While the nutritional value of hot dogs has always been a question mark, the simple fact is that many Americans simply don’t concern themselves with such factors and just want to enjoy a quick bite to eat. That’s proven by noting that more than 175,000 tons worth of hot dogs are sold in the United States every year.
The reason that nutritionists are critical of the makeup of a hot dog is that it consists of leftover scraps of beef, chicken and pork. The thinking is that if these trimmings aren’t good enough for normal consumption, why should these ingredients be combined to make up another meal?
Regardless of the continuing debate, one television show decided to show video of this process. The segment of “How It’s Made” on The Science Channel began with a brief history of how the hot dog was created in Germany, eventually coming to America by way of immigrants. The specific factory shown has the capability to produce up to 300,000 hot dogs per hour.
Using the same methods that butchers use to carve hamburger meat, those trimmings are ground up through large machines with grated metal plates. Food starch, salt and flavorings like ground mustard are then added. In the latter case, flavorings fluctuate due to regional tastes.
Water is then added to that mix and then blended together in a large vat. In order to offer a hint of sweetness to the final product, some corn syrup is then added before more water follows to enhance the juiciness. Mixed together in pureed fashion through the use of another machine, all air is vacuumed out.
A stuffing machine is then set up, with long rows of cellulose tubing loaded onto it beforehand. With the pureed mix pumped into the machine, the casings used are twisted every 5.25 inches, which is the length of a normal hot dog.
Despite the seemingly complicated process involved, the final product can be produced quickly. One estimate is that chains of hot dogs that span two soccer fields can be produced in just 35 seconds.
A trio of those chains are then linked together and moved onto another machine before then being put through a liquid smoke shower. That’s followed by placing it into an oven with a number of cooking zones. During this stretch, the liquid smoke is able to seep through the casings, which adds more flavor to the hot dogs as they bake.
Once this process has ended, the hot dogs are then sent through cold, salty water, which will chill them prior to being packaged. Another machine then pulls each of the chains onto a conveyor, where they slide into metal containers.
All though production, a black stripe can be seen on each of the casings. When it disappears, that means that cooking has been completed and the hot dog can be packaged.
However, before that occurs, an estimated 700 hot dogs per minute go through a peeler machine, with a tiny knife slicing the top of each casing as it goes through. That’s followed by steamy air, which blows the casing off.
One of the final steps is to have an inspector quickly check to see that the casings have been removed and that no defective hot dogs exist. This then prepares those hot dogs for packaging.
The unique nature of seeing each step of how such a popular item is made has apparently resonated with online audiences. That’s because since the video was first posted on January 2, 2012, it’s been viewed nearly 46 million times.