Lovers of beer and brats (*and who isn’t one?) will be thrilled to know that hot dog cookers are available now in all kinds of shapes and sizes, even that small version of the pro-hot dog roller cooker style ‘as seen on television’. The hazards of cooking hotdogs, especially those shiny brats, include that they constantly fall off the grill onto the flames if you’re grilling, or they fall in the dirt, or that they just burn on one side. You need a specialist gadget to prevent that. They run between low cost and professional to über professional super high end, but all are worth a look and I know you will find one that is perfect for your tailgate party requirements. To make things easy, we’ve put together this list of the best hot dog cookers for your tailgate party.
This one is a bit of fun. I wouldn’t recommend for the tailgate party as it only holds enough hot dogs for one person. And you can’t fit the nice, fat juicy brats in. OK for kids though. And would make a great gift for a teenager and he/she could keep it in the rumpus room.
Of course, you want something smallish that ensures a juicy bratwirsty hot dog result every time. Not a dinky toy. Something that says ‘I’m a chef’. Yeah, well, hot dogs need some kitchen lovin’ too!Especcially at a tailgate party because IMHO (again, forget the H) people are very judgemental and there’s a level of crushing cool entering the realm of tailgating.
We love to host tailgate parties and what we have found is that apart from dropping into Chipotle en route, the best and least stressful event involves getting in a supply of snags, bread rolls and toppings and letting everyone build their own mound of deliciousness. Easy as pie. No. Easier by far than pie. Which generally gets soggy before the game commences.
I decided to take a look at some hot dog cookers and their pros and cons so check out these reviews of the best hot dog cookers for tailgate parties.
They say this one cooks up to 8 sausages or hamburgers and is versatile and reliable. There’s a bun warmer in the lid, most can be put in the dishwasher and it’s about the same size as a panini maker. They advertise it as ‘now you can enjoy the great taste of stadium-style hot dogs at home’ but I’m thinking that is the worst way to advertise. I know that most of you would prefer a really fine bratwurst or spicy Tex-Mex sausage not just the mystery meat offerings. The main feature is that it allows you to cook slowly without burning or drying out your sausage and it keeps your dogs and buns warm and toasty until you are ready to eat. The removable tray drains away fat, and the special lid warms buns and you can shove most of it in the dishwasher.
Very inexpensive. One of the best hot dog cookers for its versatility, price and ease of use – plus it’s portable!
The power drain from a generator would be minimal (60 watts) if you are on unpowered sites and it weighs just over 7 pounds. You could even run it off a battery pack and it would last till cooked.
Takes quite a while to cook (up to 30 minutes) and when they say it holds 8 hot dogs, these would be of the Ikea-size small sausages, not the big, fat brats I am used to.
Anyway, so I am marking this as the base rate. It’s OK but there are better out there (and there are worse).
Here’s the cheapest:
It’s also the low techest. If that’s a word. Pretty much just a non-stick grid onto which you can balance up the hot dogs and cook on the stove or BBQ top. To rotate the snags, you need to give the plate a bit of a forward and backward juggle from time to time and the sausages will turn around. An niexact science. But it’s really an OK BBQ accessory. Not great for cooking a heap of dogs at the same time. If you just want to cook a small quantity at a time, this Cuisinart Hot Dog Roller is good enough. At the budget end of life, this is extremely cheap. It holds up to 5 dogs (smallish ones) and stops the sausages from rolling off during cooking while making it easy to keep them on the move to cook evenly. The unit is easy to pack and operates off your grill so on a gas grill this would be a nice combo. Cuisinart is a reliable brand, too. I really like the wooden handle which is angled away from the heat and many other roller ‘pans’ don’t have that so you need to pack some long Oven mitts so you don’t get burned, with fingers and definitely not any of those slippery silicone versions.
But if you are a real fan of brats, beer and sport and want to combine those heavenly elements at tailgate parties, then you need to take the game up a notch.
A commercial machine, this is perfect for hosting a large party. Not that expensive either. It has 7 rollers and you can comfortably fit 18 standard hot dogs (I would say 12 fat brats) on it. At 1400 watts, it is in need of power so a generator is advised (minimum 2000 watts. Which can run a small TV as well. See our reviews of the best portable generators here.) This is one of the best hot dog cookers for smaller tailgate parties.
It has an optional sneeze guard.
Many have these built in. I rather like that idea better.
Oh, and it’s so darn solid state that you could run a little stand and it would pay for itself on the first day. Get a health permit, of course! (great for helping the kids out at a school fairs and hot dog days too.)
The power for this one is very even and your brats not only do not burn, they also stay relatively moist.
The Great Northern Popcorn Company (the maker) calls it ‘a masterpiece’ and it is the original machine designed by the corporation. Note that they also actually DO make popcorn machines so they are really into this foyer food. But I think it is a valid addition to the tailgate party. There’s an awesomeness about hot dogs that is hard to compete with. You get a 1 year limited warranty. The material is a solid state Stainless steel, easy to clean. The rollers are premium grade non-stick stainless steel. It has a heavy duty motor and safety temperature control and actually, there’s a nifty dual temperature control which allows you to roast or cook on the front rollers while at the back, you just keep the first batch warm to the correct ‘warmer’ temperature over 145 degrees F. The rollers rotate a full 360 degrees. Some of the cheap units do not do that.
It has a built-in fuse for safety purposes but to protect it while running it off a generator, get a surge guard.
I like the one with an extension cable to keep the generator away from the party.
There are built in rubber feet for tabletop use so the hot dog roller sits with some stability and won’t jiggle off the table.
Removable and easy to clean stainless steel drip tray and cleaning is really simple.
Tecchy Specifications: -110V/50Hz. -Power: 1400-watt.
Maximum capacity: 18 hot dogs per batch (6 rows of 3).
The tray dimensions are: 11-inch W by 17.75-inch D. but the overall dimensions are 23-inch H with cover, by 13-inch W by 15-inch D. So allow some space.
Hard to beat that one for a tailgate party or for home-gating!
Unless you get its big brother which is somewhat the same only more expensive and will grill 30 brats at a time.
This is the
(sneeze guard is built in and included).
Basically, I reiterate everything I said about the 18 hot dog model except for the power pull which increases in direct proportion to your capacity to grill. It has the same features and benefits, but is bigger, is all. I do like it, but then the power suck-up will be greater so this may be better for home-gating. One of the best hot dog cookers for those who need to cook large numbers of dogs.
Now for something that is just for fun. But it works. To some extent.
What can I say? It’s kind of dinky and only fits 8 Ikea sized hot dogs, or 4 footlongs, and the brats will fit in the grooves but only just. But it is fun. Again, you need power, so if this is your thing, then go for it. A nice feature is the bun warmer (that’s a box just under the awning) and it rescues this from being a total novelty.
It has an adjustable heat knob, plus is built to American standards so it won’t blow up like some cheap appliances. It’s cute. Now if only there were a beer one rather than a Coke one. Time to break out those Martha Stewart skills and repaint this sucker with some team logos!
It is very inexpensive so maybe inflict it on a friend as a host gift when you turn up at his tailgate party. Definitely wins points for novelty value – I’d say it’s the best hot dog cooker for a gift for those who like Coke™.
This guy has all the features of the 18 hot dog machine above but is smaller, for 12 hot dogs, includes the cover (which you need to assemble with no instructions) and is slightly heavier and bulkier but here’s the thing: it only draws 750 watts which means you could take a large battery pack to run it instead of a generator. But apart from that, it is under $100 at the moment which is around a 60% discount, to purchase and probably enough for most tailgate parties. It also has the 360 degree rotation and dual temperature zone so these really can’t be faulted. Easy to clean, easy to re-equip with the sneeze guard should you break that. It has the same guarantee.
Just on price alone, I probably would go for this as the best solution for the hot dog cooking dilemma. One of the best hot dog cookers for convenience and size.
Then there’s this:
Now before you rush out and buy one, remember that if you are tailgate partying in an unpowered site, this one is limited by what ever sized generator you own.
Having said that, it is clean, hygienic and you can start a business (note: health permit needed for that) churning out the brats and beer (liquor license required). Possible one of the best hot dog cookers for novelty value!
Ahhh do I hear dreams of not working for the man ever again? Hot dog cart here I come.
It’s more about steaming the hotdogs and holding them at a safe temperature. I think it has its place but steamed brats are not as nice as grilled.
The weight is around 24 pounds too so it will add to your kit quite a lot.
For my money, this one is a no, because I like something a lot less cumbersome, and prefer grilled doggies, but it certainly has its uses and may just be what you are looking for.
Garnishes and Fixin’s
Almost anything goes with a brat no matter what the flavor profile. It’s en vogue to have Korean Mexican profile fixin’s so think about that. Ms. Tailgate always has a great bowl of finely manicured salads and pickles so that they fit perfectly on the plate/fork/fist/bun. That’s a start.
For your fillings, some mustards of your liking in squirty bottles, ditto the relish, maybe some kimchee, tomato ketchup, sriracha, finely sliced up rings of red onion (or white) which you can soak overnight in some rice vinegar for that Asian flavor profile, dill pickles and you’re experiencing gourmet heaven! Line them up on a board so that guest can help themselves. Provide lots of paper napkins for the messy eaters(or recyclable cloth ones if you are thinking ‘green’).
Naturally, it is your obligation to provide lots of beer to wash the food down with and a kegerator will have your back on this aspect.
You can present the fixin’s in chiller trays like this one that has a layer of ice at the base to keep everything snapping fresh:
Or in the traditional squeeze bottles – You can buy 12 chef styled squirt bottles here. They are among the handiest things you can have in your tailgate party kit.
Or in a Sectional dish. This one also has ice at the base.
It’s up to you. There are plenty of travel-easy options.
So there you have a simple guide to what I think are the best (or oddest) hot dog options out there. I will add to this list as I stumble upon new machines so do call back occasionally for a look.