavor kick.
Grilling results in juicy flavorful hot dogs with grill marks. Heat hot dogs on high heat on a gas or charcoal grill. Turn the hot dogs with tongs, because poking them with a fork allows juices to escape. Turn the hot dogs very frequently to cook them evenly on all sides, and to prevent burning. Grilling hot dogs takes only one to two minutes each. Serve with picnic condiments, and include a bottle of spicy ranch dressing for a different twist.
The microwave oven is useful if you're cooking up to four hot dogs. Arrange the hot dogs on a microwave-safe plate, then poke the hot dogs on each end to prevent explosions. Cook the hot dogs on high heat for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Rearrange and turn the hot dogs and cook them for an additional 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, or until they're steaming hot. Allow the hot dogs to stand for a full minute, then serve. You can also heat the buns in the microwave. Wrap the buns in a paper towel, then heat each bun for about 15 seconds. Heat the hot dogs and the buns individually, as the steam from the hot dog can make the bun tough and soggy. Spread creamy ranch dressing on the bun, add the dog, and then top with your favorite toppings.
Slice hot dogs into a pot of baked beans, or stir them into mac and cheese. For an economical, clean-out-the-pantry meal, begin with cooked rice or pasta, add a can of condensed soup, add cut up hot dog pieces, and top with cracker or bread crumbs seasoned with a packet of powdered dressing and dip mix. Bake in a casserole until heated through, and serve with a green salad tossed with ranch dressing.