The basic architecture of a hot dog is pretty straightforward. And the way to eat them comes down to basic ergonomics: start on one side and chomp away until you’ve reached the end of it. But unbeknownst to most, the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council (NHDSC) not only exists, but it’s also recorded its own hot dog etiquette guide. And after checking it out, it seems that some casual hot dog-eaters could very well be committing some serious cookout fouls.

To share the alleged proper way to enjoy this cornerstone of American cuisine, we’ve outlined the NHDSC’s dos and don’ts of hot dog consumption here. Some are objectively sound rules, but others have us shaking our heads. Forget everything you’ve learned about table manners, and dive in.


Serve them on sesame seed, poppy seed, or plain buns.

We’re also partial to potato buns, although the NHDSC refrains from laying down the law on those. However, it claims that sun-dried tomato buns are “considered gauche with franks.”

Eat your hot dogs in buns and with your hands.

This is a humble food, folks. Unless using your hands isn’t an option, gussying up the practice with a fork and knife is not in the easy-going spirit of the dog. The bun is also essential — even though you may have to do some extra math at the grocery store when buying enough for your barbeque.

Serve them on a paper plate.

Common dishware is also acceptable, but according to the NHDSC, “china is a no-no.”

Lick your fingers instead of washing them.

The Council says any condiments that end up on your fingers after consumption should be licked off, but we’ll give you a pass on this one. We don’t know what kind of party you’re throwing.

Serve cocktail wieners with toothpicks.

Multicolor is preferable, according to the Council — and it says to ditch the cocktail forks.


Put condiments or toppings on the bun before adding the dog.

Dog down first, people. And when “dressing the dog,” the NHDSC says to apply wet condiments like mustard and chili before adding chunky ones like onions, relish, or sauerkraut. If you’re really going all out with toppings, shredded cheese should be next, followed by any garnishes you might fancy.

Put ketchup on your dog if you’re over 18.

We’re going to challenge the establishment on this one. While the Council concedes that mustard, relish, onions, cheese, and chili are acceptable for adults, we’re not taking Heinz off our checkered tables any time soon.

Use a cloth napkin to wipe your mouth.

It may not be the most eco-friendly option, but the NHDSC states that paper napkins and towels are always preferred.

Take more than five bites to finish one.

The Council is opposed to nibbling, but it does allow an extra two bites when polishing off a foot-long dog.

Leave any bun behind.

A hot dog technically isn’t finished if there are bits of bun left on your (paper) plate. Finish the job and leave no trace.

Involve fresh herbs.

The NHDSC says fresh herbs can over-do the hot dog’s humble presentation. While we’re keeping it simple on our own picnic tables, we’ll admit that there’s a time and place for a flashy, more dramatic dog.

Send a thank you note after the barbeque.

As the NHDSC states, “it would not be in keeping with the unpretentious nature of hot dogs.” We did tell you to forget your manners.

Bring wine where they’re grilling dogs.

While the Council lists beer, soda, lemonade, and iced tea as permissible beverages, we’re going to call bullsh*t on this one, too. If you’re looking for some grill-adjacent bottles, check out our list of this year’s best chillable reds.

Think that there’s a wrong time to cook up some dogs.

It’s grilling season, so we’d tend to agree.