What is the Difference Between a Hot Dog, Weiner, Frank, and Sausage?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

The hot dog, considered quintessential American food owes its origin to two places outside the US. Frankfurt, Germany, and Vienna, Austria lay claim to inventing these sausages. Thus franks or frankfurters are merely synonyms for this dish. Wiener comes from the name Wien, the Austrian name for the city English speakers call Vienna. Essentially there is no difference between hot dogs, wieners, and franks, although some say that wieners may be slightly shorter than franks.

Hot dogs, also called franks.
Hot dogs, also called franks.

All hot dogs are sausages, a mixture of meat and spices usually stuffed into casings (or veggies and soy products for a veggie dog stuffed into a veggie casing). Yet not every sausage is a hot dog. There are plenty of sausages that predate franks and weiners, and they can contain mixtures of meat, fat, animal blood, and spices in casing, but don’t have the same taste as the modern weiners or franks. Generally, hot dogs, unless kosher, are a combination of finely ground pork and beef combined with salt and spices. This differs widely from tiny breakfast, spicy Italian, chicken and apple or black pudding sausages.

Raw sausages.
Raw sausages.

Sausages are referenced as far back as Homer’s Odyssey dated at about 850 BCE. The earliest possible reference to a hot dog occurs in the late 17th century, when a sausage maker named Johann Georghehner may have first invented a sausage he called "little dachshunds," or "little dogs," after the dogs many today refer to as weiner dogs. Georghehner, though originally from Coburg, Germany, is said to have brought his new sausages to Frankfurt, but there is a great deal of debate on this subject, and the matter of who really invented this type of sausage is still unresolved.

Blood sausage.
Blood sausage.

There are some variations on hot dogs though. For instance, Hebrew National® labels their product as all beef franks, and are popular because they are kosher. They contain no pork, and use only kosher cuts of beef. To add further puzzlement to matters, cocktail weiners are very short sausages, meant to be eaten in a bite or two. They really don’t differ much from the standard kind except in size. Vienna sausages are also considered hot dogs of a sort, though they are typically slightly larger than cocktail weiners and still smaller than franks.

Kielbasa, a type of sausage.
Kielbasa, a type of sausage.

Do note that most franks and weiners are pre-cooked, but you still need to re-cook them. Many sausages can be sold raw, but this usually isn’t the case with hot dogs. Follow package directions for safe heating.

A hot dog with mustard.
A hot dog with mustard.
Cocktail sausages are popular at get togethers.
Cocktail sausages are popular at get togethers.
Vienna, Austria, is the home of the sausages named after the city.
Vienna, Austria, is the home of the sausages named after the city.
There are many types of sausages that are not hot dogs.
There are many types of sausages that are not hot dogs.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments

anon1000529

Mostly, it's who makes yours, as too many name brands exist today. Also, it's how you prepare them. I went looking for a Russian sausage, but I could not find one. I googled all over the internet for years and could not find it. Those who knew about it called it Russian sausage.

I went to a Russian grocery and he looked at me like, "what in the hell are you talking about?" He had over forty sausages he let me taste, but I could not get the taste I was looking for. I may have tasted it but it was prepared some other way.

I have found out it's a European sausage that varies from every thousand people. So you may have 20 million separate producers. Many actually make it in their homes. When I grew up it took a very long while for our local store to change the oil in the deep fryer, and besides not changing oil that often they cooked more things in the same oil.

anon976625

Wieners are made in specializes shop and are longer and thinner compared to the usual franks.

anon351214

"Weiner" (pronounced "whiner") has no meaning. "Wiener" (pronounced "weener") is a type of sausage, named after the city of Vienna ("Wien" in German).

feasting

Cocktail sausages are the best! They have so much more flavor than a plain hot dog or sausage link.

They are so little, and it's sad to me that such a little piece of meat contains so much fat. I have to remember to take it easy, which is hard.

I like them cooked in BBQ sauce, and I also like them wrapped in biscuit dough and baked. Either way, it is hard to eat just a few of them.

Many times, I've been at holiday parties where this was the only type of meat available. Those were the times when I ate way more than I should have. I used the lack of other options as an excuse to gorge myself!

JackWhack

If you are ever looking for hot dog recipes, you will find them called by every name. Some cooks just try to sound fancier by calling them “frankfurters” or simply “franks,” but they are no different from your average hot dog.

Of course, there are differences in types of hot dog, though. I've seen turkey dogs and chicken dogs for sale, and they taste totally different from a beef hot dog.

kylee07drg

@shell4life – I've never bought anything from a hot dog vending cart, but I agree with you about the sausage. My husband likes to eat sausage links for breakfast, and he chops them up in little pieces first.

I've never been a big fan of sausages that are shaped like hot dogs, though. I prefer the kind that are cut into discs.

People think I'm crazy, but to me, they taste totally different from the links. I love the way they fit right inside a biscuit for an easy breakfast sandwich. All I have to do is plop them in a skillet and cook them until they are dark brown on either side.

shell4life

Do hot dog vending carts ever sell cooked sausages? I don't think I've ever seen any sold alongside the typical hot dogs.

Then again, probably not too many people would want a sausage wrapped in a bun. Everyone I know only eats them for breakfast with either toast or biscuits.

CellMania

@dill1971: Here are a few more variations of the typical hot dog:

Coney Island Dog: Hot dog topped with a spicy mixture made of meat.

Slaw Dog: Hot dog topped with coleslaw.

Corn Dog: A wiener placed on a stick, dipped in corn bread batter and deep fried.

Tex-Mex Dog: A hot dog topped with salsa, Monterey Jack cheese, and jalapenos.

alex94

@dill1971: I used to work at a local restaurant that served hot dogs that I had never even heard of! Here are a few of those:

Baltimore Frizzled Dog: The wieners are split down the middle and then deep-fried.

Pigs in a Blanket: Wieners that are wrapped in pastry and then baked (usually cocktail wieners).

Chicago Dogs: A hot dog with mustard, relish, onions, tomato, and celery salt on a poppy seed bun.

Kansas City Dogs: A hot dog with sauerkraut and melted Swiss cheese on a sesame seed bun.

New York City Dogs: A hot dog with steamed onions and pale yellow mustard sauce.

dill1971

We are serving hot dogs at my son's birthday party. He wants us to come up with different varieties of hot dogs. I honestly don't know any. Does anyone have any ideas?

anon37313

What, if any, is the difference between a Frankfurter sausage and a Vienna sausage or a Weiner sausage?

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