When life gets busy, it's good to be able to rely on your slow cooker — better known by the brand name Crock-Pot — to ensure you have something warm waiting for you when you get home. Making hot dogs in your Crock-Pot is an easy, cost-efficient way to feed a crowd of hungry kids.
But even if hot dogs are a kid-friendly source of protein, they aren't the healthiest option out there, and you might consider a few savvy swaps to improve the nutritional factor of the slow cooker hot dog recipes included below.
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Making Slow Cooker Hot Dogs
As with other meats, hot dogs must be cooked all the way through before consumption. Don't assume that just because they come precooked that they're safe to eat straight out of the package. As the Food and Drug Administration explains, hot dogs could be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes and should always be cooked properly.
Therefore, when you heat up the hot dogs in the Crock-Pot, you must do so until they're steaming hot. The USDA states that if you're not cooking the hot dogs right away, you should refrigerate or freeze them as soon as you bring them home from the grocery store.
As far as how to cook a hot dog in a slow cooker, it depends on what dish you're using the hot dog for. The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council offers many ways you can prepare sausages and hot dogs in a slow cooker to make soups, stews, chilis and other homey meals that will work well for families and other large groups.
For example, to make frank and beans — a popular stew made from sliced hot dogs and beans — you would start by cutting 1 pound of hot dogs into half-inch circles and sautéing them with 1 cup of chopped onion on the stovetop. Once they're slightly browned, you put the hot dogs in the Crock-Pot with other ingredients and cook on slow for six to eight hours.
Another easy dish is the council's Frankly Fabulous Dip, for which you'll pulse a half-pound of hot dogs in a food processor before you cook the hot dogs in a slow cooker with crushed tomatoes, sour cream, green onions and red pepper sauce for 90 minutes.
After you finish your slow cooker hot dog dish, continue safe food handling practices by not leaving the dish out for more than two hours (or more than one hour if the temperature is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit), per the guidance of the USDA.
Nutritional Perspective on Hot Dogs
Even though hot dogs are popular with kids, be wary of any overly processed meat products — not only hot dogs, but also ham, sausage and corned beef. The World Health Organization put out a statement in October 2015 alerting people that, based on sufficient evidence, processed meat is classified as containing carcinogenic compounds. More specifically, consuming a 50-gram portion of processed meat daily can increase the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent.
The University of Vermont states that the high sodium and saturated fat in hot dogs puts you at risk for stroke, kidney problems and high blood pressure. As the Santa Clara University emphasizes, you would be better off enjoying unprocessed beef rather than a hot dog: A hamburger and a hot dog have around the same number of calories, but a burger has more protein and less sodium. If you are going to enjoy a hot dog, you should do so in moderation.
In some cases, you could let your cravings for a hot dog lead you to eat more vegetables instead. Are you skeptical? Don't be. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine explains how you can make carrot dogs by boiling carrots, marinating them and finally cooking them in the oven or on a hot grill.
As a May 2018 review in Nutrients details, most people don't eat enough vegetables even though they are vital to good health, and orange or yellow vegetables like carrots are associated with decreased risk of heart disease.
If you still want to enjoy a real hot dog (because sometimes substitutions just don't cut it), you could decrease the sodium and increase the vegetables in your slow cooker hot dog recipe by using half hot dogs and half carrots.
- National Hot Dog and Sausage Council: “Crockpot Cuisine”
- FDA: “Fact or Fiction from Food Safety for Moms to Be”
- USDA: “Hot Dogs and Food Safety”
- Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine: “Carrot Dogs”
- University of Vermont: “What’s in Your Weiner? An Investigation of the American Hot Dog”
- WHO: “IARC Monographs Evaluate Consumption of Red Meat and Processed Meat”
- Nutrients: “Cardiovascular Health Benefits of Specific Vegetable Types: A Narrative Review”
- Santa Clara University: “The Healthier Choice: Burger or Hot Dog?”