Safe Hot Dog Temperatures: Cooking, Holding, and Storing

Hot dogs are a staple American food. Whether you like them with mustard, ketchup, or nothing at all, the most important thing is to make sure hot dogs are prepared safely. The safe minimum cooking …

grilling hot dogs

Hot dogs are a staple American food. Whether you like them with mustard, ketchup, or nothing at all, the most important thing is to make sure hot dogs are prepared safely.

The safe minimum cooking temperature for a hot dog is between 160°F (71 °C) and 165°F (74 °C). For holding temperature, it’s 140 °F (60 °C) or higher. Hot dogs should be stored at 40° F (4° C) in the fridge, and 0° F (-18° C) in the freezer. 

Read on to discover the many ways you can safely cook this delicious classic, as well as tips on how to reheat and store them!

What Temperature Should my Grill be for a Hot Dog?

Warm weather calls for cooking outside and having a great time with family and friends. When grilling hot dogs, the temperature should reach at least 165°F (74 °C). If the temperature drops below 140 °F (60 °C), bacteria could grow and contaminate the food (source: CDC).

When smoking hot dogs, it is best to maintain the temperature inside the smoker at 250 °F (121°C) to 300 °F (149 °C) (source: University of Florida IFAS). 

Cooking your hot dogs at this temperature for long periods of time might burn them. To prevent this, you can smoke them in a smoker for a short time, or adjust the smoker to 165°F (74 °C) after a few minutes for grilling.

It’s not safe to partially grill your hot dogs and resume cooking later since bacterial growth can take place under these conditions.

If you want to cook your hot dogs faster, you can pre-cook them on a stove or in the microwave. Just make sure to preheat the grill so you can finish the hot dogs right away after the initial cooking (source: Minnesota Department of Health).

hot dogs on a grill

Once cooked, you can put your hot dogs on the side of the grill before serving. When serving, you can store them in a warming tray, chafing dish, or steam table (source: Houston Department of Health and Human Services). 

You can also reheat the fully-cooked hot dogs to 165°F (74 °C) if you want to, but not for too long. 

If you are using propane gas, you can adjust the temperature to how hot you want the grill to be. Its maximum heat is 600 °F (316 °C). Just remember that the hot dogs have to cook at a minimum of 160°F (71 °C) to 165°F (74 °C).

Unlike propane gas where you can tell the temperature, you won’t be able to do so with a charcoal grill. Start by putting a small number of coals in the middle of the grate. Don’t spread the pile just yet, since this prevents it from getting too hot. 

When the coals turn red, you can add the grill grate, or you can spread the coals before doing this so the heat is evenly spread out and won’t burn the food. If you want it hotter, you can add more coals and repeat.

Use a food thermometer to tell if the hot dogs are done (source: Institute for Advanced Study).

What’s the Minimum Hot Holding Temperature for Hot Dogs?

Because they are considered hot food and are perishable, hot dogs should be held at a holding temperature of 140 °F (60 °C) or slightly above. This is because temperatures between 40 °F (4 °C) and 140 °F (60 °C) are a medium for accelerated bacterial growth (source: USDA).

Hot dogs sold in hot dog stands or gas stations may not be safe if they are not cooked and held at the correct temperatures indicated above. 

Most hot dog stands use hot dog rollers, which are not only convenient but also safe. Steamers are also safe unless cross-contamination takes place.

If you buy from a gas station or a hot dog stand, check if the employees are wearing gloves, whether or not they use tongs, and if the establishment seems to be generally clean. If you notice any red flags, don’t risk it!

You can also cook hot dogs in the oven, microwave, frying pan, or pot of boiling water. Just don’t leave them boiling for too long – otherwise, they lose their flavor and nutrients (source: Tasting Table).

When in doubt, the best way to check on doneness is with a food thermometer.

grilling hot dogs

What Should a Hot Dog’s Internal Temperature be?

The safe internal temperature for cooking hot dogs is 160°F (71 °C) if they are made from ground meat, and 165°F (74 °C) if made with ground poultry. To ensure an accurate reading, it’s best to use a food thermometer at the end of the cooking time (sources: USDA, UW Extension). 

For grilled hot dogs, the CDC advises a temperature of 165°F (74 °C), or not below 140 °F (60 °C) until serving (source: CDC). 

Technically, hot dogs are cooked (pre-cooked) processed meat made from one or more types of ground meat (source: USDA). 

For example, one hot dog manufacturing company cooks their hot dogs in two ways: by smoking, then by steam. The result is well-cooked hot dogs (source: Procedia Manufacturing).

However, the actual cooking temperature may vary from company to company. Improper handling of hot dogs at any stage of production could also happen, which can cause harmful bacterial contamination. This is why you should always cook hot dogs thoroughly.

Listeria monocytogenes, the bacteria responsible for listeriosis, can grow in processed foods such as hot dogs. Listeriosis can cause fever, chills, backache, headache, and overall abdominal pain (source: USDA). 

And because hot dogs are made with meat, they can also be contaminated with the following pathogens:

  • Bacillus cereus
  • Clostridium perfringens
  • Noroviruses
  • Campylobacter jejuni

(source: FDA). 

Thawing Frozen Packaged Hotdogs on a Plate

What Temperature Should Hot Dogs be Stored at in the Fridge?

Hot dogs should be stored in the refrigerator at 40° F (4° C). Freezing them at 0° F (-18° C) will keep them safe until you use them. 

Always follow the expiration date or “best use by” date indicated on the packaging. If there is none, follow these recommendations:

  • In the fridge, hot dogs with an opened package will be safe for one week, while unopened ones will be safe for up to two weeks. In the freezer, both opened and unopened hot dog packages will keep for 1–2 months.
  • If you think your hot dogs stored in the fridge will be cooked within the next week, wrap the packaging in an air-tight plastic wrap, heavy-duty foil, or plastic bag, or freeze them.
  • Hot dogs that expire while in the freezer will be safe indefinitely (sources: USDA, Honolulu Gov).
  • Don’t leave hot dogs at room temperature for two hours or more, or for more than an hour if the temperature is 90 °F (32° C) (source: USDA). 

We hope this article helps you enjoy your hot dogs safely!