Hot Dog Cookers Buyers' Guide
Deciding between hot dog steamers, rollers, and broilers can be difficult because each uses a different method of cooking that can impart a different taste and texture. There are many considerations to keep in mind, including your sales volume, target demographic, and what type of foodservice operation you are running.
Hot Dog Steamers
Hot dog steamers vary in size, but the larger models are capable of cooking quickly and in large quantities, steaming as many as 230 franks in 45 minutes. The steaming method of cooking results in plump, juicy wieners that many people love. Natives of Chicago and Boston are known for their love of steamed franks, as opposed to grilled ones, and several other regions throughout the country enjoy this style as well.
Hot dog steamers generally have a compact footprint while still maintaining a high output, making them ideal for cart vendors and concession stands. European models steam the franks vertically, making them especially compact. Most steamers are easy to clean and maintain, and are able to hold the cooked hot dogs at safe temperatures until they are ready to serve.
Many hot dog steamer models have a separate compartment where the buns can be warmed and/or steamed so they are kept soft until purchased. This type of hot dog machine eliminates the worry of products drying out if they don't sell quickly. While some hot dog steamers have solid construction, many have a glass front and lighting to help merchandise the product inside.
Hot Dog Roller Grills
Often seen in gas stations and convenience stores, hot dog roller grills offer a way to cook hot dogs with little supervision while allowing customers to serve themselves. These hot dog machines have either an open top or a clear sneeze guard, making the hot dogs visible to customers, which can increase impulse sales. Some models are also slanted to increase product visibility.
Hot dog rollers impart a different taste and texture to hot dogs than steamers, and some people prefer the browned, slightly crispier texture this cooking method produces. If you will be selling items other than hot dogs that can be cooked on a roller grill, such as egg rolls, sausages, or taquitos, the flexibility of some roller grill models will come in handy, as the larger versions often allow you to set different temperatures for different zones. Bun storage comes standard with some roller grills, while adding one later is an option on most, allowing you to store buns in the same footprint you are cooking the hot dogs in.
Hot Dog Broilers
Hot dog broilers cook franks by heating them in an oven-like environment while rotating them to ensure they cook evenly. The hot dogs are rotated using either a spike wheel or cradle wheel. Spike wheels have long spikes that puncture through the length of the frank, then all of the spikes are turned on a single central rod. Cradle wheels resemble a Ferris wheel, with one or more franks held in each "cradle," which stays upright as the wheel rotates.
The typical hot dog broiler has a smaller capacity than a hot dog steamers, but can cook the franks quickly. Some models have a water pan, so the resulting frank is both steamed and broiled, meaning its taste and texture falls somewhere between the hot dogs produced by the roller grills and steamers. This type of hot dog machine has a larger footprint than others with similar output, but the movement happening in the cabinet of the rotisserie can be a big benefit at concession stands and on hot dog carts, where the action can draw in customers.