The Great American Debate: Is a Hot Dog a Sandwich or a Taco?

Most Americans can agree that a hot dog is a go-to snack for grilling out, a football game, or anything in between. Something sits right with us about a hot dog's addicting flavor, fluffy buns and the spread of available toppings and condiments. However, as universal as this opinion is, not all Americans can agree when it comes to the question of what a hot dog truly is. Is a hotdog a sandwich? Is it a taco? Or is this snack an undefinable food group of its own?

According to Some, a Hot Dog is a Sandwich

Hot dogs with vegetables, mustard and ketchup on a cutting board, side view Fast food, street food.

Getty Images/Alexandra Turkina

Some hot dog fans are of the controversial opinion that this game day snack is indeed a sandwich. For one, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) points out that the hot dog is considered a sandwich according to its definition of a sandwich, which states that a closed sandwich must contain 35% cooked meat and no more than 50% bread. A typical sandwich consists of two slices of bread (in the hot dog's case, a bun fills in for the pieces of bread) that enclose the meat.

No matter how wrong this may seem to some hot dog purists, this definition puts a hot dog firmly into the category of sandwich. Is this hot dog blasphemy, or a genius way to define America's favorite cookout snack?

Or Is a Hot Dog a Taco?

Young woman eating hot dog on the street

Getty Images/blackCAT

However, others say that a hot dog is not a sandwich, but a taco. To answer questions such as this, the Cube Rule was invented. This categorization tool was made to help curious foodies determine what foods fit into what categories. The Cube Rule says that there are eight categories of food that all other foods can be placed into based on the placement of starch. According to the Cube Rule, foods with starch on the bottom and both sides are tacos, meaning that a hot dog is most definitely a taco.

We're not sure what a true hot dog fan would say about reducing the essence of this snack to its starch levels- after all, hot dogs are so much more than their buns!

Could a Hot Dog Just Be...a Hot Dog?

Young African-American man is eating hot dog and smiling

Getty Images/Milko

The podcast A Hot Dog Is a Sandwich is devoted to answering the internet's greatest food debates, so of course one of its episodes focuses on the question that is its name. In this episode, titled No, A Hot Dog Is Not a Taco, mythical chefs Josh Scherer and Nicole Enayati vehemently argue that no, a taco is not a taco! However, they also admit that when they pose the question on social media, the most common reply from their followers is that a hot dog is, in fact, a taco and not a sandwich. Do we listen to the hot dog-loving general public or the food categorization experts?

Many hot dog lovers are tied to the identity of hot dogs as their own food group, delicious with ketchup, mustard, sauerkraut and reminiscent of baseball games and barbecues. The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council feels that the hot dog is not a 'wich but a treat in of itself. NHDSC President and 'Queen of Wien' Janet Riley states, "Limiting the hot dog's significance by saying it's 'just a sandwich' category is like calling the Dalai Lama 'just a guy.'"

When you look further into the categorization of a hot dog, you find that the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the snack as, "a frankfurter with a typically mild flavor that is heated and usually served in a long split roll." This description doesn't sound especially like a sandwich or a taco to me. This brings us to the question- can a hot dog truly be defined? Maybe this beloved food is more than its parts, defying explanation and categorization with its tasty flavors and fluffy buns.

With no conclusive decisions about the identity of this iconic American food, we can only assume that the debate will go on for years to come and that the age-old question will remain unanswered no matter how many hot dog lovers put their brains and taste buds to the task.

This article was originally published on June 10, 2019.

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