Fresh out of the oven hot dog buns. Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman.

I had an unstoppable hunger this past weekend for old-Chicago-style all-beef hotdogs from Vienna Beef, the best hotdog in the country in my opinion. I wanted that charred skin flavor of summer, the grill smoke from fat dripping on coals, the juicy snap when you bite into them.

I decided to make buns. Why? Because, we were inviting friends (great food must be shared); I had a cool hot dog pan from American Pan; I had never made them before; and most important, the best hot dogs deserve special treatment. One of the great things about cooking is that you’re subliminally eating the entire time, a kind of calorie-free spiritual nourishment, and I was thinking about the hot dogs the whole time in the kitchen (with good mustard and minced sweet onion).

Hot dog buns are not simply about shape. You can’t use the basic bread dough ratio and put them in a hot dog bun pan. Hot dog buns need to be soft and fluffy inside, with a delicate crumb and soft crust. A soft, tender crumb is in large part due to fat, which shortens the dough, making it tender rather than chewy. It also requires a generous rise so that it’s light and airy inside. In trying to devise a recipe for buns, I thought about the qualities of other breads I’d done that were similar, and remembered these buttermilk dinner rolls, so I used that recipe as a guide.

The results were these splendid top-loaders. Leftovers can be wrapped in foil and frozen. If you wind up having too much fun that night and they don’t get put away, day-old buns make excellent French toast. Or simply toast them, butter, and serve them with eggs, bacon, and grits, as I did. Great hot dog buns should be great bread, period.

Hot Dog Buns

  • 900 grams/30 ounces flour (about 6 cups)
  • 300 grams/10 ounces buttermilk
  • 275 grams/9 ounces milk
  • 7 grams/0.25 ounce instant dry yeast
  • 14 grams/0.5 ounce sugar (1 tablespoon)
  • 2 eggs
  • 18 grams/0.6 ounce salt (1 tablespoon Morton’s kosher salt)
  • Melted butter as needed
  1. Combine all ingredients except the butter in a mixing bowl and mix on medium till the dough is elastic, about 10 minutes. This is a fairly sticky dough. Allow the dough to rise for 2 to 3 hours or till doubled in size. To make it easier to work with, you can turn it out every hour, fold it in thirds, and return it to the fermenting bowl. (More on this technique from expert baker Matt McDonald in November.)
  2. Turn out the dough onto a board and cut the dough into 80-gram/3-ounce pieces. Fold the pieces into rectangles, cover with a towel, and let them rest for 15 minutes.
  3. Gently roll the pieces into cylinders to fit a hot dog bun pan or, if you’re baking them free form, to your desired length. Put them in your buttered pan. Their sides should be touching if you’re using a sheet pan (you may want to use a support of some kind on either side). Cover with a towel for 1 hour.
  4. Preheat your oven to 350˚F/175˚C.
  5. Baste the buns with melted butter and bake until done, about 45 minutes. Baste with more butter. Allow them to cool before separating them.
  6. This recipe will make 16 to 20 buns. The recipe can be halved by weight.

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© 2012 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2012 Donna Turner-Ruhlman. All rights reserved.

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34 Wonderful responses to “Labor Day Weekend Hot Dog Buns”

  • ruhlman

    No,and Donna’s pissed she didn’t shoot a finished dog in the bun. But we really were entertaining and photography wasn’t part of the evening.

  • steve g

    I guess you’ll have to make the buns again, to complete the documentation process. They doo look great.

  • Lori

    I’m happy with the photography just the way it is. Love it! The recipe is wonderful – you make it easy for us to create yummy things. Thank you for doing this.

  • Llamabean

    These look great, just need to find some time to try them, I make another recipe that uses butter for the fat, and can’t wait to try using buttermilk for the fat.
    No special pan, but the recipe looks lovely.

  • mbk

    yummy. I tried to make my own buns, but they never seem to have the right “softness.” so, tomorrow is hot-dog-night. :-)

  • Erik Schwartz

    You should try the bacon studded hot dogs that Ryan at 4505 Meats in San Francisco makes.

  • Al W

    It’s my understanding; you slice the buns, not where they are up against each other but rather split the mounds. This makes the seams the part you split open for the dog. Am I correct? On another note, we were welcoming a new Priest from the Chicago area out here to Oregon and I made Chicago style dogs right down to the Vienna Beef and celery seeds. The hardest ingredient to source was the neon green relish. Last weekend’s project was pretzels, next week may be buns. Thank you again for your observations.

  • Michelle C.

    Split top frank buns, lightly buttered and grilled – key to a good Maine lobster roll!

    I use a recipe from King Arthur Flour that uses instant potato flakes (or potato flour) and nonfat dry milk to make the buns soft and fluffy.

  • michael pardus

    I used the Soft Roll recipe from the Pro Chef Baking and Pastry Book and hand shaped them….too cheap to buy a fancy schmancy hot-dog-bun pan. Got pretty much the same effect, just not photo worthy. Local dogs from local steers compensated for my lack of technique. And Jessica’s pickles were freaking awesome accompaniments.

  • Christine

    In my list of things I miss about Chicago (I’ve been gone 20+ yrs.), Halsted St. (Greek town) and Chicago’s Vienna Red Hots top the list. I am bereft by the lack of Red Hots in LA. These buns looks sensational, especially when topped with the best dogs and condiments.

  • Lisa

    typo… I think you want to let them COOL not COOK before separating. But the buns look amazing. Now to find the hot dogs in Atlanta.

  • Allen

    A good rinse of produce and thorough cooking of meet means “organic”, “free range” is a complete waste of money:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/04/science/earth/study-questions-advantages-of-organic-meat-and-produce.html?_r=1&src=me&ref=general

    If you’re making limoncello, beef carpacio or beef tartare you could justify the organic label, but otherwise your wasting $.

    Sorry to be off topic on the post, my rant would be lost in the free book giveaway post. Probably still is, but I feel better now.

  • Allen

    To be back on track, I’ve made the hot dogs in charcuterie, shouldn’t they be the best hot dogs? Neon green relish and sport peppers are impossible to find in Seattle, so is a good giardinera sauce for Italian beef sandwich. Another perk of being in Cleveland; proximity to good food.

  • Julia

    I’ve been making a lot of bread lately, using a bread machine. I guess it is time now to venture out of this machine and make some bread/buns in the oven! Thank you for the recipe.

  • Katherine

    Hi Allen – the NYT link you posted only mentions the health and safety benefits (or lack thereof) with organic/free range. It does not mention taste – and buy an organic chicken from your local farmers market and compare it to your grocery store brand (enhanced with up to 15% “solution!”) and you will taste the difference.

  • ruhlman

    Allen, et al., I wasn’t surprised by the nutrition analysis of organic produce. But I certainly agree that well raised livestock is tastier and healthier than industrial livestock.

  • allen

    Try an organic nitrite free hot dog. Right up there with tofurkey dogs & turkey bacon.

  • Katherine

    Aaron, I agree completely – I will buy local over organic any day. However, Allen had mentioned free range, which is something that I personally look for. Chickens that eat grass and bugs are always tastier. I think we’re agreeing on the same points here – know your farmer, know your food.

  • Brian W

    I just pulled these buns out of the oven and the look great. Since today was my day off i also decided to make your homemade hot dogs from charcuterie!! I cannot wait to try these together. I might passout just from the sheer awesomeness of homemade bread and emulsified meat!! hah!

    • ruhlman

      fabulous, brian, thanks for being the first to try. glad they worked for you! bread always a little tricky due to temp and humidity.

  • Annette

    I just bought this pan about a month ago and must say it is my new favorite. I too favor a buttermilk roll. Brian, I also made my own hotdogs ( from chatcuterie) to go along with them. I lightly toasted the sides and must say hands down best ever!

  • Carly

    Eek, how did I miss this. I’ve been completely fixated on hot dogs for almost 2 weeks now. It’s actually getting a little pitiful.

    • ruhlman

      there is everything right, and nothing “pitiful” about being fixated on hotdogs for two weeks. its part of being human.

  • Carolyn Z

    I like to buy local and organic if I can. Pasture raised beef and eggs are wonderful. I don’t have any proof, but we think that our CSA pasture raised eggs taste good because they eat bugs and whey soaked organic feed. The chickens certainly seem to know the different in their food and they come running when it arrives. There are pictures!

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