The Secret to Plumper Hot Dogs from the Grill

updated Jun 11, 2020
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Credit: joe lingeman

Hot dogs too often get lumped into the “just an easy dinner” category, despite the fact that a snappy grilled dog can be one of the most satisfying summer meals, ever. My family has been leaning on hot dogs for their ease a lot this spring and summer, which led me to discover a smart, fast trick for cooking up plumper, juicier hot dogs.

Hot dog aficionados know that when a hot dog splits it also releases some of its juices into the grill or pan. You can spiral score them to prevent splitting and make them easier for kids to eat — although this makes for a crisper hot dog and takes more prep time. For a really juicy hot dog with minimal effort, you just need 10 seconds and a paring knife. Here’s how to do it.

Credit: Meghan Splawn

Score Your Hot Dog’s Ends for Plumper, Juicier Dogs

I’ve been spiral slicing hot dogs for my kids for a few years, and while it is a fun and unique way to serve up hot dogs, it can also take more time than I’d like on a weeknight. On a whim a few months ago I started experimenting with just scoring the hot dogs — a few shallow cuts on the sides at different angles, thinking that this would keep the hot dogs from splitting on the hot grill and spilling out all their juicy goodness. Side scoring didn’t work very well — the dogs weren’t as juicy, nor were they crispy in a good way like spiral-cut hot dogs.

It wasn’t until I took a clue from peeling tomatoes and scored both ends of the hot dogs that I found what I was looking for. Some steam can escape out of the ends without splitting the hot dogs’ skin on the sides and in turn keeps the hot dogs plumper and juicier. Take a pairing knife and make an X about 1/4-inch deep on both ends of the hot dog before grilling or pan-frying and your hot dogs won’t burst from steam and all of their snappy and juicy goodness stays intact.

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