Not just a fun novelty appliance, it offers up tasty dogs and buns in a flash. Easy to use and easy to clean. Comes with removable cage, mini tongs, and drip tray. Attractive enough to leave out, or it can be stored away easily in a cupboard. Good for hot dog lovers who don’t like or know how to cook.
Homemade or bakery buns won't fit. Parts of the bun may blacken if it touches inside metal walls of toaster.
Has removable crumb tray for easy cleaning. Features see-through door so you can watch your hot dogs cook. Separate tray warms buns without overcooking them. Good for quick meals. Doesn't take up much space in cupboard or on countertop. Not a commercial unit, but it does decent job for a reasonable price.
Some hot dogs might not fit. Unit works better if preheated before cooking hot dogs. Won't keep food warm for long period of time.
Inexpensive. Red color looks good in kitchen. Large hot dog cage fits either 2 regular hot dogs or extra-plump dogs. Adjustable heat settings. Mini tongs for removing hot dogs. Makes grill marks on hot dogs for unique appearance. Fun appliance, and useful if you eat a lot of hot dogs.
May emit smoke during first few uses. Can burn buns along the edges. Some hot dogs may be hard to remove.
Fun gadget if you like novelty items. Makes a unique gift for college students, grandparents, or anyone who enjoys hot dogs at home. Kids love it. Unit comes apart for cleaning. Perfect for the Snoopy/Peanuts fanatic or collector. Small enough to keep out, and it won’t take up much room in a cupboard.
Messy to clean. Cord is in odd place in the front of the unit vs. on the side.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
Hot dogs compete with hamburgers and pizza for the hearts of snackers everywhere. Many people seek out grilled hot dogs first at picnics, and they’re a staple food for grand openings and other special events. But one drawback to hot dog preparation is sheer volume. Hot dogs typically come in packs of eight, and hot dog buns are often sold in packs of ten or more. It seems like cooking hot dogs in bulk is the only viable solution. And this is where a clever kitchen appliance known as a hot dog toaster comes into play.
A hot dog toaster vertically toasts two to four weiners at a time, along with an equal number of hot dog buns. The entire process only takes a few minutes, and the result is a satisfying snack, lunch, or even dinner on the fly. A hot dog toaster takes the guesswork out of preparation and eliminates the need for boiling water, steam, or hot charcoal. And most hot dog toasters are approximately the size of a standard bread toaster, so one won’t take up a significant amount of counter space.
While some may consider a dedicated hot dog toaster to be more of a novelty than a serious kitchen appliance, others who experience midnight cravings or want to make a no-fuss after-school snack for kids might see the machines as a lifesaver. At BestReviews, we have carefully selected a shortlist of hot dog toasters we believe will meet the needs of the tube steak snacking public without breaking the bank.
If you’re a fan of hot dogs but want to avoid the hassle of grilling, broiling, steaming, or boiling, consider our list of candidates and read the following shopping guide for more detailed information.
Advantages of toasting
Texture: There are many ways to prepare a standard hot dog, including broiling, grilling, pan-frying, steaming, and boiling, but toasting has some tactical advantages over other methods. A hot dog toaster uses dry radiant heat, not a wet boiling process, to cook the weiners. That means the finished product has a crisp outer casing with a pleasant snap and a firm interior, not the softer texture that steaming or boiling often creates.
Flavor: Toasted hot dogs also acquire a unique flavor not diluted by water or other cooking liquids. Toasting often creates grill marks, too, which give the finished product additional visual appeal.
Grease capture: The toasting element heats vertically, which means the excess grease and oil naturally drain off into a convenient drip tray. Dripping grease from hot dogs prepared in a broiler oven or over a charcoal grill can generate flare-ups.
Cooking: A toaster also heats all sides of the weiner evenly, without the need for frequent turning. The cooking process in a hot dog toaster ends well before the hot dog reaches the unpleasant “cremation” stage that can happen on a charcoal grill.
Why toast the buns?
Many commercial hot dog cookers contain a special cabinet where the hot dogs buns are either heated or steamed. This effect can be challenging to duplicate in a home kitchen. Many hot dog bun brands are also rather bland. Toasting the buns imparts some much-needed flavor along with a satisfying crunch. Some users also prefer toasted buns because they don’t absorb condiments such as ketchup and mustard as quickly as untoasted buns. Toasting hamburger buns is a common practice in restaurants, and hot dog buns benefit greatly from the same treatment.
For the hot dog addict
While the idea of a dedicated hot dog toaster may sound more like a novelty than a serious kitchen appliance, we find that the Nostalgia Retro isn’t a one-off item. It can handle up to four hot dogs and four buns at a time, and the variable temperature controls allow individual users to select their preferred level of doneness. It includes a special basket for holding the hot dogs in place and tongs for easier extraction. The convenient drip tray catches both excess fat and crumbs, and the shell is attractive enough to display on the kitchen counter.
Some hot dog toasters are stylish enough to leave out on the kitchen counter, while others are compact enough to store in a cabinet. When shopping for a hot dog toaster, use the same criteria as you would for a standard bread toaster: an accessible drip/crumb tray, a cleanable housing, and a compact design.
There are two different designs when it comes to hot dog toasters. One is a top-loading model with vertical toasting elements, and the other is a horizontally oriented version with a central bun toasting chamber and a grilling element on top. Both styles produce excellent results, but we recommend top-loading vertical toasters for easier use and cleanup. Here are some important features to consider as you shop:
Removable drip and crumb tray: As the hot dogs cook, excess grease and oil naturally drip to the bottom of the machine. A drip tray should capture and retain this grease until it can be emptied. The same holds true for the crumb pan. It should capture any crumbs from the buns as they toast. The two functions are accomplished by one tray in many models.
Adjustable temperature control: Most hot dog toasters have automatic cycles (around five to six minutes), but the better ones allow you to adjust the level of toasting for both the buns and the weiners. You might prefer a well-done hot dog while someone else may prefer a light sear.
Holding basket and tongs: Different models have different capacities, which means a “jumbo” weiner may not fit in the toasting chamber. Many manufacturers overcome this challenge by including special holding baskets to keep the hot dogs in place during cooking. Extracting the finished product can be difficult, so look for a toaster that comes with small tongs designed for removing the hot dogs safely.
Stop mechanism: Much like a standard toaster, a quality hot dog toaster should have an emergency stop mechanism. This will cancel the toasting cycle immediately and reduce the risk of overcooking the hot dogs or burning the buns.
Maintenance: Maintaining a hot dog toaster mostly involves brushing out excess grease and oil from the toasting chamber and keeping the bun toaster elements clean.
Vertically toasting hot dogs allows excess fat to drain away.
Toasting enhances the flavor and texture of hot dog buns.
Many hot dog toasters include special tongs or baskets to make removing the hot dogs easier.
Most hot dog toaster models that cost between $15 and $25 hold two hot dogs and two buns. There should be a basic temperature control, but mostly for the buns. The hot dogs themselves might need to be toasted repeatedly to be cooked to your satisfaction.
The sweet spot for family cooks who want to prepare up to four hot dogs at one time is $25 to $35. Most models in this range are vertical toasters, but there are also some horizontal models that include a bun warmer and a top grill plate for other kinds of sausages. The temperature controls should be more customizable, so different users can adjust for personal preferences.
The costliest hot dog toasters, at more than $35, have a capacity of four hot dogs, and some models can accommodate other types of sausage. The difference in overall performance is negligible, but the design of the housing is more stylized and more appropriate for display on a countertop. We recommend starting with a less-expensive model unless the demand for quick hot dogs is exceptionally high in your household.
Attractive toaster and price
In terms of economy, this Nostalgia toaster is one to consider when an occasional hot dog craving arises. It can handle up to two hot dogs and buns at a time, and has essentially the same features as the model that holds four. The drip tray makes cleanup a breeze, and the mini tongs and basket make extraction easy. It also includes a Stop Cooking option and variable timer settings for ideal toasting. The price is also very appealing for hot dog lovers on a budget.
Experiment with different brands of hot dogs and buns. Some hot dog buns won’t fit comfortably in certain toaster models. Homemade buns or store-bought deli buns, for example, may not be of standard size. There are also noticeable variations between commercial bun brands on store shelves. Some packaged weiners could also be too long or too thick to fit inside the toasting chamber.
Allow the heating elements to burn off impurities before the first use. Most manufacturers recommend running at least one “dry” toasting cycle before adding hot dogs and buns to the mix. Appliances with heating elements can be covered with dust or factory-applied oil that needs to burn off before first use, and this might produce some smoke.
Adjust the toasting cycle for better results. Much like a bread toaster, many hot dog toasters have a built-in toasting cycle, usually around five or six minutes. Depending on the brand and style, this might not be enough time to fully cook a hot dog. Repeating the cycle is one option, as is using a variable temperature control (if available). The same holds true for toasting the buns.
Although the hot dog toaster market appears to be dominated by one or two manufacturers, we did find a few models offered by smaller companies. When it comes to compact design and ease of use, the Americana by Elite Retro Pop-Up Hot Dog Toaster Cooker is comparable to the better known Nostalgia model. We especially like the retractable cord and adjustable heating cycle. In terms of style, the Concepts Electronix Hot Diggity Dogger has a very attractive retro design that can easily remain on the counter between uses. It has a capacity of two hot dogs, plus a removable basket and drip tray.
Q. Can I cook other types of sausage or meat products in a hot dog toaster?
A. It depends on the hot dog toaster’s design. Models with top-loading toasting elements are generally limited to standard hot dogs, not bratwurst, kielbasa, or other forms of sausage. However, some front-loading models can also handle precooked sausages similar in size to standard hot dogs.
Q. I prefer the oversize hot dogs that plump while cooking. Can a hot dog toaster handle these brands?
A. Front-loading hot dog toaster ovens can handle oversize or jumbo hot dogs with minimal problems. However, some top-loading models may not be able to handle the larger wieners without a special holder. If the hot dog doesn’t fit into the toasting slot, it could get stuck after cooking.
Q. I’m concerned about consuming an undercooked hot dog if I prepare it in a fast-cooking toaster “gadget.” Do hot dogs really get thoroughly cooked in a hot dog toaster?
A. While a hot dog toaster usually does a good job toasting the buns, undercooking the hot dog itself is a common issue. Sometimes it’s a question of personal preference when it comes to a state of doneness. Toasting a hot dog with a heating element yields a different result than steaming or grilling, but the product itself should be fully cooked and safe to eat.
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