Take your next BBQ from basic to fantastic by creating an unforgettable hot dog bar! Both kids and adults will love the options, and you'll love how easy it is to create something both fun and delicious!

Hot dog in a bun topped with chili, cheese, and onions. Next to it are three small red, white, and blue bowls filled with cheese, onions, and jalapenos. - Shelf Cooking

When it comes to the backyard barbecue, hot dogs are probably the most reliable main dish. Inexpensive, super easy to cook, and something that both young and old enjoy most of the time, you know? But…sometimes it can get a little boring eating the same old hot dog in a bun, and we are not ok with that!

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This year, elevate your usual basic hot dog offering by creating a fun self-serve hot dog bar! Full of delicious options, your family and guests will be thrilled at creating a one-of-a-kind dog with only minimal amounts of extra work for you! Read on to learn how to do it.

Items Needed For The Ultimate Hot Dog Bar

Overhead view of three hot dogs with different toppings. Next to them are small paper cups with ketchup, onions, relish, and jalapenos. A basket of buns is in one corner and a mustard and ketchup bottle in the other.

In order to create the best hot dog bar you've ever laid on eyes, you need to come prepared with OPTIONS. Lots of options! Consider your guests and their dietary needs and preferences, and go from there. It's easy to create a hot dog bar that everyone can enjoy!

Item #1 – The Hot Dog

Obviously! There are different options to choose from here:

  • All-beef franks
  • Turkey dogs
  • Bratwurst sausages
  • Cheese dogs
  • Vegan hot dogs/sausages (yes, they exist!)
  • Organic or uncured hot dogs
  • Corn dogs

Item #2 – The Bun

The next item of utmost importance is the bun the dog will be resting in. Which begs the question…is a hot dog a sandwich?? Maybe a debate for another day.

Either way, we've probably all experienced the standard white bread bun, which is great, but there are more options. Some ideas might be whole wheat or sourdough buns, sesame or poppyseed buns, gluten-free buns, and even something fun and unexpected like pretzel buns! Having a couple different options on your table will make things more delicious and interesting!

Item #3 – Condiments

You can't have a naked hot dog! If there's one thing we love, it's an endless array of sauce choices! It's the best way to instantly create a delicious and unique flavor for your hot dog. Here's a list of ideas for you to consider:

  • Ketchup
  • Mustard (don't be afraid to branch out from standard yellow mustard! Spicy brown mustard, honey mustard, etc.)
  • Mayonnaise
  • BBQ Sauce
  • Chipotle Mayo
  • Garlic Aioli
  • Utah “fry sauce” – equal parts ketchup and mayonnaise mixed together
  • Hot sauce
  • Ranch dressing

What did we miss? Let us know your ideas in the comments!

Item #4 – Toppings

Give us ALL the toppings! No need to stop with sauces for your hot dog – go nuts with some of these options!

  • Grated cheese
  • Chili
  • Dill pickle spears
  • Pickle relish
  • Diced onions
  • Grilled/caramelized onions
  • Sauerkraut
  • Bacon bits
  • Diced avocado
  • Guacamole
  • Salsa
  • Diced or sliced tomatoes
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Chives
  • Sautéed bell peppers and onions
  • Coleslaw
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Pickled jalapeños
  • Diced banana peppers
  • Sliced olives
  • Sautéed mushrooms

So many delicious options…how will we ever choose?! Nothing wrong with downing few hot dogs to try them all, right?

Best Ways To Cook Hot Dogs

Image of a father and son at a bbq grill. The father is picking up hot dogs with tongs while the son is holding a plate. - Shelf Cooking

The first step to creating a killer hot dog bar is a good hot dog! While the microwave gets the job done, we suggest trying these methods for cooking large amounts at once instead:

  • Grill – The obvious choice for a bbq, right? Place hot dogs at an angle (for the pretty grill marks!) on a hot grill, about one minute per side.
  • Fire pit – If you are lucky enough to have a fire pit in your backyard, this is a super fun way for people to prepare their own hot dogs! Place the hot dogs on roasting sticks and hold them above the flames until the desired doneness is achieved. If kids are involved, make sure an adult is present and attentive at all times!
  • Boiling – Super easy way to cook a large amount at once! Fill a saucepan with enough water to cover the hot dogs, bring to a boil, and then add the dogs one at a time with tongs. Lower the heat and simmer for about 3-6 minutes. Remove with tongs and pat dry.
  • Air fryer– I mean, what can't you do with an air fryer? Preheat to 390 degrees, then place the hot dog in the basket and cook for 3 minutes. Mmmm!
  • Slow cookerSlow cooker for hot dogs?! You betcha! If you need to make a whole bunch of hot dogs but want the most hands off approach possible, this one's for you. Stand them upright in the slow cooker, and then cook on high for 2 hours or low for 4 hours. That's it! No need to add water.

Pro tip: Cutting small slits into the hot dogs before cooking can help prevent any exploding dogs in the event of overheating too fast!

Sides To Serve With Your Hot Dog Bar

Overhead close up of a hot dog in a bun topped with purple onions and pickle relish. - Shelf Cooking

Of course, the perfect summer bbq wouldn't be complete with some amazing sides! Here are some of our favorites:

We could go on, but we encourage you to use your creativity and make your hot dog bar uniquely yours!

We think the upcoming 4th of July holiday is the perfect time to create this amazing hot dog bar! But, it would also work for other gatherings with family and friends, birthday parties, retirement parties, or even just for fun on a regular weeknight with your family! Simple to put together but always impressive!

Tell us in the comments what your perfect hot dog combo would be! We'd love to hear.

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