The Fourth of July is just around the corner, and friends and family are preparing to descend on your backyard for an all-American grill out. Of course, you, as the resident grill master, are primed and ready to deliver because it's the American thing to do.
The tradition of summertime barbecues goes back to the 1800s, when colonists would smoke large animals over fire pits after the hunt. Then, after the 4th of July was established as Independence Day, politicians would hold barbecues to encourage people to come and hear their views. Once the 4th became a National Holiday in 1941, people began grilling out for themselves, and the family barbecue was born.
What to grill on the 4th of July?
According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council around 150 million hot dogs are eaten on the typical Independence Day. Meantime, a consumer data survey by Nielsen found that Americans spent nearly $804 million on beef in the two weeks around the 4th and more than $371 million on chicken.
Putting chicken and beef on the grill is a legacy from the barbecuing days of old, but hot dogs are a relatively new addition. Credit for popularizing the dog as a 4th of July staple goes to Polish-Jewish immigrant Nathan Handwerker, who founded the world-famous Nathan's hot dog stand on Coney Island in New York in 1916. When he dropped the price of his hot dogs to just 5 cents, they became a go-to food for the poor and thrifty. And eventually, a frankfurter on a bun became synonymous with America's big day.
How to make the perfect hot dog
Since Nathan's probably isn't about to give up its hot dog secrets too readily, here are some tips on grilling a perfect do-it-yourself dog.
Preheat your grill to medium-low heat.
Soak your skewers in water for at least half an hour so they won't burn on the grill.
Line up your hot dogs and create a rack by running a skewer through each end.
If you prefer to spiral-cut your hot dogs, put your skewer through the middle to hold the meat in place.
Lay the rack on the grill. Remember, most hot dogs are pre-cooked but should still be thoroughly heated to avoid food poisoning.
Flip your hot dogs to get a slight char on each side.
Place on a fresh, pillowy, untoasted bun.
And there you have it: A perfectly grilled hot dog. Of course, friendships have been tested over what toppings and condiments to add. But hey, we aren't going there. After all, this is the land of the free we're celebrating, so live and let live.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: How to grill the perfect hot dog