Best Cheap Hot Dogs
Published on By Raechel Conover
Ball Park Franks Review
From $0.31 Best
While no pork-based hot dog passed the enjoyment test with our tasters, the Ball Park (Original) garnered the least criticism. The flavor was acceptable but the consistency was lacking.
A Ball Park franks review of the beef and original pork-based varieties by our panel of judges in a blind tasting awarded the products a failing grade and a passing grade, respectively.
Whereas beef hot dogs were always preferred to the pork-based wieners under review, Ball Park's (Original) Frank -- a blend of turkey, pork, and beef, along with other hot dog ingredients -- scored the highest in the latter category. In other words, the Ball Park pork-based frank garnered the least amount of criticism. When pressed, our tasters declared it the "best" non-beef dog. One said "the taste is just okay and it's still a weird consistency" while another likened the flavor to bologna but called it "the best of the bunch." Other Ball Park franks reviewers mentioned "good flavor, but not juicy" and "good taste, but texture is off." These remarks actually seemed like compliments given the general consensus about the pork-based wieners in our sample.
Ball Park Beef Franks, on the other hand, failed to impress our review panel at all. When asked to comment, one taster said the franks were "lacking a good beef flavor and had a weird texture." Added another: "It's not great, kind of a fake taste, and very bologna-flavored." Reviewers at Good Housekeeping found Ball Park's beef franks more to their liking, describing them as mildly salty with a sweet offset and side of garlic although the interior consistency was a downer.
The original, pork-based frank (starting at 31 cents/serving) packs 180 calories and 15 grams of fat (5 of which are saturated) and 480 milligrams of sodium, or 20 percent of the recommended daily value. A Ball Park beef frank (starting at 62 cents/serving) contains 190 calories and 16 grams of fat, including 7 of the saturated kind. There's a whopping 550 milligrams of sodium (23 percent of the recommended daily value) in these dogs.
Ball Park launched in 1957 in Detroit when the owner of the Tigers baseball team sought out a frank specifically for his stadium. The brand has since expanded its reach and now shows up in grocery stores, convenience stores, and, of course, Comerica Park (home of the Detroit Tigers). The product lineup also includes beef patties, Angus brats, and Angus beef hot links.
Looking for a budget-priced pork-based frankfurter? Try the Ball Park brand. If your palate runs to beef hot dogs, don't bother.
Oscar Mayer Classic Beef Franks Review
From $0.35 Best
The overall favorite in the beef category, Oscar Mayer franks stood out from the crowd based on flavor, juiciness, and texture, an outcome that surprised many of our judges.
The Oscar Mayer Classic franks in our review won both top and bottom ratings. The beef hot dog beat out four other entries in a blind taste test while the pork-based wiener lost out to two others.
Our panel of judges favored the Oscar Mayer Classic Beef owing to several factors: flavor, juiciness, and texture. As one taster put it: "The good flavor, smoky taste, and juiciness all combine to make me want to eat the whole hot dog." Another review participant said the Oscar Mayer beef frank had a "good dog flavor and nice firm texture." On the other hand, the pork-based hot dog (containing turkey and chicken, as well) didn't measure up. Panelists declared the Oscar Mayer Classic Wiener less than desirable. One taster pronounced it "not at all juicy, and there is an odd texture to it" while another declared "the aftertaste is not good."
The collective opinion of Oscar Mayer Wieners (and some other varieties in the brand's hot dog line-up) at Influenster is far more positive. The product garners a 4-and-a-half-star rating from more than 1,300 reviews posted by consumers who have received complimentary samples. They rave that the budget-priced hot dogs are plump, juicy, flavorful, cheap, and easy to cook at home or around the campfire.
Each Classic Beef Frank (starting at 35 cents/serving, Amazon) delivers 140 calories and 13 grams of fat (including 5 of the saturated variety), and contains 360 milligrams of sodium, of 15 percent of the recommended daily value. Each Classic Wiener (starting at 19 cents/serving, Amazon) provides 110 calories and 9 grams of fat (including 3 saturated grams), and contains 340 milligrams of sodium, or 14 percent of the recommended daily value.
The well-known Oscar Mayer brand started 125 years ago when two brothers (one named Oscar F. Mayer) opened a small butcher shop in Chicago. They started selling bockwurst, liverwurst, and weiswurst and the eponymous products eventually became the first recognized meat brand. Today the Oscar Mayer product line includes cold cuts, bacon, Lunchables, and several types of hot dogs.
The bottom line from our Oscar Mayer Classic hot dog review: This brand is your best bet when buying beef franks, but the opposite holds for the traditional wieners. If a pork-based dog is on the menu, try a different brand.
Eckrich Franks Review
From $0.19 Good
Another pork-based wiener boasting what one taster called a smoky flavor, some considered it just okay and others panned it.
Our Eckrich Franks review yielded one lone vote as best pork-based hot dog during a blind tasting of eight beef and pork brands. Pork dogs in general ranked low with our judges, but against that backdrop Eckrich Franks managed to command some faint praise. Some panelists declared that the wieners present "a decent smoky flavor" and overall were "OK" and "not too bad." More negative assessments broke out along the lines of "too dry" and "not very good." A double-blind tasting of 20 beef franks orchestrated by a Huffington Post contributor several years ago placed the Eckrich version among the bottom four. (We did not taste any Eckrich beef franks.)
The primary ingredient in Eckrich Franks (starting at 19 cents/serving, Amazon) is turkey, followed by pork; beef is listed as an ingredient after water, corn syrup, modified food starch, flavorings, and the like. Each dog contains 140 calories and 12 grams of fat, including 4 that are saturated. There are 450 milligrams of sodium in a serving, the equivalent of 19 percent of the recommended daily value.
Eckrich hot dogs first appeared in 1894 at a small meat market in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Owner and founder Peter Eckrich soon expanded into a second shop and opened a plant to support a growing wholesale business. In addition to the franks we tasted, the Eckrich brand encompasses a variety of hot dog types, sausages, lunch meats, deli meat, and bacon.
With mixed reviews from our panel, Eckrich emerged relatively unscathed for a pork-based wiener. If these are the type of hot dogs you want to serve, Eckrich is a good and inexpensive option. If you want a marginally better product, spend a few cents more on Ball Park (Original) Franks. Better yet, pick up a package of beef hot dogs instead.
Kroger Hot Dogs Review
From $0.32 Good
The majority of our tasting panel agreed that this frank wasn't terrible and was better than other entries. They liked the smoky and salty flavor but said the texture was a bit off.
We tested two Kroger-brand beef franks in our blind-tasting review. The cheaper Kroger Value hot dog -- now marketed under a new store brand, Heritage Farm -- fared better with the judges than the pricier and so-called "healthy" Simple Truth version.
The cheaper hot dog garnered one vote for best in class. The review panel served up a modestly positive assessment, with comments such as "the taste is there with a definite smoky flavor" and "the first bite is pretty good." Dissenting judges said it was "over salty" and one remarked that "something tastes a bit off." The Kroger Simple Truth Uncured Beef frank received nary a vote from reviewers and was described as "just average, with not a lot of flavor." Most judges echoed this sentiment and couldn't identify any way in which this frankfurter stood out from the crowd.
In Kroger-brand hot dog reviews posted at Roadfood, various iterations of the product line claim a hold on consumers' taste buds. One expressed surprise at the high quality of a store brand and a couple deemed them on par with Nathan's Famous.
As for nutritional information, a Simple Truth hot dog (starting at 64 cents/serving) contains 140 calories and 12 grams of fat, with 4 grams of saturated fat. Heritage Farm hot dogs (starting at 32 cents/serving) have 130 calories, 11 grams of fat, and 4 grams of saturated fat. In terms of sodium, the Heritage Farm frank towers over its fellow store brand, at 510 milligrams compared with 260 milligrams. The Simple Truth Uncured beef dog is a relatively healthy one, made with meat from cows that have been humanely raised, fed a vegetarian diet, and kept free of antibiotics and hormones. Simple Truth franks also don't contain any preservatives, fillers, MSG, or gluten.
Kroger is a large supermarket chain that dates back to 1883 when the first store opened in Cincinnati, Ohio. Today the company operates more than 2,600 stores spanning 34 states. Heritage Farm is one of three budget-priced brands that replaced Kroger Value. Simple Truth was developed in-house as a way to satisfy the growing interest in, and demand for, affordable organic or natural foods.
Although Kroger Value hot dogs didn't win the top berth in our taste-off, their Heritage Farm successors are likely please the family along with your wallet. The Simple Truth Uncured Beef version seemed bland but might suffice as a reliable, budget- and health-conscious alternative to the traditional beef frankfurter.
Nathan's Famous Beef Franks Review
From $0.37 Good
For a hot dog that was a favorite going in, a weak second-place finish was totally unexpected. Some reviewers deemed it bland while others liked the taste.
Our panel of taste testers offered up mixed assessments in their review of Nathan's Famous Beef Franks. Despite an earlier avowal by several panelists that this brand is tops, a blind taste-off with four other beef hot dogs revealed the error of their preconceptions. Comments like "tougher, very good flavor, but not as juicy" and "good, light flavor, but weird aftertaste" were directed at Nathan's Famous. Some reviewers called them out as "bland" while others said they were "good." In the end, the brand tied for a distant second place finish in the beef category alongside a Kroger store brand. Nathan's Famous franks cost considerably more than other beefy dogs in our review sample, causing some judges to declare them beyond their definition of cheap, and several expressed shock that less costly franks held greater appeal.
Editors at Redbook, by comparison, were wowed. Their review declared Nathan's Famous the best beef frank, citing virtues such as beefy flavor, a snappy skin, and a taste that rises to hot dog expectations.
Nathan's Famous Beef Franks (starting at 37 cents/serving, Amazon) are filled with 170 calories and 15 grams of fat, including 6 grams of saturated fat. Sodium content reaches 470 milligrams, the equivalent of 20 percent of the recommended daily value.
The brand is rich in hot dog history. It started out in 1916 as a small hot dog stand in Coney Island, New York and later blossomed into its "famous" reputation. The beef hot dogs were even served to England's reigning monarchs in 1939 and a bevy of celebrities and politicians have flocked to Nathan's Famous for photographs. Nathan's Famous beef franks are now sold throughout the United States, in retail markets and fast-food outlets. If you venture into a Nathan's Famous restaurant you'll find a menu that also includes chicken, hamburgers, fries, and more.
Based on our panel's review, Nathan's Famous isn't the first-class dog they expected even though it claims numerous fans who would argue otherwise. A bit pricey, true, but many would say you're getting your money's worth.
At the height of the summer grilling season, we wondered: Which of the many budget brands sold in supermarkets qualify as the best cheap hot dogs? To find out, we assembled a panel of seven judges, who bellied up to plates loaded with unidentified samples of eight different unadorned franks: pork-based wieners from Oscar Mayer, Ball Park, and Eckrich; beef dogs from Oscar Mayer, Ball Park, Nathan's Famous, and Kroger. The results were surprising.
Hot Dog Taste Test
Two conclusions leaped out from the blind tasting: Pork hot dogs are rarely, if ever, a good buy despite their super-cheap price, and paying up for a supermarket-style hot dog or opting for a "healthy" version does nothing for the taste.
Prior to the tasting, several panelists volunteered that Nathan's Famous Beef Franks were their favorite. But in the end, Oscar Mayer (starting at 35 cents/serving) cleaned up, winning five of the seven votes for best cheap beef hot dog. Kroger Value (now marketed as Heritage Farm, starting at 32 cents/serving) and Nathan's Famous (starting at 37 cents/serving) each snared a lone vote, barely sufficient to justify a second-place finish (but those are the rules of the game). Both Ball Park (starting at 62 cents/serving) and Kroger Simple Truth (starting at 64 cents/serving) beef franks struck out with tasters.
The cheap pork-based hot dogs, which all contain turkey, chicken, and/or beef, displeased our judges all around. Although there were few positive words for any of the options, Ball Park (starting at 31 cents/serving) garnered six votes for best, leaving one for Eckrich (starting at 19 cents/serving) -- again, reluctantly declared a runner-up -- and none for Oscar Mayer (starting at 19 cents/serving).
Our blind tasting revealed that price had little bearing on each hot dog's standing with the judges. At the Kroger supermarket where we shopped for all the samples, prices for the beef franks ranged from 32 cents per serving (Kroger's Heritage Farm) to 64 cents per serving (Kroger's Simple Truth). Both finished as distant also-rans when the votes were tallied. The Kroger Simple Truth beef wiener, a so-called better-for-you hot dog with "natural" ingredients (no hormones, antibiotics, preservatives, or fillers), earned nary an affirming vote. Oscar Mayer Beef Franks, the second cheapest among those sampled, at 35 cents per serving, easily emerged triumphant.
Pork-based hot dogs are cheaper than their all-beef cousins, but the correlation between taste and price was again unclear. Both Eckrich and Oscar Mayer pork wieners cost 19 cents per serving at our local Kroger. The former settled into second place by default while the latter totally bombed. The winning wiener in the pork category, Ball Park (Original), cost 31 cents per dog.
The qualities our judges were looking for in a good hot dog became clear very early into the tasting. The first was real flavor. Our tasters pined for an essence of authenticity, whether the frank was beef or pork-based; flavors that seemed artificial were a decided turn-off. Spice and seasoning also played a critical role, with smoky overtones preferred, along with a zesty blend of paprika and other unidentified flavorings. Texture and juiciness affected votes, as well. A dry hot dog flopped with our judges, while mushy texture was declared downright gross (and the primary cause of the pork hot dogs' downfall).
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Best Cheap Beef and Pork Hot Dog Reviews
The taste testers unanimously concluded that cheap pork-based hot dogs come out way short in a direct face-off with cheap beef hot dogs. The texture is off, they said, and the flavor is awful. The word "gross" was frequently tossed around in the discussion of low-cost pork frankfurters. As one very frugal panel member said: "It is far worth the extra money, however much, to buy beef hot dogs over pork hot dogs." We can safely say there are now seven people who will not buy a pork-based dog again.
Beef Hot Dogs.As a category, beef hot dogs proved to be top dogs in a blind tasting that also included several pork-based versions. All the beef franks were preferred to the pork in our panelists' considered opinion. That said, some beefy dogs fared better than others. Oscar Mayer Classic Beef was the standout winner. One reviewer simply said "it tastes good, and the seasoning was right," while another remarked that "it has a good salty, sausagey, smoky flavor, and it's nice and juicy with a good texture."
Both Nathan's Famous Beef Franks and Kroger Value Beef Hot Dogs (now Heritage Farm) tied for a distant second place. Those who liked the Nathan's Famous hot dog said it had a "good flavor and good texture," although there were plenty of negative review comments, as well. Some declared it had a bit of an artificial taste, with a lingering aftertaste that was less than appealing. As for the Kroger hot dogs, supporters deemed "the initial taste" to be "good and flavorful" while the naysayers found the texture to be somewhat "grainy."
Neither Ball Park Beef Franks nor Simple Truth Uncured Beef hot dogs found favor with our review judges. The words "bologna" and "artificial" were used several times to describe the beef flavor of Ball Park's entry, and some considered the texture to be "mushy." The Simple Truth offering was described as "just bland" and "just okay," with one reviewer terming it "nice and juicy, but lacking flavor."
Pork-Based Hot Dogs.Our panel of reviewers was hard-pressed to say anything good about any pork-based hot dog they sampled. In fact, most seemed downright surprised at how unappetizing they deemed the products arrayed before them. Pork is present in all three brands, but is not the primary animal protein in any. The ingredient list for each is headed by turkey; chicken is used in the Oscar Mayer Classic Wiener, as well, and beef shows up in the Eckrich Frank and Ball Park (Original) Frank. After comparing them with their all-beef cousins, each taster declared they were off pork hot dogs forever more, but begrudgingly plowed ahead for the sake of research.
The Ball Park version was voted the best of the worst of those reviewed largely on the strength of its flavor. One taster summed up the consensus about this entry when she said, "It's not a bad flavor, but it has a mushy texture." Comments such as this were echoed by most of the panelists. One gave the Ball Park pork hot dog a passing grade for the taste while adding that "the texture is weird and it lacks any real juiciness."
Eckrich, a lesser-known hot dog label, garnered a single vote in the pork-based category, which was sufficient to land this dog in second place. The Eckrich supporter said he voted for the frank because "it's just okay, not great, but most importantly there's nothing too bad about it." And that was the best our review panelists could say about the Eckrich frank.
Just when we thought the assessments couldn't get any more negative, the tasters rendered judgment on the Oscar Mayer Classic Wiener. This variety tanked in every dimension. Panelists said the Oscar Mayer sample tasted "gross," had "a weird consistency," and was "the worst of the three."