While cooking a hot dog on a stick over the fire may seem simple enough, there are a few things you should know about roasting a hot dog over an open fire before you get started. After many years of camping and cooking outdoors, here are a few tips for successfully cooking hot dogs on a stick over a fire.
Cook Over Coals Not Flames
I’m going to assume that you already know how to build a good campfire. That being said, the key to cooking a great hot dog over a campfire is not cooking your hot dog directly over your flames.
Once you have a campfire established and it is time to cook, either let the fire die down to coals, or pull the bulk of your fire off to one side so you have a glowing bed of coals to cook over.
How Far to Put Hot Dogs Over Your Coals
The short answer to how high to put your hot dogs over your coals is between 8″ and 10″ depending on how hot the coals are. Obviously the closer you put your hot dog to the coals, the faster it will cook. Personally, I like to take my time with my hot dogs so they get heated right through, and get a nice bit of caramelization on the outside.
If you put your hot dogs too close to the coals, the outside will burn before the inside has time to get warm. If you can put your hand over the coals for 5-7 seconds before you have to pull it away, that is about the right temperature for cooking hot dogs in my opinion.
Metal Sticks Vs Wood
When you are considering cooking hot dogs over a campfire, you really have two choices, using a stick or a pre-made metal fork. Both have their advantages.
Metal forks are very convenient, not particularly expensive, and are your best option if cooking somewhere without a ready supply of wood sticks. The downside to using metal forks for hot dogs is that you have to remember to pack them, hot dogs can easily slide off if used wrong, and they have to be cleaned up afterward.
If you are looking to purchase some metal hot dog cooking forks, Amazon has a bunch of them, most of which are pretty much the same. You really only have to decide if you want straight tines on your fork or Y-shaped ones.
Wood hot dog roasting sticks are great if you have them available and want to take the time to make them. You do need to find the right trees and prepare the sticks for use, and they can be a little floppy. The upside to using wood sticks is that there is no cleanup afterward, they are fully biodegradable and all-organic.
Some places sell long wooden skewers for roasting hot dogs and I’m not a fan. First off, they require a lot of wood and energy waste to make, which isn’t good for the environment, but also, they are dry wood, which makes them prone to burning and catching fire. No one wants to lose a hotdog to a stick fire.
Don’t use old coat hangers for roasting hot dogs! I’ll add this in real quick that I’ve seen some people suggesting that you use old coat hangers for cooking hot dogs. I highly don’t suggest this as coat hangers are coated with chemicals or plastic to keep them from rusting and you don’t want that stuff cooking off into your hot dog!
Choose The Right Stick
If you are going to use a stick for roasting a hot dog, look for a springy branch about 1/3 the diameter of your hot dog, from a leafy tree. A stick that is too thin will be springy and hard to control, and one that is too big will tend to split your hot dog. If in doubt, get one that is a little too thick and then whittle it down to the proper diameter on the cooking end.
Don’t use Pine tree branches as they will leave your hot dog with that pine flavor. Cut your stick to a good length, at least 24″, then strip the bark of the cooking end and sharpen it up.
If you can find a branch with a fork, that will work well too, with you skewering our hot dog across both of the forks. One word of caution, if you are using a straight stick, be sure to thread your hot dog on lengthwise. If you go crosswise, it will not be stable and be hard to turn over, and is likely to fall off.
Don’t Point Your Stick Down
One big mistake people make when cooking a hot dog over a fire is keeping it pointed down into the coals. This can lead to the unfortunate situation of losing your dog in the fire. As hot dogs cook, they expel grease and shrink, meaning they lose their grip on your stick.
Keep your hot dog cooking stick pointed up or at least level to help prevent slippage!
Upgrading Your Game
Once you get the basics of cooking hot dogs on a stick over a campfire, you can start getting creative. Obvious options include bacon wrapping your dogs, or doing a wrap with pastry dough.
Here is an interesting option for doing bacon and cheese pigs in a blanket on a stick over the campfire that I will try out the next time I go camping.