Hot dogs are more than just a quick meal. Cheap, easy to cook, and downright tasty, they are the classic American picnic food and a true summertime grilling staple.
I guess that’s why we eat 20 billion of them every year, or about 70 hot dogs per person, as estimated by the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council (NHDSC).
But do we all know that leaving grilled hot dogs out on the table for longer than a couple of hours, especially on a sultry summer day, can be unsafe?
As far as food safety is concerned, here’s everything you need to know about this staple dish.
According to the USDA, leaving grilled hot dogs out for longer than 2 hours (or 1 hour when the temperature is 90°F) can cause pathogenic bacteria to grow to dangerous levels inside them, rendering them unsafe to eat.
When outside, the best way to keep your food fresh and safe to eat is to cover it from the sun. So put those wieners in a big bowl, then cover it with a plastic plate or a clean cloth.
These ground rules are not unique to hot dogs. In fact, they apply to any grilled food, be it burgers, chicken, steak, fish, or even veg.
The USDA’s guide to food safety basics says that pathogenic bacteria—the kind that can give you food poisoning—grow most rapidly in the temperature range between 40°F and 140°F, doubling in count roughly every 20 minutes.
The long and the short of it, then, is to serve the hot dogs as soon as they’re done grilling and not to wait too long to disappear them.
As the grill cook, it’s crucial to ensure that you, along with everyone else at the table, eat them up within a couple of hours maximum.
So many hot dogs, so little time…
In the case that you grilled more hot dogs than you all can eat, they must either be kept at a temperature of at least 140°F (slow-cooking is always an option) or allowed to cool down and stored in the fridge, where they’ll stay good for a few days.
Left hot dogs out for longer than that, and, now, you’re unsure what to do with them?
Err on the safe side and throw them away, wrapped in plastic and tossed in a covered bin, so that none of your pets (and no unsuspecting wildlife) can get to them that easily.
The CDC estimates that every year, 48 million Americans get a foodborne illness. Of them, 128,000 end up in the hospital, and an unfortunate 3,000 die.
As tough as you think you are—and don’t we all like to think so?—you don’t wanna end up on any side of these statistics.
How to Refrigerate Grilled Hot Dogs
Tell me in the comments if you feel the same, but there’s something about the wholesome flavor of day-old hot dogs that you don’t get by eating them right off the grill.
Maybe it’s from the way that the flavors meld as the hot dogs rest. Or it could be me having the munchies in the morning of the next day. I don’t know. What I do know is that there’s a “correct” way to store them, and here’s what that way is.
To refrigerate grilled hot dogs, allow them to cool down to room temperature, then transfer them to a zipper bag or a food storage container with the lid shut and put them at the bottom of your fridge (where it’s coldest).
Though you could wrap them in plastic wrap or wax paper, it won’t keep them as fresh as sealing them in a zipper bag or an airtight container.
Properly stored and continuously refrigerated, grilled hot dogs will stay good for 3-4 days in the fridge.
Throw away any hot dogs that have been sitting longer than that as soon as possible so that others in your household don’t make the mistake of eating them.
How to Freeze Grilled Hot Dogs
To freeze grilled hot dogs, allow them to cool down, seal them in a freezer bag, then put them in the freezer. Unlike plastic wrap, the freezer bag will keep them fresh for longer by protecting them from freezer burn.
According to the USDA, frozen food stays safe to eat indefinitely. Hot dogs, however, will keep their best quality for about 1 or 2 months, after which they will start to dry out.
Defrost grilled hot dogs by placing the bag on a plate and transferring it to your fridge the night before you plan to use them. Alternatively, cover the hot dogs in cold water or use the defrost setting on your microwave.
How to Reheat Grilled Hot Dogs
The best ways to reheat hot dogs are in your oven, air-fryer, or on the stove. Unless you like them rubbery, avoid the microwave.
In the Oven
The oven is a great, albeit a slow and energy-inefficient, way to reheat hot dogs. This is why I only recommend going for it when you’re reheating a dozen or so wieners.
Reheat hot dogs on a sheet pan with a wire rack by roasting them for 10-15 minutes in a 350°F oven. In case you don’t happen to have a wire rack, put some aluminum foil or parchment paper on the sheet and flip the hot dogs at the fifth minute.
To reheat a wiener or two, consider reaching for your toaster oven, following the same instructions as for your range but cutting down the cooking time to 5-10 minutes, or your air-fryer, following the instructions that I’m about to share with you below.
In the Air-Fryer
The air-fryer’s a great appliance to have in the kitchen, I’ll tell you that. It’s basically a hybrid between a convection oven and a deep fryer, but without the long preheating times or the cooking oil.
To reheat hot dogs in your air-fryer, preheat the appliance to 400°F for 2-3 minutes, then place them in the basket and cook them for 5-6 minutes or till warm and crisp.
On the Stove
The trick to reheating grilled hot dogs on the stove is to use medium heat. You don’t want to cook them a second round. Instead, all you want is to heat them through.
Preheat a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat for 3-4 minutes, then throw in a lump of butter. Once it’s melted, layer the hot dogs and reheat them, turning them every minute or so, for 5 minutes.
|Dish||Storage Method||Shelf Life|
|Grilled hot dogs||Room temperature||1-2 hours|
|Grilled hot dogs||Refrigerated||3-4 days|
|Grilled hot dogs||Frozen||1-2 months|
There you have it, fellers. Hot dogs are good for 1-2 hours when left out, 3-4 days when refrigerated, and 1-2 months when frozen.