Julia Child Had Choice Words About Costco's Beloved Hot Dog

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Everything You Need To Know About Costco Hot DogsJohn Keeble / Contributor / Getty Images News; PATRICK T. FALLON / Contributor / AFP / Getty Images

Costco's food offerings are famous for a reason. Where else would you buy a rotisserie chicken for $4.99? Their bakery section sells some of the best pastries in the world (hello, lemon blueberry loaf!). But the most popular items arguably come out of the food court.

The pillowy, cheesy slices of pizza are one of our favorite items on the menu. The chicken bake is creamy, savory, and decadent. We could even write a novel on how much we love the new double chocolate chunk cookie. But everybody knows that the most famous food court offering is the $1.50 hot dog combo.

The history of the Costco hot dog is almost as long as that of the company itself. You can find the hot dog and soda combo at Costco locations all over the world, and you can pay for it with pocket change. But not everybody knows the origin story of the beloved food court treat. We've rounded up some of the most interesting facts and figures about the Costco hot dog that'll make you love the combo even more.

It Was Introduced In 1984

Costco officially opened in 1983, but it only took about a year before they started offering snacks. Instead of the food court, however, the hot dogs were first sold out of a sidewalk food cart. The very first hot dog was actually sold at what is now Costco location 401—but at the time, it was actually a Price Club (a rival discount warehouse that eventually merged with Costco in 1993).

That same year, however, Costco's Portland warehouse allowed a vendor nicknamed "Warm Wonderful Gene" to sell hot dogs outside the store too. The store's manager, Joe Portera, didn't ask Costco corporate for permission, but the brand's co-founders loved the idea so much that they let it slide.

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Hebrew National Was Costco's Original Supplier

Back before Costco expanded to the international chain we know today, the brand had to rely on a network of third-party vendors to stock the warehouse. And their go-to supplier for several decades was Hebrew National. The kosher all-beef franks were part of Costco's hot dog history from the very beginning and remained a food court staple for nearly a quarter of a century, along with another kosher hot dog supplier.

But in the early aughts, the kosher hot dog market started to dwindle and several other brands closed up shop. And with decreased supply, Hebrew National raised their prices accordingly—which threatened the sanctity of the $1.50 price tag at Costco. To keep the costs low, the warehouse decided to make their own franks. Now there are several Costco-owned meat processing facilities that supply the warehouses with hot dogs, hamburgers, and other Kirkland brand meat products.

The $1.50 Combo Is To Die For—Literally

The inflation-defying price point for Costco's hot dog combo was first set in 1985 by the vendor who started selling them out of a cart in Portland, Oregon. And since then, the prices haven't changed at all. Costco is committed to keeping their inventory affordable in general, but especially when it comes to the hot dog.

In fact, the price of the food court hot dog is a literal life and death situation. When W. Craig Jelinek joined the leadership team in 2010, he complained to Costco co-founder and CEO, Jim Sinegal, that the combo was losing the company money. Sinegal's response was one for the history books: "If you raise the effing hot dog, I will kill you. Figure it out."

The Portion Sizes Used To Be Smaller

The transition from Hebrew National to Kirkland hot dogs came with its fair share of controversy. Fans doubted the quality of the in-house franks, with some even signing an online petition to reverse the company's decision. But aside from Kirkland hot dogs beating out Hebrew National in blind taste test, there was one major perk of the switch: the new dogs are bigger.

According to the warehouse's magazine, The Costco Connection, Kirkland hot dogs are 10% heavier and longer than the original quarter pound franks. They're also made from 100 percent beef that's exclusively USDA Choice or better. And on top of that, Costco has also increased the portion size of their soda from a 12 ounce can to a 20 ounce fountain drink with free refills.

The Buns May Vary

The hot dogs themselves may be produced in-house, but the buns are still sourced from third-party vendors. And depending on which food court you visit, your buns may have their own unique features. Some local suppliers score their buns and some top them with sesame seeds.

Ultimately, it just depends on the specific recipe. But if you're sad that you're missing out on a particular bun style, don't be! The best part about Costco's buns is that they don't have to travel far before ending up at your local food court, so they're guaranteed to be fresh.

Not All Dogs Are All Beef

American Costco locations pride themselves on using high quality all-beef franks, but that doesn't mean you can't find other recipes elsewhere. In fact, at Costco food courts in Taiwan, China, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, their hot dogs are exclusively made with pork.

Different Locations Offer Different Toppings

In the United States, you can top your dog with classic condiments like ketchup, mustard and relish. And, aside from a multi-year stretch during the pandemic, warehouses also offer chopped raw onions. But did you know that international Costco locations serve their own unique toppings?

Icelandic Costco warehouses serve crispy fried onions to go with their hot dogs. French food courts offer Dijon mustard and mayonnaise at their condiment stations. And in Mexico, members can take advantage of their unlimited supply of pickled jalapeños.

Julia Child Loved Them

Even some celebrities and food personalities stand by the beloved hot dog combo. One unlikely Costco lover was, in fact, Julia Child herself. The writer of her biography, Bob Spitz, revealed in the book that Child frequently shopped at her local warehouse and always stopped by the food court on her way out. Her favorite item was, naturally, the hot dog. Spitz shared that Child loved the Costco hot dog combo "as much as a fine French meal."

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