The Best Hot Dog You Can Purchase at a Washington Area Grocery Store Part 2

by Richard Blackman

Rich sweating over the hot grill

Conclusion: Garrett Valley Premium Beef and Aaron’s Best Beef (Kosher) hot dogs came out on top of our recent taste test where 15 hot dog lovers compared 12 hot dogs brand/types. Two years ago we had a similar event with mostly different dogs and Aarons was a top dog then too. Sunday 4pm, with “doggie” music blaring on the playlist (Hound Dog, Bird Dog, Black Dog, Puppy Love, Little Doggie in the Window and more), 15 hot-dog-loving friends started showing up for the big event in Burtonsville, Md. Ellen Fried (a hot dog pro), drove down from Atlantic City. This was a big deal.

My friend, Gary Cahn, and I felt it was time for a repeat test after the event we held in 2016. We had previously completed nine annual trips to find the best delis in the New York Washington corridor and hosted a hot dog tasting event two years ago.

Larry dressed for the occasion

Rich & Ellen "Save the Deli" Fried

In 2018 we researched the websites and the local supermarkets to try and find the top of the line and included a few from the 2016 event. All were beef except for Kayem Old Thyme (pork and beef) from the Boston Area. The rest we purchased in the DC metro area.

We again discovered that people have significantly different tastes when it comes to hot dogs. We did have close to consensus opinions on the top two and the bottom dog. Aarons and Garrett Valley were at the top of the 12 and Boars Head Beef was at the bottom. Boars Head scored so low we thought we may have gotten a bad batch. But we don’t really know.

We had 15 total testers. Some of the qualities of our taster friends which put them on the invite list are below:

    • Ellen Fried - a former administrator of “Save the Deli,” current administrator of “Ellen Loves Pastrami,” and avid user of two hot dog Facebook pages.

    • Howard W. started “The Jewish Deli Maven Fressers Club” Facebook page and has been in the deli meat business for years.

    • Marc and Annie had their second date at Nathans.

    • Larry and Malcolm have been dedicated participants in our deli trips over the last 10 years and are big fans of New Jersey’s Rutt’s Hutt cremator hot dogs.

Ellen, Howard, David & Susan taking a break from testing dogs

Marcie and Stuart

We cooked all the dogs on a Weber gas grill: approximately 20 minutes each. After cooking, we put them on Martin’s potato rolls and then cut them into fourths. Tasters had a choice of four deli mustards and sauerkraut if they chose, but no other condiments. We offered three rounds, four brands per round. We rated each dog on a one to ten scale– ten was defined as one of the best ever. One, well, you wouldn’t feed it to your dog. After rating all the dogs, each taster ranked them from best to worst (one to 12). The test was blind, and folks did not know what brand they were tasting. The entire event took approximately three hours and it was time well-spent by all.

Some of the comments on the dogs:

    • Trader Jo’s had a weird taste; tasted more like sausage.

    • Aarons – Flavorful, tasty, nice texture & excellent smoky flavor

    • Garrett Premium – Tasty, slightly garlicy, tastes like a hot dog, tastes kosher

    • Hebrew National – Juicy, some flavor

    • Garrett No Sugar – Fatty, strange taste.

    • Bests – Too salty, consistent

    • Nathans – A little off

Marcie and Annie, smiling because they were finished sampling 12 dogs

We also rated six pickle types with Batampte half-sour the winner. Those results are included on the link. We discovered that twice as many folks in general preferred half-sour to full sour, so the results will be skewed to the half-sours.

Listed below are the dogs we tried, a listing in order of preference, and where we found them. We ranked some as tied since, for instance, Garret Valley had the highest numerical rating score, but Aarons, received the highest score on the 1 to 12 ranking scale. We might have been surprised by the low score of Nathans, but we felt that Nathans dogs do better on an indoor griddle and especially at a Nathans restaurant. Details of the scoring are also available.

Earl precisely quartering the dogs