Is there any first bite more magical than that of a corn dog? Deep-fried and perfectly crisped, the classic snack on a stick can instantly carry you to a highlight reel of summer—wearing shorts and flip-flops with the sky above lit by the sparkle of a giant Ferris wheel. You still have butterflies from the swirling teacups, and you’re already in line for the ring-toss game you’ll never win. In that moment, there is nothing more comforting than the corn dog you just had dipped to order.
I look forward to festival fare all winter long, but a good corn dog is my personal favorite. I love the juicy hot dog center, steaming soft cornmeal batter and golden brown finish—and I am totally dedicated to duplicating the experience at home. Following is a breakdown of the ultimate corn dog, including tips and tricks for crafting the summertime staple in the kitchen to enjoy all year long.
The Classic Corn Dog: Deconstructed
There are several important factors involved in creating the perfect batter. First of all, it must include cornmeal. Yes, because it’s a “corn” dog, but also because it’s the cornmeal that creates the soft, small-crumb interior and crunchy outside. Secondly, you need a leavening agent, traditionally baking powder, to help the batter puff up as it fries. And lastly, the batter needs to have the right consistency—too thick, and it won't cook all the way, leaving you with a doughy corn dog. Too thin, and the batter won’t adhere to the hot dog.
Ensure a perfect batter consistency by adding the milk very slowly. You can always add more, but you have to start over if you add too much. Fry a test piece to make sure it’s on track before dipping and frying any more.
You can’t go wrong with a classic, all-beef hot dog. But, when it comes to the meat of the matter, experiment with other flavored, smoked links and meats too.
Avoid using cheese-filled hot dogs, since the cheese looks for a place to escape during the frying process, causing a dangerous situation as it melts into hot oil.
There absolutely are some best practices when it comes to the deep-fry we know and love. First, choose an oil with a high smoking point. Peanut, vegetable and canola oils are all neutral tasting and have high smoking points too. Secondly, be sure to fill your pot no more than halfway
to negate the risk of it bubbling over when the frying begins.
Finally, make sure your oil comes to the ideal temperature of 350 degrees before you actually begin frying. If you lower the dipped dogs into oil that isn’t ready, the batter will absorb it and make the end result super greasy. Use a thermometer to be sure and double check by dropping a pinch of batter into the oil—when it floats, bubbles and starts to cook, the oil is ready.
Corn Dog Muffins
The cooking method
Switch out the stick for a muffin tin! Corn dog muffins are easier to make, more nutritious for a family to eat, handier to make ahead and pack, and a lot less messy to pull together. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and add cupcake liners to a muffin tin. Lightly coat each liner with cooking spray and then dole out the batter. I like to use an ice cream scoop to portion it evenly. Place a half scoop into each liner, sprinkle with meat, layer another half scoop, and then finish with a couple more pieces of meat. Slide into the oven and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, approximately 15 minutes.
Slice up good ol’ fashioned hot dogs or sausages to make corn dog muffins in a muffin tin
. Or, chop thinly-sliced ham, turkey and salami, and drop the pieces right into the divvied-up batter to enjoy a bit of meat in every bite. You could even cube 2-3 thicker, 1/2-inch slices of deli meat and layer them between half-scoops of batter to allow more meat per muffin. To create even greater flavor and texture, sauté the deli meat in a little oil before adding it to the batter.
Adding spices and herbs is a great way to experiment with corn dog muffins. I’ve never made them the same way twice! I like to add dry mustard powder, a pinch of cayenne or a handful of chopped fresh herbs to the batter. Whatever’s popping up in the window herb garden adds a bit of grown-up gourmet to corn dog muffins. After they bake, while warm, top each with a drizzle of honey and a small pat of butter.
More Corn Dog Tips & Tricks
- When making traditional corn dogs on sticks, lightly dredge skewered hot dogs in cornstarch or flour to help the batter stick the first time they are dipped.
- Save time and use a boxed mix as a starting point for the batter. It’s affordable, delicious, and it’s probably sitting on your lazy Susan right now.
- Let homemade corn dogs rest, ideally 3-5 minutes, before serving. Burning the roof of your mouth takes all the fun out of the experience.
- Offer a variety of sauces alongside the classic ketchup and mustard choices. Try barbecue sauce, green tomato jam and homemade relish.
Gobble up the goodness of summer gatherings all year long. Experiment with the classic components and cooking methods to come up with your own signature version. By muffin or stick, enjoy a great corn dog winter, spring, summer and fall.