What actually goes into a hot dog? What actually goes into a hot dog?
July is the month dedicated to national hot dog day. This just goes to show how much we love a good hot dog. It’s... What actually goes into a hot dog?

July is the month dedicated to national hot dog day. This just goes to show how much we love a good hot dog.

It’s there at eating competitions, at a marathon rest stop, and of course at summer barbeques. Yet, how many of us actually know what goes into a hot dog?

We did a bit of research – and the truth was less than appealing.

hot dog ingredients list

Source: Dothan

(What even are these ingredients?)

Firstly, hot dogs are not made out of poor, innocent puppies.

Now that that’s clarified, let’s move on to what hot dogs are made out of.

The raw meat materials used for precooked-cooked products are lower-grade muscle trimmings, fatty tissues, head meat, animal feet, animal skin, blood, liver and other edible slaughter by-products.”~ Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)


we will figure this out matthew daddario GIF by Shadowhunters

1. Meat

Meat in hotdog

Source: Youtube

You would expect hot dogs to be comprised mainly of meat, right? Sad to say, not really.

If you read the label carefully, the ingredient listed has a prefix – “mechanically separated”. This refers to what is left after removing the bone from the animal’s muscle tissue.

They then pass the remnants through a machine, which mashes it into a paste.

Even then, what’s left may contain bone fragments, the blood from the carcass. The meat content usually amounts to less than 50%.

Yes, it looks like pink slime.

2. Preservatives

Glass Bottles on Shelf

Of course, manufacturers want to make as much money as possible. To make sure that these hot dogs last as long as possible, all sorts of chemicals are added.

From potassium lactate to sodium phosphates to sodium nitrate, these are but just some used.

Needless to say, these are definitely not good for our health. Sodium nitrate, a popular preservative, has been linked to an increased risk of colon cancer, especially when consuming ones present in processed meats. In case you were wondering, hot dogs are processed meat.

3. Fillers

Person Injection Red Tomato

Here’s another fun ingredient. Fillers are used to ensure that everything stays in place. Thus, a mix of fillers, as well as binders, quietly creep into the ingredient list.

Examples of fillers are corn starch, corn syrup, maltodextrin, milk powder, and cereal grains.

Shockingly, they make up quite a bit of the hot dog itself – as much as 3.5%.

Guess its name gave it away.

4. Salt

condiment shaker bottle

Undeniably, almost all products sitting on the shelve includes salt. And why not? Salt helps bring out the natural flavour of any dish, and enhances its taste.

Yet, there is a limit to how much salt to add. For instance, dumping half a packet of salt into your food won’t make it taste any better.

Consume a single hot dog, and you’ll get more than 20% of your recommended salt intake for the day. And that’s before adding your mustard, ketchup, and other toppings.

Don’t be surprised to find yourself gulping down water afterwards!

5. Flavourings

food colouring stock free

Who wants to munch on a hunk of tasteless animal carcass? Not us, for sure. That’s why to conceal any odours or off-putting tastes from the meat paste (see point no.2), a variety of flavourings are used. You never know if you’re getting more than what you asked for, as USDA doesn’t require companies to list them all on ingredient labels.

6. Casings

 hot dog process

Source: Oink Moo

Finally, after the meat is ground up, the meat paste is pumped into casings.

What are casings made out of? Glad you asked. Most of the time, its made of cellulose. Casings labelled as natural on the front of the package? That only means they’re using the intestines of an animal. Yum!


How do you feel about hot dogs now? You don’t have to eliminate them from your diet entirely, but choose ones that are of higher quality.

Remember, the shorter the ingredient list, the more likely it’s more wholesome.

We’ve answered your question of what a hot dog is made out of: Now it’s your turn to answer our question. Is a hot dog a sandwich?


Yun Xuan

A closet gastrophile, Yun Xuan can be found prowling the streets for good eats. She believes that life should come with a hefty side of fries.

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