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Taste Kitchen: All-beef hotdogs
All-beef hotdogs

There can be a lot to an all-beef hot dog. Some things you expect, like beef, of course, along with water, salt, and a few preservatives (nitrate s and nitrite s ); and some you wouldn't imagine: hydrolyzed soy protein, corn syrup, nutmeg, and celery juice.

Eight people tasted six brands of all-beef hot dogs. One of our tasters was a very mature 6 1/2 - year - old who had a lot to say (or in this case, write). The dogs were cooked on a charcoal grill. We chased them with hot dog buns and club soda. At first, we had nothing else, then opened the French's mustard.

There were organic, kosher, uncured, and local brands (Pearl Kountry Klub is based in Randolph). Regrettably, not all of these franks can be found everywhere. Pearl links can be purchased loose at the deli counter at Market Basket and Shaw's. The new 6-link pack in the meat department at one Market Basket was a revelation to the meat manager, who didn't know he carried it. Placement of the hot dogs in the store can be a bit confusing. Some are under the deli's dominion, others with meat and poultry.

Hebrew National, the kosher brand that answers to "a higher authority" was the winner with half the votes. It was lauded for its robust flavor. Fenway Franks struck out with five least-favorite votes and negative comments about the "mushy" texture. Only Applegate Farms and Coleman contain neither nitrites nor nitrates, used for preservation and the reddish color they add to meats. Organic and uncured brands tend to use paprika for color, and celery juice, which contains natural nitrites.

I heard every dog joke imaginable. Even though I conduct tastings in which comments are written and everyone is asked not to share them until the end, no amount of coaxing could get this crew to be quiet. One let an " m mm . . ." escape while biting into a particularly crispy skin, another hummed the song "Who Let the Dogs Out?" when displeased. By the sixth brand, I thought I heard barking.

It's summer. All backyard parties and picnics will feature hot dogs. Frankly, they're not all great. (Sorry, I couldn't resist. Blame it on the tasters.) -- DEBRA SAMUELS

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