This article is part of our Cocktail Chatter series, where we dive into the wild, weird, and wondrous corners of history to share over a cocktail and impress your friends.
Feeding a crowd can be stressful, especially when it comes to celebratory outdoor shindigs like barbecues and picnics. That’s why grill-friendly crowd-pleasers like hot dogs are a no-brainer. What’s apparently not so easy, however, is calculating how many bags of dogs and buns to pick up at the grocery store.
In case you haven’t noticed, most hot dogs are sold in packs of 10 while buns come in packs of eight. That discrepancy has been annoying backyard grilling enthusiasts and professional pitmasters for over 80 years. It turns out that the mismatch all boils down to a lack of communication between butchers and bakers.
Meat is typically sold by the pound, and as hot dogs typically weigh 1.6 ounces each, it makes sense for producers to package them for purchase in 10-piece, 1-pound packs. According to Reader’s Digest, companies began selling them this way in the 1940s. Meanwhile, bread-making food corporations typically use baking machinery that holds four hot dog buns. Bakers began packing two sheets’ worth of bread in a package, and from then on, the ratio of dog to bun would be uneven.
Heinz Ketchup actually aimed to solve this issue in 2022 by partnering with Wonder Bread to offer 10-bun packs that better accompany a standard package of hot dogs. The bad news? They’re currently only available in Ontario, Canada.
For now, American consumers can seek ways to repurpose those extra dogs — we could get down with some hot dog hash for a post-barbecue brunch — or just do a little mental arithmetic at the grocery store. If you’d rather skip the math, we recommend purchasing four packs of hot dogs and five packages of hot dog buns to make 40 perfect pairs.