The trick is to smoke the meat and not make the meat smoke

Hot Dog

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I’ve been on a roll lately in several senses of the word. This blog will be a little bit about baking (as it relates to my grilling) and a little bit about winter (direct) grilling. Both of those were items that until recently I wasn’t sure I could do. A class on baking a year ago and some experiments in winter grilling these last couple months have shown otherwise.

After taking a great class called Bread 101 at King Arthur Flour (See
CATCH UP blog entry) I was able to start realizing a fantasy. I love bread, even more so than most food. I could make a meal out of bread. One of the things I loved about the Fuddruckers hamburger chain was the fresh baked rolls they made right on the premises. I always though it would be so cool to have fresh baked buns to go along with my grilled hamburgers. I never thought I’d be able to do it. So what changed? Well I began to make things on the grill and smoker I never imagined possible for me and the encouragement of several friends who baked. One suggested I take some classes at King Arthur Flour. That class showed me I actually could pull it off. The teacher said the bread recipe I learned could be used for my hamburger rolls. This past summer I got pans for hamburger and hotdog rolls. I began trying my hand at hamburger rolls this fall. With the onset of cold weather I figured I’d have to wait for spring to continue-after all I’d never had any luck direct grilling in the winter.


Grilled hamburgers and fresh baked hamburger rolls taste even better in the winter.

As I’ve documented in several recent blog entries, it turns out I can direct grill in the winter on my current gas grill. If you are interested see these blog entries:


I’ve now made hamburgers (and fresh rolls) 3 times in the last 3 weeks. I’ve learned that I like baking enough I may expand my efforts beyond hamburger and hot dog rolls. In the meantime I still had several lessons to learn with my hamburger rolls.


My last round of hamburger rolls were my best yet. Everything came together and it marked the time to move to hot dog rolls.

I was having an issue with rising which I think I’ve traced to improperly stored yeast. I’d put my instant yeast in a FoodSaver canister in the freezer and sometime between October and now the seal had been broken. I think what happened is the yeast on top that was directly exposed to the air lost it’s “punch”. Now that I’ve used that yeast from the top, I am once again getting a normal rise. I’d also had problems with browning, which turns out was caused by my not thinning the egg wash with water. Moral here: Read directions twice, carefully. Lastly I discovered on Saturday that there is a fine line between too dry, too wet and a just right dough mixture. Adding a very small amount of water made the dough go from dry and clumpy to too sticky. I was able to get the dough back to where it should have been, but it was rocky at first. I added too much flour back in, then too much water and finally I got the proportions just right. Sometimes you learn more from a mistake and I really think this was the case here. The hamburger rolls I made this Saturday were my best yet. The right rise, the right color, the right taste and consistency and I actually feel I somewhat understand why.


The New England Style Hotdog Roll Pan from King Arthur Flour makes 10 N.E. style rolls.

I’d said I wouldn’t try hot dog rolls until I felt I understood the recipe techniques for hamburger rolls. With this Saturday’s rolls I felt I’d reached that point. I still have a lot to learn, but I have a grasp of the basics. I’d made the burgers and fresh buns Saturday because my parents love hamburgers and I’ve never grilled them in the middle of the winter before. My mother mentioned it would be in the single digits (-14 C) next Saturday and asked if I would even be able to cook. I honestly don’t know, but an idea presented itself: I was at the point where I wanted to move on to hotdog rolls, why not try hotdogs next Saturday? There were several reasons for this: First they were a relatively short cook. Secondly some people eat hotdogs uncooked, so if I undercooked them a bit it wasn’t a health issue. Lastly if I couldn’t use the gas grill due to low tank pressure at that temperature, I have a grill pan I could use on the stove to cook them. I figured this would be a great short term test to see if my grill could deal with single digit temps. I am not running the risk of ruining an expensive piece of meat if it can’t.


Unbleached flour, potato flour, condensed milk, and egg, butter, sugar, salt, yeast & water make up the dough recipe for these hotdog rolls.

Now the other unknown here were the hotdog rolls, which were a more complicated recipe. Between the prep and two rises of 1-2 hours each, they could take about 3-5 hours. We were scheduled to have a snow storm on Sunday morning, so I wouldn’t be going anywhere. This was a chance to test drive the hot dog roll recipe before next weekend. I figured I could try a batch, and hopefully make any mistakes, this weekend. The storm was scheduled to end mid day, so I figured I could make hotdogs for lunch before shoveling the driveway. I went to the supermarket Saturday and got the extra ingredients in that I would need to make hotdog rolls. It used potato flour and dry milk which I did not have on hand. I was not able to find the potato flour, but it mentioned you could use potato buds.


After the first one hour rise the dough went into the pan where it has a second rise with a baking sheet cover over the pan. After one hour the dough had risen to the top of the pan in the middle.

When it came time to mix the dough I ran into a bit of a surprise. The class I took said when a recipe gives weight and volume, use the weight. The potato flour called for 7/8 ounces or 1/4 cup (59 mL). As I started weighing the flakes I could tell the volume was far greater than 1/4 cup (59 mL). Perhaps the flakes didn’t pack as densely as the flour would have, but I decided to reduce the volume of flakes. I stopped at about 5/8 ounces (18 gm). I tried using my spice grinder to grind the flakes down to a more flour-like consistency. It turns out my lessons learned about the flour/water mixture ratio came in handy. This time I stopped adding the water while the dough looked a bit dry. Sure enough after some kneading it was the right consistency, or at least for a minute or so. Then It got too dry. I think this was the potato flakes kicking in and absorbing moisture just as they do when you cook them. This dough had a totally different feel to it as I kneaded it. The description was moist and shiny.and I had to add water several times to get back to that. After 10 minutes I really wasn’t sure if what I had was what I actually wanted, but I figured lets see what happens.


The dough had pulled back from the pan and the bottom was not squishy, the rolls were done. After they came out of the pan, the tops were a golden brown.

I put the dough in a greased bowl, covered it and put it in the oven with the oven light turned on for a little warmth. When I went to look in on it 30 minutes in it actually had risen much to my surprise. Between the yeast question and the odd consistency I really didn’t know what to expect. After 60 minutes it had almost doubled its volume, so I transferred it to the hotdog pan. It gets a second rise for 60 to 90 minutes, in the hotdog roll pan, this time covered with a baking sheet to contain the rise to within the pan. I was surprised to see the dough had risen to almost fill the pan except at the very corners. This hotdog roll pan from King Arthur Flour makes 10 rolls, baked upside down. These are so called New England style hotdog rolls where they are made as one unit and sliced apart, yielding a white side that is great for toasting on the grill. You keep the pan covered for 18 minutes and then remove the baking sheet to finish browning the rolls. I was surprised the the dough had not risen any more after 18 minutes of covered baking. Even more surprising it didn’t appear to have browned at all. I wasn’t sure what a few minutes was supposed to be but no change was observed after 3 then 4 minutes. After 5 minutes a few areas were changing color. At the 9 minute mark most of the bottom had changed color and several areas were getting a bit darker. More importantly the dough had pulled away from the edges of the pan, something I seemed to recall was a signal baked goods were done. The bottom did not feel tacky so I pulled them at 18 minutes covered and 9 uncovered.


The New England style rolls are cooked as a unit and are sliced apart giving you white sides that can be grilled. First you make partial depth slits for the hotdogs, then you cut the rolls apart.

After 5 minutes cooling in the pan, I removed the rolls from the pan to cool to room temperature before cutting. The top and sides of the buns were a light golden brown. I was expecting a darker color, but it turns out these buns were cooked perfectly. Once the rolls had cooled completely I would first make the partial slits for the hotdogs and than cut the rolls apart. It was 9:30 and I would fire up the gas grill around noon and make some grilled dogs. My first between November and February.


I wanted hotdogs and wanted them now. Wasn’t even time to shovel a path out to the grill. Once there, the dogs cooked up just like the summertime.

There is the old joke about how dedicated a griller you are based on whether you shovel the driveway or a path to the grill first. In this case the answer was neither. It was still snowing so I just shuffled off through the snow to light the grill. I’ve now used the grill in the teens (-9 C) so mid 20’s (-4 C) was no concern. I lit 3 burners, one more than normal for this cook, just to give myself a larger hot zone where the cold can creep in around the edges. I set the burners one notch above my normal medium and went in to wait 20 minutes an additional 5 minutes longer than warm weather. Other than these small changes and the fact I was standing in 8” (20 cm) of snow, it was no different than cooking in the summer.


You’ve heard the expression “Christmas in July”, well this was like the reverse: “July at Christmastime”. Hotdogs off the grill and fresh baked hotdog rolls.

So how were the rolls? They were tasty with a hint of sweetness that always seems to be present only in fresh baked product fresh out of the oven. They had a coarser texture which the potato flakes would account for. They were more moist than the hamburger rolls I make. In a word: I lucked out. Without really knowing for sure what I was doing,I’d pulled it off. Now I have a benchmark for what these are supposed to be like, which will make future ventures easier. Speaking of future ventures: I will probably do a short blog about my attempt to do hotdogs on the gas grill in single digit temps.


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