State fairs are opening all around the country this month and the thought of state fairs naturally reminded me of corn dogs. What better represents the fried wonder of fair foods than a batter enrobed hotdog? Corn Dogs are the perfect food to eat while wandering around aimlessly on a sunny day. I have always enjoyed corn dogs but had never eaten one homemade, so I figured it was about time to put them to the Cook It Fresh test. Not that corn dogs, homemade or otherwise, can really be considered fresh, but freshness is beside the point here. To my mind, the perfect corn dog has a juicy, flavorful hotdog at the center, covered in a tender batter with just the right balance of salty and sweet. Since I didn’t have a state fair stand nearby, I used frozen State Fair brand classic corn dogs as the comparison product. For the homemade version, I tweaked a recipe found on epicurious.com. Here is the recipe I used:
Homemade Corn Dogs
Makes 8 corndogs
8 all-beef hotdogs
1/2 cup plus 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
Several cups of Canola oil (exact amount depends on the size of the pan or fryer you are using)
1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs
1 Tablespoon honey
1 cup buttermilk
Popsicle sticks or wooden chopsticks, for serving
Ketchup and mustard, for serving
1. Grill the hotdogs until browned and hot. This can be done on an outdoor grill or using a grill pan. Set aside on a plate when done and keep warm by covering them with foil.
2. Meanwhile, in a medium mixing bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup of flour, the cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the eggs to the bowl and whisk until the cornmeal mixture is moistened. Pour in the honey and buttermilk and whisk until batter is smooth and well combined.
3. Heat a few inches of oil in a dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium heat until it reaches 325 degrees. Place remaining 3 Tablespoons of flour on a plate and pour some of the prepared batter into a tall glass.
4. Roll one of the hot dogs in the flour then, using a fork, dip it into the batter filled glass and twirl the hotdog around a few times until it is well-coated with batter. Place the battered dog in the hot oil, using another fork to help push it in, if necessary. Cook for about 3 minutes, turning often, or until golden brown on all sides. Using tongs, remove the corn dog to a paper towel lined plate to drain and repeat with the rest of the hotdogs, refilling the glass of batter after each one. Insert popsicle sticks or chopsticks in the corn dogs and serve immediately with ketchup and mustard, for dipping.
As it turns out, making homemade corn dogs is much simpler than I had imagined. With this method of rolling the hotdogs in flour before battering, the batter coats the hotdogs very well and even stays on through the frying process. The batter is super simple to mix up and the corn dogs only need a few minutes to fry up beautifully. The whole process only took me about half an hour, only 10 minutes longer than it takes to reheat frozen corn dogs in the oven. The price of the homemade corn dogs was almost exactly the same as buying frozen corn dogs, so price is not really an issue in this comparison.
What about the most important component, flavor? The homemade corn dogs won by a landslide, with a few caveats. Everyone agreed that the high quality, grilled hotdogs were far superior to the hotdogs in the center of the frozen corn dogs. Not only can you buy better quality hot dogs when making corn dogs from scratch, but grilling the hot dogs before battering them added lots of meaty flavor. Also, all 7 of the tasters preferred the light, crunchy texture of the homemade corn dog batter. However, a few testers would have liked the homemade batter to be sweeter and at least one tester thought that the corn meal was too coarse, making the homemade breading a little gritty. We started out dinner with 8 homemade corn dogs and 8 store bought corn dogs and ended the meal with 3 store bought corn dogs left while all the homemade ones had disappeared. So, maybe the numbers speak for themselves?
Bottom Line: Homemade corn dogs are surprisingly simple and quick to prepare. Thanks to the quick frying time, they only took a few minutes longer to make than the frozen variety. Although some people may want to add more honey or sugar to the batter, we all agreed that the flavor and texture of the homemade corn dogs was worth the little extra effort they require.