Welcome to Eat Your Food!, our biweekly column of real meals made for real kids by Nick Evans.
Oh, the humble hot dog! It’s maybe the most iconic American children’s food, and with good reason.
Hot dogs are easy to cook—actually almost all of them are precooked so you can safely eat them cold out of the package, if that’s your thing. They are easy for kids to eat either with hands or chopped up into pieces. They are also pretty darn delicious.
WHAT HOT DOGS TO BUY?
My kids will eat pretty much any hot dog, but if I’m making these for my dinner as well, I want a good quality hot dog. I prefer to buy all-beef hot dogs with a natural casing on them so they have some snap to them.
Hebrew National is my go-to brand if it’s available, and Nathan’s is a close second.
WHY BAKE YOUR HOT DOGS?
To make sure the hot dogs have a little snap to them, I recommend searing them in a skillet before baking them. Sure, it takes a few minutes, but it does add some nice texture to the dog.
Then baking the hot dogs allows the cheese to melt and the bun to get crispy on top. It’s a beautiful, and simple, combo!
Topped with cheddar cheese and diced onions, the hot dogs bake up beautifully (I recommend a top-cut bun for easier positioning in the baking dish). Top with any and all toppings you wish and serve them with a steamed veggie. I used cheddar cheese and chopped white onions, and after a few minutes in a 350°F. oven, dinner is done!
What to serve with your hot dogs?
To round out the plate, I recommend serving these with a steamed vegetable of some sort. I went with peas, as it’s an easy win for my kids (they actually eat them frozen), but steamed broccoli would be great also! Just something green!
THE DAD ADD: PICKLE RELISH
I can eat a cheesy hot dog as-is with nothing else and be pretty content. But I have nothing to do while the hot dogs bake anyway, so I like to chop up a quick cheater giardiniera (a.k.a. fancy Italian relish) with common store-bought pickled veggies.
I use a mix of dill pickles, spicy pickled cauliflower, and banana peppers, which adds a zesty crunch and cuts through some of the richness of the hot dogs. I chop the mix pretty finely since it’s going on the dogs.
I recommend making a double batch and keeping it in the fridge. Giardiniera is pretty solid on any deli sandwich, also.
THE REPORT CARD
These hot dogs were a science class for my kids. The first thing they wanted to do to these beautiful hot dogs was completely deconstruct them. They both scraped the toppings off, pulled the hot dog out, and ate everything separately.
The key? They ate everything. A bite of hot dog there, a bite of bun here, and smiles all around, although they didn’t try the Dad Add. I tend to worry about my littlest one choking because she tends to try to shove WAY too much food in her mouth at once, so I took the extra step of slicing her dog up into thin slices.
Hot dogs are a pretty easy win for most kids so maybe explore different toppings with your kids such as spicy mustard, the Dad Add, or just keep it simple and count this as a surefire dinner win.
MORE KID-FRIENDLY RECIPES:
Cheesy Baked Hot Dogs Recipe
For the hot dogs:
- 6 all-beef hot dogs
- 6 hot dogs buns, top cut
- 3/4 to 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
- 1/2 white onion, diced
- Sweet pickle relish
For the Dad Add - quick giardiniera:
- 1/2 cup diced dill pickles
- 1/2 cup diced spicy pickled cauliflower
- 1/4 cup diced banana peppers
1 Preheat oven to 400°F.
2 Sear the hot dogs: In a medium skillet, add the hot dogs and cook over medium heat until they are starting to blister on all sides, 4 to 5 minutes. Don’t overcook them.
3 Assemble the hot dogs: Place the seared hot dogs in the buns—top cut hot dog buns work best—in a large baking dish. Top with grated cheese and diced white onion.
4 Bake the hot dogs: Bake the hot dogs for about six minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the hot dog buns are toasted. The onions will soften slightly, but might have a bit of crunch to them, which is good.
5 Serve the hot dogs: Remove the hot dogs from the oven and top with ketchup, relish, or the Dad Add giardiniera. Serve hot dogs with a veggie side such as steamed broccoli.
Leftovers don’t really keep, so make only as many as you want to eat!
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