From one coast to the other, hot dogs are one of those unmistakable American foods that everyone knows and loves. What not everyone knows, however, is that all around the United States, there are local variants of the hot dog. Here in Maine, locals love “Red Snappers” (because they’re red in color and they snap when you bite into them). But in Western New York, it’s the “white hot” that makes an appearance at summer cookouts.
First Things First: What are White Hots?
A hot dog can be many things: pork, beef, chicken, turkey, or a mixture of meats. White hots, however, are made with a mix of pork, beef, and veal. All three meats are both uncured and unsmoked, which is where white hots get their white color from. To give them their unique flavor, manufacturers add a blend of spices that includes mustard and paprika.
The interesting thing about white hots is that they were first made popular because they were the “poor man’s hot dog.” White hots were traditionally made with cheaper cuts of meat and lots of filler, while hot dogs were made from better cuts. The flavorful spices in white hots were meant to give the lesser quality meat a better flavor. Today, that has been flipped on its head — white hots are popular because they are nearly always made with high-quality ingredients, while hot dogs vary in quality between manufacturers.
White Hot History
The history of white hots goes back nearly a century. These hot dogs were first made in Rochester, New York, by members of the German community. Throughout the past century, white hots have been called by many names, including “snappys” and “white and porkies.”
In 1925, not long after the creation of the first white hot, a company by the name of Zweigle’s started commercially producing white hots. Zweigle’s then began selling these new dogs at Red Wing Stadium, and since then, they’ve become the official hot dog of sports teams including the Rochester Americans and Rhinos and the Buffalo Bills and Sabres.
Today, you can still buy Zweigle’s white hots in New York grocery stores and they’re served at a variety of restaurants in Rochester and other parts of New York. Of course, Zweigle’s also makes traditional hot dogs, too, but they’re called “red hots” after their pinkish-red color.
How to Eat White Hots
Ready to try this delicious dog yourself? The first thing to remember is that white hots are almost always grilled over charcoal — often with a few hickory chips tossed on the fire. In fact, cooks quite often grill the buns for the white hots right alongside the dogs themselves.
At summertime barbecues, hot dogs are usually served plain with mustard and ketchup — and perhaps pickle relish or a bit of onion. White hots, however, are usually smothered in a sauce made with onions, relish, peppers, molasses, vinegar, and more.
The other way to eat white hots is to serve them as part of a “garbage plate.” This dish was made famous by Rochester restaurateur Nick Tahou. A typical garbage plate consists of a heap of home fries, baked beans, macaroni salad, hamburger and either white or red hots.
Here at Farmers’ Almanac, some of our favorite traditions are the regional foods that are served all across the United States. White hots, especially, are the perfect example of a food that started as the classic all-American hot dog and then transformed into a regional tradition.