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Hot Dog Buns

Published April 2007

How we tested

Our test kitchen is fiercely loyal to our favorite brand of hot dogs (see our related tasting), but hot dog buns fail to inspire the same passion. After all, the bun is just a vehicle for the dog and condiments, right? Is there really any discernable difference between popular brands of bun? We sampled three national brands to find out. Turns out, none of them thrilled tasters, who were instructed to taste the buns alone and also with hot dogs and condiments.

Our favorite received merely average scores. Some tasters liked the bun’s crusty exterior, sturdiness, and nice “yeasty” taste—one taster declared it a “good dog vehicle.” On the other hand, many found the bun dense and lacking in flavor. Almost all tasters thought the bun was too big and bulky, with the wrong bread to dog ratio. Tasters gave mediocre scores to the runner-up, which most found too light, squishy, and doughy. Tasters rejected their “processed” taste but thought the buns stood up to the condiments well. The third fared the worst—almost all tasters were put off by their “gummy” texture and lack of structure—they fell apart easily under the weight of the dog and became soggy quickly when condiments were applied.

Split-top versus Side-Sliced?

 

Here in New England, we’re accustomed to finding top-sliced hot dog buns at our supermarkets, as opposed to the side-sliced buns available elsewhere in the country. Does the placement of the bun slice really make a difference? It turns out it does. We instructed tasters to fill each type of bun with a hot dog, load it up with their favorite condiments, and eat it. In the top-sliced buns, the bread was evenly distributed on each side of the dog, and it held the hot dog and condiments securely. On the other hand, the side-sliced buns had almost twice the amount of bread on top as on the bottom, making for awkward, unbalanced bites and a risk of condiments leaking out through the cut side of the bun. Our recommendation—look for split-top buns, preferably those made by our winning brand.

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Skippy Peanut Butter

In a contest that hinged on texture, tasters thought this "smooth, "creamy" sample was "swell" and gave it top honors, both plain and baked into cookies. Its rave reviews even compensated for a slightly "weak" nut flavor that didn't come through as well as that of other brands in the pungent satay sauce.

$2.39 for 16.3-oz. jar (15 cents per oz.)*
Recommended

Jif Natural Peanut Butter Spread

The big favorite in satay sauce, this peanut butter's "dark, roasted flavor"—helped by the addition of molasses—stood out particularly well against the other heady ingredients, and it made cookies with "nice sweet-salty balance." Plus, as the top-rated palm oil-based sample, it was "creamy," "thick," and better emulsified than other "natural" contenders.

$2.29 for 18-oz. jar (13 cents per oz.)*

Reese's Peanut Butter

This is what peanut butter should be like, " declared one happy taster, noting specifically this product's "good," "thick" texture and "powerful peanut flavor." In satay sauce, however, some tasters felt that heavier body made for a "pasty" end result.

$2.59 for 18-oz. jar (14 cents per oz.)*

Skippy Natural Peanut Butter Spread

The only other palm oil-based peanut butter to make the "recommended" cut, this contender had a "looser" texture than its winning sibling but still won fans for being "super-smooth." Tasters thought it made an especially "well-balanced," "complex" peanut sauce.

$2.39 for 15-oz. jar (16 cents per oz.)*
Recommended with Reservations

Peanut Butter & Co. No-Stir Natural Smooth Operator

Though it says "no-stir" on the label, this "stiff" palm-oil enriched peanut butter was "weeping oil" and came across as "greasy" to some tasters. However, it turned out a respectable batch of cookies—"chewy in the center, crisp and short at the edge"—and made "perfectly good" satay sauce.

$4.49 for 18-oz. jar (25 cents per oz.)*

Maranatha Organic No Stir Peanut Butter

On the one hand, this organic peanut butter produced cookies that were "soft and sturdy" yet "moist," with "knockout peanut flavor." On the other hand, eating it straight from the jar was nearly impossible; its "loose," "liquid-y," and "dribbly" consistency had one taster wonder if it was "peanut soup."

$5.69 for 16-oz. jar (36 cents per oz.)*
Not Recommended

Smart Balance All Natural Rich Roast Peanut Butter

Besides being unpalatably "tacky" and "sludgy," this "natural" peanut butter suffered from an awful "fishy" flavor with a "weird acidic aftertaste" that tasters noted in all three applications. Our best guess as to the culprit? The inclusion of flax seed oil, an unsaturated fat that's highly susceptible to rancidity.

$3.59 for 16-oz. jar (22 cents per oz.)*

Smucker's Natural Peanut Butter

With its only additive a negligible amount of salt, the only truly natural peanut butter in the lineup elicited comments ranging from mild dissatisfaction ("needs enhancement with salt and sugar") to outright disgust ("slithery," "chalky," "inedible"). Cookies were "dry and crumbly" with a "hockey puck" texture, and the satay sauce was "stiff," "gritty," and "gloopy."

$2.69 for 16-oz. jar (17 cents per oz.)*