US Food Safety Recalls and Tips

Archive for the ‘Hot Dogs’ Category

Ball Park Franks Angus Review

ball park franksBall Park brand hot dogs are as American as …….Germany.  At least according to Wikipedia, when the Detroit Tigers issued a competitive challenge for companies to come up with an exclusive Tigers frank, a Frankfurt, Germany company called Hygrade won the competition, became ensconced at Tiger stadium and the “legend” grew from there.

Ball Park became a solid American brand when Hygrade was purchased by Sara Lee in 1989, on the company’s quest to move from the grocer’s  bakery shelf to the meat counter for their primary revenue stream.

Some Sara Lee meats ended up domiciled at Hillshire Farms, which now is in the midst of being acquired by Tyson.  That’s a long journey for a simple weenie.

According to some web sources, Ball Park is America’s best selling brand, having toppled Oscar Meyer for the title.  Their marketing slogan is “So American you can taste it,” which is pretty funny considering the original recipe was German.  They could say “As American as Aldi,” maybe.

I picked up a package of Ball Park Angus Beef Franks from the scratch and dent section at my grocery, where they were discounted to $2.  As all of my favorite and preferred brands are hovering around $5 now, which pretty much works out to a buck a dog, this seemed like a deal.  Tho my personal preference is always for natural casing dogs, skinless will do in a pinch, and specifically under two situations at my house:  cut up into a beans and weenie meal, or charred to perfection on a grill.  Charring a skinless gives you a pretty adequate illusion of a casing and ‘snap.’


My critique?  First of all, I’m gonna call “bullshit” on any company that puts “Angus” on their label or in their marketing as something liks 80% of the cattle raised in the US are Angus, so BFD.  If it was “certified black Angus,”  now that’s a real thing. Marketers lately have all taken a class in how to exploit the word “Angus” just like they mistakenly often use the word “Kobe” on menus.  Probably “truffle” should be another one to watch for, as long as you are scrutinizing menus.

The lion’s share of grocery hot dogs are precooked. sometimes in the package, sometimes not.  In regards to Ball Park, I’d prefer if they had a smokier flavor, and did away with the corn syrup as an ingredient.  I see no reason for hot dogs, a product that naturally should fit into the “savory” category, to have a sweetener as an ingredient; and you can taste the sugar in these.

Would I buy them again?  Well, if they were on sale and going to be used for either of the two aforementioned preps.  With the corn syrup, I think they’d do well in beans and weenies.  But today I just put a slight char on them and nestled them into a bun.  Meh.

Postscript:  Tried these a second day in a row, and no matter the toppings or condiments, I can’t shake that sugar taste.  Just not appealing to me, but probably ‘addictive’ to kids.

Ball Park Angus Franks Review





Ball Park Franks Angus  Review


Making Hot Dog Recipes at Home – From Scratch!

Stuff it!  (Your own sausages).  It’s not that hard, I do it a couple times a year, though it is definitely an easier task if you have a partner or two helping.

I’m not going to go through the whole process here, you’ll have to decide whether to use all beef, beef and pork, or poultry as a meat base, and whether to grind it at home or purchase pre-ground meat.  There are simple manual stuffing tools (I sometimes use a modified caulking gun), or attachments for devices like KitchenAid mixers.  You’ll have to learn about and purchase casings, natural or made from collagen.

This article is just focused on the seasoning mix, a very traditional hot dog flavor.  Here are the ingredients for 20 pounds of franks, cut down the recipe proportionately for less meat.


4 Level tsp. INSTACURE #1 (add only if smoking the sausages) 
8 Tb. Paprika
12 Tb. Ground Mustard
2 tsp. Ground Black Pepper
2 tsp. Ground White Pepper 
2 tsp. Ground Celery Seeds
2 Tb. Mace
2 tsp. Garlic Powder
8 Tb. Salt
4 Cups Non-Fat Dry Milk or Soy Protein Concentrate
8 Tb. Powdered Dextrose
4 Cups of Ice Water

Mix the dry ingredients and crush as needed with a mortar and pestle, and then  you’re going to blend these ingredients into your meat mixture making sure it is thoroughly distributed throughout the slurry. You’ll be much happier if you allow the mix to sit in the frig overnight so that all the flavors fully take, but it’s not absolutely essential.

From there, you’ll embark on the stuffing part of the task, and either refrigerate the finished franks, freeze some, or put them on the smoker before storage for additional old world flavor.

Home stuffed wieners

hot dog recipes

Video – Building the Perfect Chicago Hot Dog Recipe

Step by step, for the uninitiated…


Chicago hot dog recipe

Baseball Hot Dogs

Baseball Hot Dogs  - Vendor videos from around the country!



Couple of Duluth Disappointments

Kawika and the Minnesota posse hit a couple of places in Duluth recently, and were disappointed across the board.

The local Marcus theater has five buck night, and apparently they try and make up for the reduced admission with a giant price on a hot dog combo – $8.75 for a dog and soda.  The good news should have been that the franks are high-quality beef weenies from Chicago’s Eisenberg, the bad news (beside the price) was the dogs had been on a roller/heater for so long as to be nearly inedible. Food outlets that use dog rollers should toss product from time to time. Common sense.

Duluthians were so excited about the opening of their first Panera bread store, that they lined up the night before the grand opening. The posse went for sandwiches.

It’s funny, Panera does make so many great breads, and do a lot of good in their communities.  But they fall down on the ingredients used in their sandwiches, it’s been my opinion, and the posse came away feeling the same way.

Marcus Theater Hot Dog

Marcus Theater Hot Dog


Marcus Theater Hot Dog

Marcus Theater Hot Dog


Panera Tuna Sandwich

Panera Tuna Sandwich


Panera Duluth Review

Duluth Lobby

Panera reviews

Coney Island Recipe – Hot Dog Sauce

I love coney island style hot dogs, which are not to be confused with chili dogs.  Coney islands follow a basic formula of a natural casing wiener, adorned with meat sauce, chopped raw onions, and yellow mustard.  There are variations of them around the midwest, usually at shops started by Greek families two or three generations ago.  Some of the more famous include American Coney in Detroit, Skyline and Gold Star in Ohio, and of course, Deluxe Coney in my home town of Duluth.

On occasion, I make my own sauce at home, whipping up a batch large enough to consume immediately, and freeze the rest in sandwich bags to take out whenever I have the urge over the succeeding couple of months.

My recipe has been developed and fine tuned over many years, and is similar to the sauces listed about, but not identical.  Each establishment has their own ‘secret ingredient’, I am sure.

Coney Island Style Hot Dogs

Ingredients for Sauce:

  • 6 C water
  • 1 6 oz can of tomato paste
  • 4 t chili powder
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t allspice
  • 1 t garlic powder
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 4 t cumin
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2  finely diced onions, one for broth, one for assembly later
  • 2 pounds 85/15 ground beef
  • High quality, natural casing hot dogs (I used Usinger’s)
  • Buns
  • Yellow mustard


Bring the water to a boil, and add and stir in the tomato paste. When thoroughly mixed, add the dry spices and herbs. Now here’s the twist, which is different that I usually would have done in the past, but it really works for this. Crumble the beef RAW into the broth, and the onions, and simmer for three hours or until reduced to a thickness that you prefer. You may have to further crumble the beef while cooking with a wooden spoon or potato masher, but chances are the hot water will do the job for you.  I usually end up cooking for considerably longer than three hours, reducing my concoction to a thick and meaty sauce.


Steam or griddle fry your dogs, place one on a bun slathered with yellow mustard. Ladle a quantity of chili to your personal preference and dust with diced onion.

Pictorial, step by step:

Coney Island Hot Dog Recipe

6 C water, 6 oz tomato paste

Coney Island Hot Dog Recipe

Spice / herb combination

Coney Island Hot Dog Recipe

Water, tomato paste, spices boiling


Coney Island Hot Dog Recipe

Crumble raw beef into ‘soup’



Coney Island Hot Dog Recipe

Usinger’s of Milwaukee, NC wieners


Coney Island Hot Dog Recipe

Finely diced onions


Coney Island Hot Dog Recipe

Lunch time!



Coney Island Recipe



Eckrich Lil Smokies Review

Eckrich Lil SmokiesI’m a fiend for “little smokies” – give me a mess of good quality, fine tasting ones, and I’ll pass on the rest of breakfast.  You never see them on a restaurant menus, not really sure why.

Like all pork (and meat in general) products, they have gotten really spendy lately, pushing over $6 a pound. While I have some very specific favorite brands, determined by taste and texture, I am a sucker for sale priced ones, and that’s why I picked up a pack of Eckrich “Li’l Smokies” yesterday.  They were half the price of the other brands.

Eckrich is part of John Morrell now, and according to the USDA plant number on the package, these babies were made at the Morrell plant in Cincinnati (pictured below).

How were they?  OK, especially at the price.  A pork and chicken product (I prefer all beef), they aren’t as flavorful as some brands I prefer, tasting more like cocktail franks, which should be an entirely different recipe than smokies.  I’d buy them again tho, at the sale price.

Why the ‘char?’  I prefer sausages with natural casings, and you’ll never see little smokies in a casing. Too expensive, troublesome for mass production I imagine.  For me, putting a little char on the baby weenies gives them a texture more again to a casing product. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 Eckrich Lil Smokies

 John Morrell Cincinnati



Lil Smokies Review

New Orleans, LA – Brothers Food Marts

Fry Deli“Fry delis” – are a distinctly southern thing, a serving counter of fried on location foods like chicken, catfish, sausage, biscuits and potato wedges, found at gas stations and other outlets below the Mason Dixon line. I explored a few on a previous sojourn when I was comparing chicken fingers and strips in LA, MS, GA, and AL last year.

This trip was no exception, as I grabbed pieces of fish or chicken to nosh on at various locations on this expedition, including some from “Chester Fried“, and ‘Krispy Krunchy“, two inexpensive (to own) franchises stuck into corners of gas station along the way.

Brother’s Food Marts is a local chain New Orleans of mini-marts (New Orleanians are fiercely loyal to local businesses, some chains have never successfully penetrated the market – like 7-Eleven or Starbucks).  You’ll find Brooks scattered around the metro, sometimes as stand alone locations, sometimes at gas stations.  There’s one in the CBD (Central Business District) a few steps from the both the French Quarter and my hotel base this trip.  This one is open 24 hours and their fry deli is amply stocked with fish, chicken, and fries, as a “meal combo” or to be purchased by the piece.

Nothing like being able to get a crispy hunk o’ catfish at 3 AM, I say.  Which I did.  Later on, down the highway, I hit a Chester’s for some strips, which were lightly breaded and H-U-G-E compared to other chicken places.  Tasty.   Course if you want something a little lighter, you can always opt for a cup of boiled peanuts, regular or Cajun seasoned!

Fry Deli

Fry Deli Catfish

Fry Deli Chicken Chesters

Chester’s Chicken Strips

Boiled Peanuts

Brothers Food Marts

Brother's Food Mart on Urbanspoon

Eckrich Lil Smokes Review

Eckrich Lil SmokiesI’m a fiend for “little smokies’ as a breakfast meat.  Give me enough of them of good quality, and I’ll skip the eggs, toast, and potatoes. You never see them on restaurant menus, though I don’t know why.

My personal preference is for the all beef variety, though I am motivated by price point too, and that’s why I grabbed a package of Eckrich’s yesterday, which were on sale for half the price of the other brands. Like all pork products, the price of smokies has skyrocketed lately, and they easily tip the $ scales at $6 a pound, plus.

Cooked them up this morning and they were ok, especially considering the price.  They aren’t as flavorful as some of the other brands, and taste more like “cocktail franks”, which should, and usually are, a totally different product than little smokies.

Why the ‘burnt’ appearance?  I am predisposed to prefer sausages with a natural casing, and as far as I know, there are no little smokies with casings. Too difficult and expensive for mass production, I imagine.  So the ‘char’, presents a texture that more closely resembles a natural casing sausage.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

I’d buy them again at the same price, but at the same price point as other brands, I’d opt for my usual favorites. According to the USDA plant number, these babies are manufactured at John Morrell’s plant in Cincinnati (pictured below).

 Eckrich Lil Smokies


 John Morrell Cincinnati







Eckrich Lil Smokes Review

White Sox Stadium Adding Xfinity Zone

The Chicago White Sox have expanded their partnership with Comcast and will open the Xfinity Zone in the right field stands for opening day, March 31.

In addition to being able to grab some traditional baseball food and beverages, the Xfinity Zone will be decked out with twelve big screen TVs to see all the action close up, as well as a giant interactive social media wall.

The Xfinity Zone will feature a complete food menu with new items such as the Ultimate Turkey Club and the Supreme Corned Beef, in addition to ballpark classics like hot dogs, sausages, fried mac and cheese bites, the walking taco and the Irish nacho helmet.  Fans will be able to enjoy their food with a beverage from a full-service bar in the Xfinity Zone, which will include draft, bottled or can American premium, import and craft beers, including MillerCoors products.  The bar also will offer a variety of cocktails, wine and soft drinks.  Food and drink service starts when the gates to the ballpark open and concludes in the seventh inning.

Artist’s rendering of the Zone.

White Sox Xfinity Zone


white sox stadium



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