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Sorry, But Putting Ketchup On Hot Dogs Is A Crime

squirting ketchup on hot dog
squirting ketchup on hot dog - AtlasStudio/Shutterstock

The hot dog, born of German immigrant influence and American ingenuity, has evolved into a symbol of unity and diversity -- a melting pot in a bun, if you will. It is a canvas on which local flavors are joyfully displayed. Each region has its own unique recipe -- from the good ol' "dragged through the garden" Chicago Dog to the bacon-wrapped Texas Tommy to the legendary Fenway Frank -- and these variations are a testament to the creativity and pride of their communities. Yet, amidst this coast-to-coast journey, one heinous crime against the quintessential comfort food sends shivers down spines: the application of ketchup.

When you drench a hot dog in ketchup, you obliterate the subtleties and nuances that define these regional masterpieces. Ketchup often masks the delicate flavors of the dog, the other condiments, and the bun. Imagine biting into a Chicago Dog, a tour de force with its yellow mustard, green relish, chopped onions, tomato slices, pickles, sport peppers, and a hefty dash of celery salt, only to have it assaulted by the cloying sweetness and acidity of ketchup. It's akin to spray-painting graffiti on a Picasso. Such an offense should not be tolerated -- especially if you're an adult. Even the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council (yes, that's a real organization) states in its etiquette: "Don't use ketchup on your hot dog after the age of 18."

Read more: 41 Must Try Hot Sandwich Recipes

Ketchup Creates Nothing But A Mess

person putting ketchup on hot dog
person putting ketchup on hot dog - Tomch/Getty Images

Indeed, ketchup on a hot dog is a major cop-out. It's a shortcut to flavor, a lazy attempt to make a dog palatable. A properly made hot dog should not rely on ketchup to rescue it from mediocrity. When you opt for ketchup, you abandon the artistry of the food and choose the easy way out.

A well-constructed hot dog is a balanced blend of textures, from the snappy casing and succulent interior to the crunch of toppings and tenderness of the split bun. Ketchup, with its liquid consistency, disrupts this artful uniformity. It can quickly turn the bun into a soggy mess and reduce the dog to a sad, limp creation. A hot dog should be a sensory delight, not a mushy disappointment.

But the anti-ketchup-on-hot-dogs argument goes far beyond taste and texture; it delves into upholding cultural significance. Hot dogs are an integral part of our nation's customs, from summertime backyard barbecues to baseball games. They represent togetherness and evoke nostalgia. When you squirt the tomato-centric condiment along the dog's surface, then you, in a way, betray heritage, making a mess of its proud cultural status. You disregard the rich history and traditions associated with hot dogs -- after all, it's mustard that's used most commonly on German sausages, from which the humble hot dog finds its roots -- and replace those customs with a mundane condiment that lacks depth and character.

Mustard-Smothered, Ketchupless Dogs Are The Way To Go

hot dog with American flag
hot dog with American flag - Image Source/Getty Images

Mustard, it turns out, is more than just a "Clue" character. Mustard's amicable compatibility with hot dogs is rooted in the culinary science of flavor chemistry. The pungent tang of mustard can be attributed to compounds like allyl isothiocyanate, which are released when mustard seeds are crushed or ground. This chemical reaction activates taste receptors on our tongues,  stimulating a pleasantly spicy (but not burning) sensation that rounds off the savory and salty notes of the hot dog. Plus, mustard's natural acidity, which primarily comes from vinegar, not only balances the richness of the meat but also heightens the perception of other tastes.

Additionally, the vibrant yellow color of mustard enhances the visual appeal of franks, thereby triggering the brain's hunger response and increasing our anticipation of deliciousness. The sophisticated synergy between mustard and hot dogs showcases how meticulous flavor pairings can create a multisensory experience that transcends the sum of its individual components.

Of course, one might argue that taste is subjective, and everyone should be free to enjoy their food as they please. Still, while individual preferences exist, there are certain boundaries that should not be crossed. So, leave the ketchup bottle on the shelf, or save it for burgers and fries. The hot dog deserves better, and so do your taste buds.

Oh, and in case you were wondering ... yes, a hot dog is absolutely a sandwich.

Read the original article on Mashed.