Hot dogs may seem like a summer staple that don’t need much thought—open the package, place a few on the grill, and remove when you see grill marks. It may be underwhelming at times, but it gets the job done, right?
Well, when you’re Williams Sonoma Chefs’ Collective Member Ashley Christensen, Chef and Proprietor of AC Restaurant group in Raleigh, North Carolina, an under-whelming dog just won’t do. At her burger joint, Chuck’s, they have a signature way of preparing and grilling their hot dogs that maximizes flavor and plays up the dog’s role as a vehicle for toppings. Here’s a glimpse into her technique.
1. Fillet the Hot Dog
“We make an incision from pole-to-pole on the dog, essentially filleting it, but not cutting it all the way in half,” explains Christensen. This increases the surface area and lets each hot dog build more caramelized flavor, since you’re searing it inside and out.
2. Use a Flattop
“First we sear the cut side on a flattop, and then flip it to sear the outside,” says Christensen. The flattop technique is perfect for a restaurant, but you can also mimic it at home — place a cast-iron griddle directly on the grill and let it pre-heat until a drop of water placed on the griddle immediately sizzles. Then, sear away.
3. Top With Abandon
“When we place the dog cut-side up on the bun, there’s a natural groove for all the toppings,” says Christensen. Wondering how the grillmaster tops her dog? “My favorite dog is a tribute to a hotdog sold at the Trolly Stop hot dog stand on Wrightsville Beach in North Carolina,” says Chirstensen. “It has melted American cheese and mayo. In my version, we use Kewpie mayo, American cheese, diced dill pickles and tomatoes, and cracked pepper.”