Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Wieners And Losers: Not All Hot Dogs Are Created Equal

My youngest son just came home from a week at Bald Head Island with a friend's family. One of the things he raved about, in addition to the being able to live on the beach for seven days, was the local hot dog stand, Mike's Bites. Nick was never a big fan of hot dogs but that changed last week. So I had to ask what brand of hot dogs they serve at Mike's Bites. He didn't know. Most kids don't pay attention to that sort of thing. But I do.

I have a very simple hot dog rule: if it's the same color as Santa Claus' suit, don't eat it. The redder the dog, the lower the quality. It might only be red dye, but I'm not taking any chances. Besides, who needs more red dye in their diet? Quality matters. Just because something is called a hot dog, doesn't mean it has to contain the proverbial lips and a&&#@!*&.

Charlotte is full of places to find a good hot dog. Green's Lunch, JJ's Red Hots, and Chili Man immediately come to mind. And no Charlotte Knights game is complete without at least one of their all-beef beauties. I usually get two.

Phil Harris

The franks served at BB&T Ballpark, as well as at JJ's Red Hots, are supplied by Sahlen's, a Buffalo, NY-based company known for its "signature Smokehouse Hot Dogs and deli meats with carved-off-the-bone flavor and texture." They're my personal favorite and I've also found them at Harris Teeter.

YouTube food channel Mashed looked at other wieners, er, winners that get high marks for hot dog quality. Here's what they found:

Sabrett - If you've ever been to New York City, then you've seen the iconic Sabrett logo on a hot dog cart's umbrella. Sabrett Beef Frankfurters have the added distinction of being certified gluten-free. You can get them in Charlotte-area supermarkets, too.

Applegate Farms - Their beef franks are praised for being uncured. That means they have far fewer preservatives and much less sodium than most other brands. They also make it known that they treat their livestock humanely, letting them roam free and without antibiotics.

Boar's Head Lite Beef Frankfurters - Boar's Head uses whole-muscle meat, as opposed to mechanically-separated meat. Each of these hot dogs contains only 6 grams of fat and 90 calories.

Trader Joe's Uncured Chicken Dogs - There's that word "uncured" again. Fewer preservatives, 60 calories, 250 milligrams of sodium, and 2.5 grams of fat. And it's made from chicken instead of beef or pork. That has to be healthier, right? Not necessarily. See below.

The losers:

Beware! Just because a hot dog is made from poultry does not automatically make it a healthy option. Oscar Mayer Turkey Dogs are loaded with fat, sodium, and calories. That's how food manufacturers make turkey-based products more flavorful.

Ball Park Franks are a prime example of the type of hot dogs you want to avoid for two reasons. They're plump with fat and sodium.

Vegetarian and Kosher dogs can also be misleading. It turns out that many vegetarian brands still contain some meat, and trace amounts of pork have been found in some hot dogs labeled as Kosher! That sort of defeats the whole purpose.

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images