The pleasures of emulsified forcemeat

In last month’s issue of Gourmet, Michael Ruhlman — who recently guest-blogged at Megnut’s place and whose writing I respect — penned an ode to hot dogs.

He claims the best hot dogs in the world are Vienna Beefs, and having had a Chicago-style dog last year at O’Hare on my way to Rochester, I can’t say I’d put up a firm argument.

Hot dogs, he explained, are part of the meat genus we call “emulsified forcemeat”. I’d never heard of that term before, and in addition to conjuring images of a Nordic death metal four piece (or a gay S&M fetish flick), this reductive term sounds a little less than appetizing. But as every professional athlete inevitably says in the course of a cliche-ridden press conference (and as Pope John famously pronounced when asked about Mel Gibson’s Jew-baiting movie), “it is what it is.”

I ran across an article (via Ruhlman via NYTimes and I made a short post here previously about it but I’m too lazy and thick with enchiladas to bother linking to) about how the organic franks from premier beef producers were making a splash on the hot dog scene. Instead of the pessimistic nitrates used to artificially preserve the meat, they used celery juice. See, nitrates also give the dog its nice, pinkish hue, and nitrate-free dogs have a really nasty brown tinge to it, like cardboard. Celery juice to the rescue!

I stopped by Trader Joes shortly after reading the article and picked up what I consider to be the best hot dogs in the world – Niman Ranch Fearless Uncured Beef Franks.


They come four to a package, and each one weighs in at a hefty quarter pound. I checked the ingredients list, and lo and behold celery juice was listed. If you haven’t had these hot dogs and consider yourself a hot dog fan, pick up a package next time you’re at Trader Joes (I’m not sure where else to buy them). They are actually leaner than many 1/4 franks I’ve seen – with 19 grams of fat – I’ve seen other dogs such as the Sinai Kosher’s at Costco run 30 grams. For post-cooked weight, that’s actually less fat than a raw 80% ground beef burger.

Here is a full metal jacket Chicago dog I’ve recently had, starring a Niman Ranch uncured.


5 thoughts on “The pleasures of emulsified forcemeat”

  1. Hey GC – Thanks for the taste info on those dogs…I wuz eyeballing them at TJ’s last week, for my Labor Day Grilling(fiasco), so I’ll give them a try!

  2. Thx Kirk. I was in your home town last month and sad to say I was too engaged with wedding and friends-from-out-of-town activities that I had no chance to partake in any of the great suggestions you have on your website.

    For instance, the day after the wedding, my local homey demanded I steer our out-of-friends to the perfunctory tourist trap known as The Fish Market (downtown on the bay). Dissapointing. The oysters were ok, the chowder less so, and the entrees boring. Meh.

    And really nothing by the beach was anything at all to write home about.

    I did drop off my mom at my cousin’s in Linda Vista, and stopped by K Sandwiches (I think that’s the name). I was actually looking for my old Pho haunt when I lived there 9 years ago, but it was no longer. I did have a decent bbq pork banh mi and some curried chicken and a couple crusty french rolls to go. That — and the steak dinner I had at the wedding, the chasyu ramen I had at Takara at Mitsuye(sic?) supermarket @805/163/Convoy, and In-N-Out Burger — were the highlight of the trip.

    Come to think of it, it was a pretty good trip for only 4 days consumed by a wedding in which I was a groomsman. Next time I need to really explore my former stomping grounds.

  3. Hi GC – I got bad news for you if you’re a fan of Takara – they’ve closed down. Went there the other day, and they were gone. Just totally gone – don’t know why. I bet that old Pho Haunt was Pho Tau Bay???

  4. Just had the Niman Ranch nitrate-cured hot dogs this weekend. They were for sure the best hot dogs I’d ever bought at a store (Trader Joe’s of course). I’ll definitely need to do a cured vs. uncured (shouldn’t they actually call them “celery-juice cured”?) taste test in the future.

  5. I had Fearless Franks at a local Costco and loved them. They were in a two pound pack with green script. When I went to get more they had been discontinued. I don’t know if they were actually the Niman Ranch brand, but they were wonderful. Apparently enough weren’t sold to keep Costco happy so they were pulled. Thanks for mentioning Trader’s so I can again enjoy them. My kids loved them as well.

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