Carolina on my dog

“I always look for a hot dog wherever I go.” – Martha Stewart


Controversial statement incoming.

I’m one of those people who consider hot dogs to be sandwiches.

That sound you just heard was my friend, JP, reading the last sentence and closing down her internet browser in disgust.


Sorry JP! All the rest of you, please keep reading:


One of my favorite regional hot dog styles is the one from North Carolina where I grew up. The Carolina dog is made up of chili, coleslaw, chopped onions and sometimes mustard (it’s better with mustard). This regional hot dog style is basically considered standard “all the way” in parts of North and South Carolina. If you’ve never had one of these, the chili and the slaw might be different from versions you’ve seen or experienced. We’ll discuss those in full with my recipes below.

The origin of the Carolina Dog is pretty much up in the air. Wikipedia claims that a place in Wilmington NC, called Merritt’s Burger House, has been serving this style since 1958, but there’s nothing else online to back that up. Even the linked article doesn’t really say they’ve been serving this style of burger or hot dog since that time. Melvin’s in Elizabethtown NC, claims that they have been making a burger with chili and slaw for 80 years, but I’ve found nothing really saying when or where the Carolina style hot dog started. We’re going to have to hire some food detectives to figure this out. I’m not the guy to do it.

If you’ve never cooked a hot dog before, Nathan’s Famous has a pretty good guide for cooking hot dogs. I cook my hot dogs on a grill outside or inside on a grill pan or skillet. Nathan’s Famous does tell you that it’s ok to microwave a dog, but not ok to boil one. As a kid I remember a lot of microwaving of hot dogs for quick lunches that didn’t require turning on the stove or oven. I just remember putting a hot dog in a bun and wrapping it in a paper towel. Forty five seconds later I was enjoying a hot lunch (with just ketchup probably).

Here are the ingredients I like to prepare for my favorite hot dogs.

Hot dog potato rolls

Consistent readers already know I’ve talked about the King Arthur’s Potato Bun recipe a few times recently. I whipped up the same recipe again this week, but I shaped them into torpedoes or hot dog shapes.

Here’s a video I made of how I shape dough into that shape. The video is for a longer roll than a hot dog roll, but it’s the same technique. The recipe in the video is for rolls that are similar to my sub sandwich rolls.

I like to make my buns fit my hot dogs. I don’t want any extra bites of just bun if I can help it, so I usually weigh my dough into 80 gram (or even 75 gram) portions. Then I shape that portion into a ball and let it rest for a few minutes (while I shape the rest). Then I flip the ball over, exposing the bottom tucked side to the top and leaving the smooth top on the surface of the counter. This means the smooth part will end up on top when you’re done.

Flatten the dough into a rough rectangle about the length of your hot dog. I make my dough rectangle about a quarter inch thick. Then I roll from the side closest to me away from me to make a log.

Then the most important part is getting the seam sealed tightly by pinching your fingers. Once the seam is very tightly pinched, I flip the dough log so that the seam is on the bottom touching the counter and I roll the log back and forth on top of the seam to flatten out the places where I pinched the dough. Then you place the dough log seam side down on your pan and press it down a little to keep if from being a perfectly round cylinder.

You want to get your dough logs about an inch or an inch and a half apart on your sheet pan. They don’t have to touch, but if you are looking for New England style split top rolls, put them a little bit closer together (like an inch). They will rise to about double after shaping and then rise again in the oven.

Some finished hot dog buns.

Hot dog chili

This is not typical chili. There are no beans, but it’s also not chunky with hunks of meat like Texas chili. Hot dog chili is made from ground beef that’s mashed or chopped and not full of beans or onions. In some recipes hot dog chili is sent through a food processor, but you can do the same thing with a potato masher.

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Hot dog chili

No beans in this chili, but it's perfect for topping a hot dog or burger. This type of chili is also superb for chili cheese fries.

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Hot dog slaw

This is sweeter than the slaw I usually make, but it’s similar to what you’ll find in a lot of Eastern North Carolina barbecue joints or hot dog stands. I enjoy it on occasion and it works really well with the chili, but feel free to omit the sugar entirely if you’re averse to a sweet slaw.

Recipe Card
15 minutes
Hot dog slaw

This is a fairly sweet slaw, but that's what is traditional in a Carolina Dog. You could easily just cut the sugar in half or omit it all together if you want a simple slaw that isn't very sweet.

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The Carolina dog

Let’s put all the pieces together.

Carolina dogs are typically bright red hot dogs with hot dog chili, a sweet slaw and chopped onions. They also often will have mustard added as a fourth item. The wikipedia page for “Hot dog variations” claims that people have been making Carolina style hot dogs since at least 1958.

When you study other hot dog variations on that page, you’ll learn that West Virginia is very very similar to a Carolina dog. Georgia also often has a dog with chili and mustard or sometimes only slaw. There are other regional hot dogs with chili like the Pink’s Chili Dog from Los Angeles and then you have a Coney dog from Michigan but Coney chili traditionally is made from ground up beef heart instead of regular ground beef.

I like to build my Carolina dogs with chili on the bottom, then slaw and then plain yellow mustard on top. About half of the time I leave out the raw chopped onions. I don’t think raw chopped onions add that much, but feel free to add them to yours.

Here are some of my finished Carolina dogs.

I ate a few hot dogs this week. Here are a few of them.

Split top potato bun stuffed with hot dog, chili, slaw and mustard.

The Glenn and the messiness problems

The Glenn

A friend named Glenn has commented on my hot dog photo tweets before and always recommends to put the mustard underneath the slaw and chili and that will help the hot dog not be so messy to eat. I tried it and named this version: The Glenn.

I do think he’s right, but the hot dog is way prettier with mustard on top. If you want to avoid messiness, build your dog like Glenn does.

Now let’s talk about the next logical step with these ingredients.

Wendy’s Carolina Classic Burger

The Wendy’s Carolina Classic Burger was first introduced at a Wendy’s in Rockingham, North Carolina. Wendy’s did not invent this style of cheeseburger, but they did a lot to add recognition outside of the small North/South Carolina burger joints and hot dog stands. Here’s a video of ol’ Dave Thomas being introduced to the Wendy’s Carolina Classic Burger from back in 1995.

Growing up in Eastern North Carolina, I learned early on that “all the way” for a burger meant chili, slaw, chopped onion and mustard. On family trips to White Lake, NC we’d visit a place called Melvins’ in Elizabethtown. Melvin’s is amazing. The line could be fifty people long and it just flies in minutes. Because they’re so busy and they’re cooking burgers constantly they claim that it takes just 10 seconds to get a burger made to order. They open up at 7:30 am and start selling burgers. No breakfast, just burgers. And the line starts that early too, proving that burgers are a breakfast food.

Since I had the slaw and chili and a leftover bun from Breaded Pork Tenderloin week, I decided to recreate the “all the way” burger I grew up with. I even went so far as to make my burger patty square in honor of Dave Thomas.

My own Carolina Classic burger with a square patty. Quarter pound burger with cheese, chili, slaw, chopped onions and mustard on a toasted bun.

Everything’s better with some pimento cheese

Couldn’t let this opportunity of hot dog buns and chili go to waste without using a little pimento cheese. Make some chili and slaw (and even pimento cheese) to have available for hot dog and cheeseburger toppings at your next backyard cookout! Fourth of July is coming up and so is the rest of your life! Put these easy recipes on your list of backyard necessities for burgers and hot dogs of all seasons.

Chili and pimento cheese dog.

Buffalo fried chicken sandwich

The boneless buffalo sandwich

No buffalo were harmed during the production of this blog post.


Buffalo chicken wings and blue cheese dressing is a top tier flavor combination in my opinion and it turns out that it isn’t that hard to make either component. According to the National Chicken Council, the early version of the concept that became Buffalo wings was invented in 1964 at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York. Blue cheese dressing’s origin story is a little more complicated but it seems that we’ve had a form of blue cheese ever since a distracted shepherd accidentally left cheese behind and later discovered blue cheese in a cave outside of the village Roquefort, France in the 7th century.

The combination of buffalo sauce and blue cheese dressing is very popular in sandwich form and you can tell this from its appearance on thousands of menus across the United States. I get really excited about buffalo chicken wings and am interested when I get the opportunity to move those flavors into sandwich territory. A buffalo chicken sandwich is an experience that I crave when I see it on a menu.

It’s time to start this business and I hope you’ll follow me along the way as I make a couple of buffalo chicken wing inspired sandwiches. Please grab three or five napkins and join me.

Brioche buns

Four of my prettiest buns. Aren’t you glad I didn’t say two?

The bun I used this week was the King Arthur Baking brioche bun recipe. This recipe is a good one but you need to know in advance that it’s an overnight rest/rise recipe. This just means you need to start the bun recipe the day before you need buns.

You also MUST have a stand mixer or bread maker for this unless you’re ready for 25 or 30 minutes of solid hard core stirring. For the first 20 minutes of my stand mixer churning at a solid 4 speed, it looked like I was making a cookie dough. But somewhere around the 20 minute mark my dough started coming together and pulling off of the side of the bowl.

One of the biggest lessons I learned during this process was found in the accompanying brioche King Arthur blog post (these accompanying posts are the best). They suggested when you’re putting the buns onto the parchment for the final rise, you should flatten the dough balls. Their technique was to use a bench scraper or a large measuring cup to evenly push down the dough and twist it to help with making the ball circular.

This was fantastic advice and it helped me make very smooth looking buns. I probably would never have thought of this on my own, but looking back it makes so much sense and I will be applying it to my future bun bakes, brioche or not. You should buy a good bench scraper like this one (Amazon affiliate link) if you don’t already have one. If you’re buying a bench scraper and not using this link, make sure it has measurement lines on the edges. When I’m baking biscuits and using my bench scraper, I can use the measurement marks to get consistent heights on my biscuits it also helps when shaping 5 or 6 inch long sandwich rolls.

Crumb shot! Look at my beautiful bun.

The sauces

Buffalo sauce

Two ingredients and you’re done. Boom. I don’t need to say much more here. Frank’s RedHot will give you the buffalo flavor you’re probably most used to, but you can use your favorite hot sauce too. Go nuts.

Recipe Card
10 minutes
Buffalo sauce

Making wings? This recipe is for you. Two ingredients and a tiny bit of time on the stove and you\'re ready to go. This is also great to sauce your chicken tenders for a spicy option.

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Blue cheese dressing

In my opinion, blue cheese dressing is 100% required if you’re making Buffalo sauced meals. Some folks will say they prefer Ranch, but they are wrong. The flavors just blend so well that I can’t imagine one without the other. This is a super easy recipe and it’s very similar to my Ranch recipe.

10 minutes
Blue cheese dressing

Thick and tangy with flavors from the sharp and flavorful blue cheese sets us up in a place where this will be great for sandwiches or salads. Add more buttermilk (or milk) to thin it out if you want it pourable.

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Grilled buffalo chicken sandwich

I made both a fried and grilled version of the buffalo chicken sandwich. For my grilled version I decided to make some slaw and since I had a lot of blue cheese dressing, I chose to use that instead of mayo as the creamy part of the slaw recipe. This slaw could be made with store bought blue cheese dressing too. If you’re using store bought, be careful when adding the dressing – add it slowly to make sure you don’t use too much. Just incorporate a little at a time and stir until you get the slaw dressed the way you like it.

Recipe Card
Blue cheese slaw

Similar to a lot of slaws you've probably had but with the tang of blue cheese. This slaw would be good as a side dish or on top of a buffalo chicken sandwich.

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The prep for my grilled chicken was really simple. I didn’t go complicated with seasoning, since I was going to dunk the chicken into my buffalo sauce. I simply seasoned a boneless, skinless chicken thigh with salt and pepper and grilled it. On this occasion, I used a grill pan in my kitchen, but you can obviously grill it however you want. 4 or 5 minutes per side and you should be golden. An instant read thermometer like this one (Amazon affiliate link) will help you if you’re not sure when your chicken is fully cooked. I’m also a big fan of the ThermoPop at around thirty five dollars.

Grilled buffalo chicken with a blue cheese slaw on brioche.

Flamin’ Hot Cheeto crusted buffalo chicken sandwich

I bought a few small bags of Flamin’ Hot flavored snacks (Fritos, Cheetos and Funyuns) and we had a little sampling at home (Funyuns were the best). I took the leftover Cheetos and figured I would use them to crust fried chicken thighs. Then I coated it in buffalo sauce, which was undoubtedly overkill, but I still did it. The Flamin’ Hot flavor didn’t stand out as much, but the crunch and texture really did. This was a winner. The cheetos stood up to the sauce and kept most of their texture and snap.

I’ve included the full recipe for my Flamin’ Hot Cheeto crusted buffalo chicken sandwich below. Give it a try and let me know how yours works out! Check back again next week where I’ll be trying my hand at more sandwiches.

Frying action shot. Flamin’ Hot Cheetos on left, regular fried thigh on right.
Flamin' Hot Cheeto crusted buffalo chicken sandwich view printable page for this recipe

Spicy but not overwhelming flavors along with the cooling blue cheese dressing leave you with a flavorful piece of still crunchy fried chicken. Get extra napkins.

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Ingredients:

  • 4 chicken thighs or breast pieces
  • 2 large eggs
  • 14 cup buttermilk
  • 1 12 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 12 cups crushed Flamin' Hot Cheetos
  • peanut oil for frying
  • buffalo wing sauce (link to recipe)

Directions:

Season both sides of your chicken with salt and pepper.

Get three bowls, plates or pans that are large enough for a piece of chicken to lay flat. 

Make seasoned flour by combining flour with the salt and pepper in a bowl or pan. 

Prepare another bowl or pan and add 2 eggs and 1/4 cup of buttermilk. Season with salt and pepper. Stir well to combine.

Add your crushed Flamin' Hot Cheetos to your third bowl or pan

Using one piece of chicken at a time dredge in the seasoned flour mixture until thorougly coated on all sides. Then coat in the egg and buttermilk mixture. Make sure chicken is fully coated. Then place chicken into the Flamin' Hot Cheetos and firmly press until chicken is heavily coated. Place fully coated chicken onto a piece of parchment or the rack of a sheet pan to rest. 

Heat 2 inches of peanut oil in a skillet to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). 

Fry each piece of chicken for 6 to 7 minutes or until it reaches 165 degrees internal temperature. If your chicken is really thick you will likely need a little more time. You'll probably want to fry for 3 minutes on the first side and then flip it to make sure you're getting the level of browning that you want. Continue cooking on the other side. 

After frying, place finished chicken on a cooling rack over paper towels to drain some of the oil away. 

Toss fried chicken pieces in buffalo sauce and place each chicken piece on a bun. Top each buffalo sauce coated thigh or breast piece with blue cheese dressing, lettuce and tomato (if desired).

And since you made it this far I have another sandwich to look at. This one was fried AND slaw’ed.

Fried boneless, skinless chicken thigh soaked with buffalo sauce and topped with blue cheese slaw on brioche.