Hot Dog Summer

Here in Texas, the land of barbecue, few cuts are more prized than the burnt ends. They may sounds like the rejects, lowest of the low brow, but anyone worth their sauce knows that these elusive morsels hold the most intense flavor. Smoky, caramelized, crunchy yet tender, they’re darkly lacquered with spices and sugar after hours in the pit. They’re richly fatty, sticky and sweet, incredibly umami; all the taste sensations needed like light up your brain like a Christmas tree.

Burnt ends have been a particular fascination for me since moving to the Lone Star State. Everyone is enamored with them, willing to shell out ungodly sums of money for such meager portions, and yet I haven’t seen a single meatless alternative. Given the rising economic and environmental impact of this kind of indulgence, such an omission is downright shocking. Still, I couldn’t quite see an easy conversion in my mind.

That was, until I came across hot dog burnt ends. This is a parallel trend running as a proposed “poor man’s” solution to the beefy barbecue hit. That was just the opening I needed, so I took that concept and ran with it.

Vegan Hot Dog Burnt Ends are the perfect solution for plant-based and omnivorous eaters alike. They’re so deeply burnished in dark and savory caramel, you’d never know there’s no animal meat involved. Serve them as snacks, appetizers, or starters at your next party, and I guarantee they’ll be the talk of the town. Perhaps even best of all, while traditional burnt ends take hours to smoke, slow cooking over a wood fire, vegan hot dogs come fully-cooked and ready to eat. You just need to put the finishing touches on them in the oven, no grill or smoker required.

Keys to success:

  1. Line your pan with aluminum foil or use a disposable pan. Seriously, you do not want to scrape the caramelized gunk out of your favorite baking dish when this is all over. Speaking from personal experience, it sticks tenaciously and terribly.
  2. Select meatless dogs that already have a subtle smoky flavor. That lets us skip the smoking step traditionally done in a barbecue pit or grill. My favorites are Field Roast Signature Stadium Dogs and Uptonโ€™s Naturals Updog. Alternately, add 1/2 teaspoon of liquid smoke to your marinade to make up for it with a different brand.
  3. Score your dogs thoroughly. Those slits let all the spices soak in, while creating lots of additional surface area and edges to get extra crispy.

How to make it a meal:

Although these two-bite party-starters are perfect for casual munching, you could easily make them the star of your next dinner. Great ideas for accompaniments include…

Most importantly, consider doubling the recipe. These babies go fast; I promise you won’t have any leftovers even if you triple it.

Finally, I get the irresistible appeal of burnt ends. They’re not just for brisket anymore.

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