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Make Your Own Chicago-Style Dog


Step 1:  We’ll begin with the hot dog, which is probably one the most difficult to get right.  A true Chicago dog needs a all beef with a natural-casing hot dog.  preferably (though it’s not mandatory) made by the Vienna Beef Company or Red Hot Chicago Company.  Yet even in Chicago, it is hard to find a dog with natural casings.   Most grocery-store hot dogs are packaged without casings, also known as “skinless.”  Yet the casing is a mandatory part of the hot dog’s “snap” when you bite into it, a satisfying resistance to the teeth that eventually yields to reward you with mouthwatering juiciness and flavor.

You can find natural casing hot dogs at the Vienna Beef factory in Chicago or the Red Hot Chicago Factory, where they sell them by the pound (unfortunately not by the package); on the East Coast and West Coast you can look for Nathan’s brand.   Once again, we want to reiterate that It goes without saying that this should be an all-beef frankfurter. 

Step 2:   Next, comes the bun.  A REAL Chicago Hot dog calls for a poppy-seed bun, preferably S. Rosen’s brand.  These buns are available to order online for those of you that are outside the Chicagoland area.

 Step 3:   The mustard should be bright yellow; Plochmann’s brand is often used, or French’s. Brand is unimportant. Avoid brown mustard or Dijon. 

 Step 4:   Adding the WHITE onion.  this must be a white onion, as red and yellow have never been served with a Chicago Dog.  Go with a fine dice on the onion; use Vidalia onions for less bite.

Step 5:   Perhaps the most unique condiment to Chicago is the NEON green relish.  It is a completely unnatural shade of neon green; the ingredients indicate it’s essentially minced pickles in green sugary syrup.  Apparently a relish maker started adding food coloring to make up for the inconsistencies in the relish.

Step 6:  The tomato should be cut into thin wedges and stuffed on each side of the dog.  Some used diced tomatoes, but the correct proper way to server them are sliced wedges “wedged” between the dog and the bun.

 Step 7:   Next we have the pickle, here if you can, Seek out a kosher dill spears from the refrigerated section of the grocery store, rather than the aisle, where you’ll find mushy pickles. The crunch of the pickle is as important as the snap of the hot dog–refrigerated pickles are a must.  Claussen is a great brand to use.

Step 8:   Add Sport peppersare a spicy but not-overly-hot pickled pepper.  They are left whole on the hot dog. Some people prefer their Chicago dogs without these.  These are an absolute must have on the dog.

Step 9:  And lastly after leaving the “garden”, we add the celery salt, which is the secret ingredient of a Chicago dogs.  Celery salt is a blend of celery seed and salt and gets sprinkled on top of  everything at the end.  The celery salt brings an unmistakeable but hard-to-place flavor that ties it all together.


Some notes on the ingredients: first, it’s very important that you use an all beef hot dog — no self-respecting Chicago hot dog stand would serve hot dogs with pork or other fillers. Also make sure to use plain yellow mustard — now’s not the time to be getting all fancy. Whatever variety of pickles you use should be mild in flavor, with a good crunch. The relish on a Chicago hot dog is famously an unnatural shade of bright green and if you can find that, great, if not any good sweet relish will be fine. Sport peppers are readily found in your grocery stores “ethnic” aisle (generally in the Italian section by the jars of giardiniera, roasted red peppers, etc.) or by the deli section. Lastly, poppy seed hot dog buns are not always available in every region of the United States, so plain ones can be substituted.

On to the preparation. The key to a Chicago style hot dog is to steam both the dog and the bun. A Chicago hot dog is NEVER boiled! Place a steamer basket into a dutch oven and fill with water, keeping the water level just below the basket. Bring water to a simmer. Place hot dogs in basket, cover, and steam for 5-7 minutes until heated through. To steam the buns, carefully remove the cover and place the buns on top of the hot dogs for the last 2 minutes of steaming. If you want to make what’s known here as a “chardog”, grilling the hot dog for approximately 4-5 minutes is an acceptable alternative.

Place a hot dog in a bun and begin assembly remembering, as they say, “dress the dog, not the bun.” Squeeze a small amount of yellow mustard across the length of the hot dog. Add chopped onion and relish to taste. Then on goes the pickle spear and 2 tomato wedges. Take it all the way to Chicago-style nirvana with a few sport peppers and cucumber slices, then top it all off with a couple shakes of celery salt.

Here we go with step by step visual instructions on how to dress your dog!!

And there you have it…..  The most tasting hot dog around….  no go enjoy one!!!!

One last note, I suppose you can put on ketchup if you absolutely insist, just know that if you do you’ll have made *something*, but it certainly won’t be a Chicago hot dog.

Watch this video on how to make a Chicago-Style Hot Dog!

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