Happy International Hot Dog Day, celebrating one of the most famous yet also most humble foods. For a century, the tried and true sausage in a bun has been the go-to comfort food around the world.

But wait, you say: aren’t we all eating fresh, local and healthy? And aren’t hot dogs generally made from high-processed goop spat out of commercial meat factories?

Fear not. You can have the bliss-in-a-bun that is the hot dog and still eat real food. Here are a few hot dog hacks to help.

Know your sausage

The typical factory processed hot dog is made from mixed up meat trimmings, flavourings and preservatives. This is part of why they are so unnaturally soft and smooth with that delicious but not quite meat taste.

Many real sausages have a robust mixture of herbs and natural casings. While this makes them delicious, the downside is they can be trickier to prepare and eat at a backyard BBQ.

Reach for a natural sausage made of very finely ground pork, chicken or turkey for the soft smoothness of a hotdog. Here are a few recommendations from Serious Eats.

Topping time

Arguably a little ketchup and mustard is what separates a humble hot dog from a high-falutin sausage. But don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Some great ingredients to try between meat and bun:

  • BBQ sauce
  • Grilled asparagus
  • Ground BBQ-flavoured potato chips
  • Spinach
  • Ranch dressing
  • Shredded carrot
  • Bacon bits
  • Tomato salsa

Buns of glory

Be careful here. The bun has two purposes: portability and to offset the fatty and meaty taste of the sausage itself. Get too fancy and the bun can steal the hotdog show.

That being said, you don’t have to stick with the typical bleached white, store-bought bun. Try crescent rolls or sourdough rolls (split down the centre), or wrap a hot dog in a tortilla and grill it together for a few minutes. Or go the traditional route and simply make it yourself. Here are a few great, easy recipes:

Stuff the meat

Hot dogs are soft yet still retain their shape on the grill. This makes them imminently stuffable with cheese, bacon, diced mushroom, jalapenos or even other meats like chicken. Check out these amazing stuffed hot dog ideas from Hey Grill Hey.

Go crazy

It’s time to take all of the above and mix them up in exciting and marvellous hot dog ways.

Try stuffing a hot dog with Swiss cheese and diced mushroom and dusting it with paprika and chilli powder. Meanwhile, grill a tortilla with shredded cheddar and sliced jalapeno. When the cheese melts, wrap the cooked hot dog in the tortilla (they call this “the viper”.)

Here are some other amazing hot dog concoctions:

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