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Ask Wendalicious! The Weiner Edition

July 14, 2008

A reader writes:

Dear Wendalicious:

What do they put in hot dogs and what is the world’s record at Coney Island for eating the most hot dogs?

I like your blog!

Nick

I’m glad you like my blog, Nick – you’re obviously a man of good taste and breeding. Regarding the ingredients in hot dogs, I had an immediate answer that came to mind. But, I’m sensing that you are looking for a REAL answer, and not one that will purposely induce vomiting. SO, here’s the true answer to what’s in hot dogs.

According to www.ballparkfranks.com, The Ball Park Beef Franks contain the following ingredients:

BEEF, WATER, CORN SYRUP, CONTAINS LESS THAN TWO PERCENT SALT, POTASSIUM LACTATE, SODIUM PHOSPHATES, FLAVORINGS, SODIUM DIACETATE, ASCORBIC ACID (VITAMIN C), SODIUM NITRITE, EXTRACTIVES OF PAPRIKA.

What the heck does all that mean?  The first few ingredients I’m assuming you recognize, so I’ll start with potassium lactate. Potassium Lactate is a natural acid used as a preservative. Sodium phosphates regulate acidity in the product. Sodium Diacetate is another preservative, Ascorbic acid (an isomer of which is Vitamin C) prevents the formation of nitrosamines (those pesky little things better known as CARCINOGENS), and sodium nitrite is preservative against botulism (whew! Who needs botulism?).

Those beefy little dreams are completely chock-full of preservatives, which should clue you in to something – they cannot possibly be real food and therefore cannot possibly be good for you. Plus you’re practically consuming a salt lick when you’re eating one. Not good if you’ve got high blood pressure.

And, then I thought about those Hebrew National TV commercials, where they claim to answer to a “higher authority”. Hebrew National makes 100% Kosher hot dogs, claim to add nothing artificial, and they would seemingly be better for you, right? Here’s their ingredient list:

Beef, water, salt, contains 2% or less of spice, paprika, hydrolyzed soy protein, garlic powder, sodium erythorbate, sodium nitrite, flavorings.

OK, some of the ingredients are the same, though I’m noticing significantly fewer preservatives. There are only a couple things that don’t seem natural – hydrolyzed soy protein and sodium erythorbate. Hydrolyzed soy protein is a nice way of saying MSG (natural, though not necessarily good for you), and Sodium erythorbate is a SYNTHETIC (read: artificial) sodium salt that prevents oxidation in meat. Flavorings – well, that could be ANYTHING.

Hmmm…the verdict?

Hot dogs are full of chemicals. Plain and simple. HN may have fewer unpronouncables, but they’re both absolutely bursting at the seams with preservatives. And those are the high-quality dogs that I investigated!

What about the cheap ones? It’s actually not as disgusting as you might think.

Hot dogs really are not made from left-over meat swept up from the floors of meat-packing houses. The meat trimmings are carefully selected just like the meat you buy in your grocer’s coolers. Most recipes for hot dogs combine together a blend of meat (pork, beef, chicken, or turkey), meat fat, a cereal filler which could be either bread crumbs, flour, or oatmeal, a little bit of egg white, and an array of herbs and seasonings including garlic, pepper, ground mustard, nutmeg, salt, and onion.

These ingredients are ground together, and then stuffed into sausage casings. Many of the hot dogs sold in stores are enclosed in synthetic cellulose casings, but most home-made hot dogs are made out of natural animal intestines.

Delightful. But not “lips and rectums,” which I was ready to cry at the outset.

Hope that satisfies your curiosity Nick, as well as your hankerin’ for hot dogs.

And, to answer Nick’s question about Nathan’s Annual Hot Dog Eating Contest:

The current world record for hot dog eating was set on July 4, 2007, when Joey Chestnut downed 66, breaking the previous record that he set on June 2, 2007 when he ate 59½ hotdogs in 12 minutes at a Nathan’s qualifier event in Tempe, AZ.

My stomach hurts.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Joanne permalink
    July 20, 2008 8:17 pm

    Wow, Wendy, your chemistry degree actually came in handy here! HEH.

  2. Nick permalink
    September 29, 2008 3:15 pm

    Wow!

    Such a complete answer! I gues an occasional HN wouldn’t hurt me. Im glad that the ingredients are not “swept up off
    the floor.”

    I don’t think I’ll be entering Nathan’s Coney Island contest, though.

    Thanks much,
    Nick

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