Top Dog: How to Make the Perfect Vienna Sausage
Let’s be frank: hot dogs are one of the most relished products on the market. Also called Vienna sausage, hot dog sausages sets themselves apart by their skinny diameter, fine filling, and by serving as the perfect condiment to buns, kraut and mustard.
Whether you use all beef, venison, pork, poultry or your own special blend in your own Vienna sausage, we’re going to help you make something far better than the packaged hot dogs you find at the grocery store. And most importantly, you’ll know what's in them. You’ll be ready to craft the best hot dog recipes in no time.
Tools of the Trade
- Meat Grinder with 3/8” and 3/16” plates
- Meat Mixer or Your Hands
- Meat Lug or Large Food-Safe Container
- Stuffer (13 or 16mm horn)
- Smokehouse (optional)
How Much Meat (and Fat)?
Making sure you have the right meat-to-fat ratio is important when making any type of sausage. For a soft and tasty hot dog or Vienna sausage, shoot for a range between 70%-80% lean beef, pork or a combination of the two. Our tried-and-true hot dog recipe is around 74% lean and is a 60/40 ratio of beef to pork. As for cuts, a high-quality chuck roast and pork butt can get you the perfect ratios, but you can experiment with different trimmings of pork fat. Any leaner, and you risk a dry and crumbly texture. If you want to be really precise, you can separate the visible fat from the meat and weigh them out separately to get the exact ratios.
Grinding & Mixing
Compared to bratwurst, Vienna sausages have a finer texture that comes from the reduced coarseness of the fat. To get this texture, you may have to grind 2-3 times before your meat is ready for mixing. We recommend grinding the first pass through a 3/8“ plate then twice through a 3/16” plate.
Once each of your proteins has been ground, you can begin mixing either by hand or by using a meat mixer. Whichever method you use, mix your lean trims first with half the ice water (with cure), followed by seasoning for hot dogs, fat trim, and remaining ice water. The end results should be sticky and pasty, with seasonings well incorporated throughout.
For proper flavor and color development, refrigerate your hot dog mixture overnight or for several hours before stuffing.
Seasonings & Additives
The distinct red or pinkish color you associate with Vienna sausages comes from a mix of nitrites and oftentimes paprika in the hot dog seasoning. Nitrites help preserve the red in the meat in the absence of oxygen and also kill bacteria that can result in food-borne illnesses. Traditionally, hot dogs are seasoned with a mix of paprika, garlic, onion, mace, mustard, and coriander, but can be made from any variety of seasoning blends you choose.
Since you’re already putting in the time and effort to make homemade hot dogs, make sure your finished product has the flavor and salt ratios you need with a ready-to-mix hot dog seasoning that includes pre-measured cure. We recommend:
- No. 155 Blue Ribbon Wiener Seasoning - a national award-winning seasoning for hot dogs from Switzerland, Maple Cure included
- No. 664 Wiener Seasoning - MSG-free, Maple Cure included
- No. 158 Chili Dog Seasoning - Delicious with high temp cheddar cheese and extra Chili powder, Speed Cure included
You can also experiment with various additives that can help increase moisture and binding:
Binder Flour: This will add protein value to your mixture and help it bind. It also absorbs and holds water which leads to less shrinkage in the smokehouse. We recommend 12 oz per 25 lbs of meat.
Nonfat Dry Milk: Works similar to the binding flour in adding protein to your mixture. We recommend 12 oz per 25 lbs of meat.
414 Phosphate: This food-grade phosphate will help in the retention of moisture and soluble proteins. We recommend 2 oz per 25 lbs of meat.
Most of the hot dog sausages you find at the grocery store are “skinless,” or stuffed in cellulose (non-edible) casings that are removed after the smoking process. We prefer the irresistible “snap” that comes from natural sheep casings, but collagen casings also work for hot dogs. If you want to make a jumbo dog, you can also use a smaller hog casing. We recommend:
- 29-32 mm Natural Hog Casings
- 23 mm Clear Processed Collagen Casings
- 26 mm Clear Processed Collagen Casings
Heat 'em Up
If you don't have access to a smoker, you can try baking hot dogs at about 180°F until they reach 152°F. Our preferred method is smoking and finishing in a final bath in ice water. Your temps and times may vary depending on your smokehouse, but you can follow these general guidelines:
- 130°F - 30 minutes - Smoke Off
- Place ¼ pan of moistened sawdust on burner (we like applewood and hickory)
- 150°F - 45 minutes - Smoke On
- 170°F - Until internal temp reaches 152-155°F
- Immediately place in ice water bath for 20 minutes or until temperature reduces to 100-110°F then let dry at room temp.
For complete instructions, see our Blue Ribbon Wiener Recipe
Now that you've mastered the art of making hot dogs, grill em', poach 'em, fry 'em and serve 'em up with all the best fixings. Try our Vienna sausage recipes: