Make Your Own Chicago Style Hot Dog

It's easy and fun to make your own Chicago Dog. Our guide will tell you everything you need to know to create the perfect Chicago Dog in the privacy of your own home. We will tell you where to shop, what to buy and how to properly assemble your Dog in true Chicago style. You can even print a shopping list and a step-by-step guide to adding toppings. Let's get started...

Shopping for Ingredients
In order to create your "masterpiece", it is important to start with the proper ingredients. Although you can substitute any of the ingredients mentioned here, we suggest that for your first attempt, you try the ingredients we recommend. We have carefully selected each topping to work harmoniously together to create Hot Dog Synergy. Do you remember learning about synergy in grade school? If you can't remember, synergy is two or more entities working together to produce an effect that is greater than the sum of the parts.

The Hot Dog
Best's KosherVienna BeefA Chicago Style Hot Dog is a traditionally all beef and contains no fillers. Don't even think of using a Hot Dog made from turkey, chicken or pork. Some all beef Hot Dogs are "Kosher". If you prefer a Kosher Dog, look for the Kosher symbol (K) or (U) on the packaging. When buying your Hot Dogs, stay away from the 97% fat free choices as they are more difficult to cook and lack flavor.

We used to recommend either "Best's Kosher" or "Vienna Beef" brands, but Best's Kosher dogs are no longer available. Vienna Beef dogs are excellent and are available at most grocery stores.  Another excellent choice is Red Hot Chicago brand dogs, which are available at Jewel grocery stores. For a real treat, try the "jumbo" sized version of your favorite brand. Sentry Hilldale (in Madison) has a great selection of all beef Hot Dogs. Remember, the retail version of dogs available in your grocery store are usually NOT the same as the dogs you get from a hot dog stand. The retail version dogs are usually smaller in size and sometimes don't taste as good.

Rolf's RelishRelish
Classic Chicago Dogs are famous for their sweet bright green relish. Finding the perfect relish has been a struggle, but luckily we found Rolf's "Deli Style" Sweet Pickle Relish and Sweet Super Green Pickle Relish from the Puckered Pickle Company. Rolf's may be available at Jewel stores in the Chicago area and is definitely available at Woodman's in Madison. Any sweet relish will work well on your Chicago Dog, but Rolf's and the Puckered Pickle Company's relish are a treat and worth every cent. Another great choice is Vienna Relish which can be found at Jenifer Street Market (Madison) and at Jewel stores in the Chicago area.

Yellow MustardMustard
Another classic topping of a Chicago Dog is yellow mustard. When we think of Hot Dogs, we instantly picture yellow Mustard slathered on the Dog.

According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, Mustard is the Hot Dog condiment of choice. Any classic yellow Mustard is acceptable. Do not use brown or Dijon Mustard on your Chicago Dogs! We recommend either Plochman's or French's.

Puckered Pickle Co.The Pickle
There is nothing like the perfect pickle to compliment your Dog. As far as we are concerned, the pickle you place on your Hot Dog can make or break the experience. A classic Chicago Dog will either have a pickle slice or spear. The pickle you choose should compliment, but not overpower any of the other toppings. A common mistake is to place a sour and/or spicy pickle on your Hot Dog. The pickle should have a nice crunch and the seasoning should be mild. Sometimes cucumber slices are substituted for the pickle.

We highly recommend Crunchy Deli Pickle Spears from the Puckered Pickle Co. These great tasting crunchy pickles are perfect for your Chicago Dog! Click Here to check availability in your area. Another good choice is the Claussen Kosher Dill. These pickles are available in both slices and halves. If you buy the halves, make a spear by slicing down the middle of the pickle (or slice into thirds). Claussen pickles are located in the refrigerated deli meat section of any grocery store.

Nothing special here. Purchase your standard white onion and chop it. If you don't like the bite of your typical onion, try a vidalia. Vidalia onions have a smooth sweet flavor.

For true authenticity, buy a red ripe tomato and cut it into wedges. We prefer a nice quality Beefsteak tomato. Do not chop your tomato or even think about cutting your tomato into slices!Sport Peppers

Sport Peppers
An essential topping for any Chicago Dog is the Sport pepper. These peppers are green, about 1-1/2 inches long and usually have a medium-hot taste. When Sport peppers adorn your Dog, they should be whole and never sliced. Don't make the mistake of using peppers that are too hot. Remember, a Chicago Dog is blending of all the toppings. No single ingredient should overpower the others. Our search for Sport peppers has been a little frustrating, but we found them (in Madison) in the ethnic food section at the Copp's on Junction Rd, at Woodman's and Gino's Italian Deli. Vienna Sport Peppers can be found at Jenifer Street Market.

Celery Salt
This blend of ground celery seed and fine-grained salt is often described as the defining ingredient of a Chicago Dog. Celery salt is usually available at any grocery store.

Poppyseed BunsPoppy Seed Bun
Genuine Chicago Style Hot Dogs are traditionally served on a steamed poppy seed bun. If you can find them, "S. Rosen's Mary Ann" hot dog Buns are the bun of choice and usually synonymous with Chicago Style Hot Dogs. Poppy seed buns are readily available in Madison. Mary Ann buns are sold at Woodman's, Copps and Costco. Copps appears to no longer regularly stock the poppy seed buns, but you can still get them if you ask for them a few days in advance. Costco currently only sells Mary Ann buns without poppy seeds. You can usually special order poppy seed hot dog buns at grocery stores that have their own bakery. In the Chicago area, poppy seed buns are available at most grocery stores including Jewel. If you can find "Mary Ann" buns, you are in for a real treat. Turano Bakery also has great buns.

You can purchase S. Rosen's poppy seed buns online! Click Here for details.

Click Here for a printer-friendly shopping list of ingredients for your Chicago Dog.

Creating Your Chicago Dog - Some Assembly Required
Now that you have gathered all of the ingredients and heated your Hot Dog(s), the time has come to create your Chicago Dog. The toppings are just as important as the order they are applied to the Hot Dog. The goal is to evenly distribute the toppings so you get a taste of each ingredient with every bite. Remember, dress the Dog and not the bun! Start out by placing your heated Hot Dog on the bun and add the toppings in the following order:

  1. Yellow Mustard - Squirt the mustard directly on the Dog from one end to the other. We personally enjoy a zig-zag pattern.
  2. Bright Green Relish - Add a generous amount of sweet relish.
  3. Fresh Chopped Onions - Place onions on top of the Dog. The amount depends on your personal taste.
  4. Two Tomato Wedges - The tomatoes should be placed along the crevice between the top of the bun and the Hot Dog.
  5. Pickle Spear or Slice - The pickle should be placed in the crevice between the bottom of the bun and the Hot Dog.
  6. Two Sport Peppers - Traditionally 2 sport peppers are added on top of a Chicago Dog, but the sport pepper is often considered an optional topping. Once again, personal tastes play a role. 
  7. Celery Salt - Sprinkle a dash of celery salt over the Dog.

Click Here for printer-friendly instructions on how to assemble your Chicago Dog (PDF Format).

Here is what the finished product will look like. Enjoy!

Chicago Dog 

Heating Your Hot Dog
Remember, Hot Dogs are already cooked so all you need to do is heat up the Dog. Although there are many ways to heat up Hot dogs, Chicago Style are traditionally grilled, steamed or boiled. Our favorite method is to grill them. No matter which method you choose, remember, the goal is to heat the Dog and NOT cook it. The heating information listed below are general guidelines. For more heating ideas read the instructions on the package of Hot Dogs.

Grilling - On a grill, place your hot dogs over medium heat and turn as soon as one side starts to brown. Watch your hot dogs carefully and turn frequently as they tend to brown quickly. Imagine your hot dog has a square shape and turn four times to brown all four sides. Two to three minutes on each "side" should be sufficient. Total heating time should be about 8-12 minutes. If frozen, heating times will be slightly higher.

Steaming - If you really want to try steaming, use a Dutch oven fitted with a steamer rack, or a bamboo steamer. Fill the pan with enough liquid to reach just below the steamer rack. You don't want liquid bubbling up onto your hot dogs.

Bring your water to a boil, reduce heat to low, add your Hot Dogs to the steamer basket. Cover tightly and steam 5-7 minutes or until Hot Dogs are heated through. To steam your buns, stack them on top of the dogs in the last two minutes of cooking. BE CAREFUL NOT TO BURN YOURSELF ON THE STEAM.

Boiling - If you must boil your Hot Dogs, Fluky's (a Chicago institution since 1929) recommends these instructions for heating your Hot Dogs: Bring the water to a boil, turn the water down until it stops boiling, or a slight simmer. (DO NOT COOK HOT DOGS IN BOILING WATER). Place desired number of hot dogs into water and cook uncovered for 20 minutes. Mark Reitman of Hot Dog U recommends the following: If you're boiling it, don't add the meat until the water has already come to a boil, then throw it in and simmer for about five minutes - until the dog floats.

Microwave - Hot dogs can be successfully heated in the microwave oven. However, heating a Chicago Dog with microwaves is not necessarily recommended and should only be used if no other heating method is possible. Many microwave ovens have a "Fresh Roll/Muffin" setting that is great for steaming fresh buns.

If you must use a microwave oven to heat your Dog, it is recommended that you first thaw the Dogs (if frozen) in the microwave and then heat them. Since microwave ovens vary in power and features, you may have to experiment with cooking times.

The Paupered Chef website has compiled our information and put together a nice page on how to make a Chicago Style Hot Dog. Click Here to check out their page.

We have had many requests to make this page available in a printer-friendly format. If you print this page, it should format nicely on your printer.


From Our Test Labs...
Since the choice of toppings is critical to the successful creation and enjoyment of a Chicago Dog, we decided to review a variety of toppings and choose the brands we think are the best. We also spent a lot of time taste-testing many of the hot dog brands available at your local grocery store. Click Here to visit our test lab and see our test results.

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