05/14/2013 12:18 EDT | Updated 07/14/2013 05:12 EDT

The Hot Dog Decoded: What Makes Up That "Authentic" Taste?


BBQ season is about to officially hit here in Canada as we count down the days to the summer kick-off that is the May long weekend.

I thought that this would be the perfect time to share with you a video I discovered last week while doing some research. It's all about the ever-popular hot dog.

Now, please keep in mind that this video isn't intended to be gross, or persuade you away from munching on the old H-dog. It's just to show you how this American classic is made. Enjoy.

My favourite line from the video: "Fire up the grill and a mouth-watering meal is just minutes away!"

The following is the list of ingredients from a package of commercially popular hot dogs which claim to have an "authentic ball-park taste":

mechanically separated chicken, pork and/or beef, water, potato starch, salt, wheat flour, wheat gluten, modified milk ingredients, modified wheat flour, dextrose, sodium erythorbate, hydrolyzed soy protein, onion powder, smoke flavour, sodium nitrite, yeast extract, spice, garlic powder, smoke. Contains gluten, wheat, milk, corn, soy and MSG.

Hot Dogs Decoded:

  • Mechanically Separated Chicken, Pork, and/or Beef: Certain brands of hot dogs may state "made with mechanically separated meats (MSM)." MSM meat is a slurry of a meat product created by forcing bones with meat attached under high pressure in order to separate the bone from the meat tissue. In 2004, MSM beef was no longer permitted in processed meats due to concerns over relations to mad cow disease. However, today, hot dogs still may contain up to 20 per cent MSM pork, as well as any amount of MSM chicken or turkey. The U.S. Food and Safety Insepction Service maintains that these meats are safe to eat.
  • Sodium Nitrite: A preservative used in meats and fish. It is used to preserve a certain colour and prevent the growth of the bacterium which causes botulism. Sodium nitrite reacts with stomach acid and other chemicals in the stomach to produce nitrosamines. These have been shown to cause cancer in animals.
  • Sodium Erythorbate: This is a food additive used mainly in meats, poultry, and soft drinks. It is often used in hot dogs to facilitate curing and helps to retain that pink colour. It also helps to improve flavour stability and prevents the formation of carcinogenic nitrosamines.
  • Yeast Extract: A taste enhancer that actually contains MSG (monosodium glutamate). This neurotoxic chemical has been associated with various health concerns such as reproductive disorders, migraine headaches, endocrine imbalances, and obesity, as well as many others.

As if the dog itself wasn't challenging enough, BBQs tend to cook food at very high temperatures. Big fat-dripping hunks of meat can be become a wee toxic when that fat drips through the grill, burns, and smokes back up onto the meat. Also, when the fat hanging onto the meat gets charred, it leaves behind high levels of heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and benzo[a]pyrene (BaP), which are known carcinogens.

If you are going to fire up that grill...

  • Cook for longer at lower temperatures to avoid that charred situation.
  • Use turmeric in your BBQ sauce or marinade as the phytochemicals in turmeric help to offset the free radicals that get produced in the high-heat cooking process.

My best advice when it comes to BBQ season is to instead try some of these amazing summer BBQ options

Grilled Sweet Potato Fries

Grilled Sweet Potato Fries

Homemade BBQ Sauce

Try this homemade sauce and add a little turmeric to the mix for what you do throw on the Q.

Get the recipe. 

Purple Sweet Potato Salad

A mayo and white potato-free amazing purple sweet potato salad.

Get the recipe.

BBQ-Friendly Tempeh Burgers

Make these in the oven or on the grill, dress them with the BBQ sauce listed above, and shazaam!

Get the recipe.

Hawaii Inspired BBQ Tempeh Kebabs

Mixing some pineapple with the marinaded tempeh cubes and voila- awesome! Another great one that can be made in the oven or on the grill.

Get the recipe.

Grilled Sweet Potato Fries

Sprinkle some sea salt and turmeric onto these bad boys, and maybe a splash of cider vinegar if you go that way, and these are a real summer treat.

Get the recipe.

Care to share? What are your favourite go-to summer grill recipes?