Skip to main content

On Your Table Blog

June 11, 2018

Hot dogs! Get your hot dogs!

No frankenfood here.

Hot dogs! Get your hot dogs!

By Alysa Leier

Summer is here and for us that means GRILLING! We have a propane grill and a wood pellet smoking grill. We love them equally, but use the smoker more during the winter. I would estimate that 75% of our summer meals are cooked on a grill.

Cheeseburgers, steaks, fish, beer can chicken, chicken breasts, pork chops, and last but certainly not least, hotdogs, are all things we love to eat all summer long. Hotdogs are a favorite around here (we have 2 young kids), and while we don’t eat many during the winter, they’re almost a once- or twice-a-week meal.

I know what goes into hotdogs, and while it’s certainly not appealing to think about, I have zero problems looking past “mechanically separated chicken, pork and beef parts.” But lately I’ve been hearing a lot of companies advertising “NO NITRATES OR NITRITES” and I had to wonder what the consumer fear is that these companies are targeting.

In case you’re wondering, nitrogen is essential for all life forms. It occurs in nature in 3 different forms, Nitric oxide (gas), nitrite and nitrate. Nitrite is what we’d find in all sorts of plant food sources, and even drinking water. Nitrate is generally found in mineral deposits. Our bodies can process all three types of naturally occurring nitrogen. However, the fear is that the synthetic nitrates and plant-derived nitrates used in curing meats (to prevent growth of bacterium like that which causes botulism) can contribute to stomach cancer, because they are not naturally occurring.

This is entirely untrue. Our body sees these compounds as the same.

Naturally occurring nitrogen and synthetic nitrogen are used exactly the same by the body. Eating cured deli meats, sausages and (more importantly) hotdogs in moderation can be part of balanced diet. In fact, plants often contain more nitrates than these meats. Even as much as 10x as many as a single hot dog!

So, whether it’s a quickly-made last-minute hotdog, one at the neighborhood get-together, a “ball park frank,” from a street vendor in NYC, a simple lakeside grill, or a delicious foot-long State Fair corn dog, go ahead and eat that hotdog. Or 2 or 3. I know I will!