(CBS News) A grilled hot dog is an emblem of the American summer. It smells great, tastes great, and looks great, too ... though you may not want to look TOO closely at its origins, as Lee Cowan did.
This story was originally broadcast on July 28, 2013.
Perhaps we should have listened to that old saying about hot dogs, because even if you LOVE a good hot dog, chances are you don't want to see how they're made.
At the Meat Hook in Brooklyn, with butcher Brent Young, the hot dog process is indeed hardly for the faint-of-heart.
That is where an orange "paste" of beef and pork is lumped -- then dumped -- then delicately squeezed into a fragile tubular package (left).
And if all goes well, they are neatly pinched, twisted and stacked into surprisingly appetizing symmetrical links.
Despite its rather unpleasant birthing process, the humble hot dog remains beloved beyond measure.
Whether it's at a ball park watching the home team play, or on a boardwalk watching the gastronomically impossible, the wiener is indeed a winner.
During Hot Dog Season (yes, there actually IS one, from Memorial Day to Labor Day), Americans typically eat SEVEN BILLION hot dogs. That's more than 800 hot dogs consumed every single second!
And if you think all of those are mystery meats in a bun -- think again.
The hot dog doesn't have to be a throw-away piece of meat, says butcher Brent Young.
"It can be an amazing food item," he told Cowan. "Like, you can actually feel good about the hot dogs that you're eating!"
No pork snouts and tails here! Instead, only farm-raised beef and pork shoulder are used in a process so meticulous THESE hot dogs are treated more like prime rib.
"It's a lot of thought, it's a lot of work. At the end of the day, it's just a hot dog, right?" said Cowan.
"But it's NOT just a hot dog," replied Young. "We're passionate about everything that we make. And the hot dog falls in that category."
Josh Sharkey, who owns a hot dog restaurant (fittingly called Bark), says Americans associate fast food and fast casual cuisine with poor quality and mass production: "And it just doesn't have to be that way."
- Web extra: How to cook a hot dog
- Web extra: Bobby Flay's hot dog recipes (including the Texas Dog, New York Street Cart Dog, Chicago Red Dog, Georgia Slaw Dog, Dodger Dog, Cincinnati Cheese Coney, and Grilled Hot Sausage with Onion Sauce and Roasted Red Pepper Relish)
Bark is a place where the dogs are too big for their buns -- and have a personality just as large, wearing an ear-to-ear grin.
What makes a Bark dog howl is the secret ingredient that a Bark Dog is bathed in, right before they go to the table.
"Basically, every dog gets seasoned at the very end before it comes off the griddle with this smoky, rich, salty basting butter," said Sharkey.
Bark's owner doesn't consider himself a hot dog expert. "The customer is the expert," Sharkey said. "Everybody knows what a hot dog is. Doesn't matter if you're nine years old or 90 years old, you know? You're an expert."
And the reason we're all experts is in part because the hot dog is, most of all, perfect in its simplicity.
- Bill Geist enrolls in Hot Dog University (Video)
- World's most expensive hot dog (yep, $69!) (Video)
- Nebraska's hot dog slinger (Video)
- Bobby Flay's hot dogs (Video)
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