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

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Updated May 16, 2024
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What is the Difference Between a Hot Dog, Weiner, Frank, and Sausage?

Despite being a staple of American cuisine, the hot dog, or wiener, has its roots firmly planted in European soil. According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, the term "frankfurter" originates from Frankfurt, Germany, where these sausages were first developed, while "wiener" derives from Wien, the German name for Vienna, Austria.


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.

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.

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.

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.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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Our Editorial Team, made up of seasoned professionals, prioritizes accuracy and quality in every piece of content. With years of experience in journalism and publishing, we work diligently to deliver reliable and well-researched content to our readers.
Discussion Comments
By anon1000529 — On Oct 12, 2018

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.

By anon976625 — On Nov 04, 2014

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

By anon351214 — On Oct 11, 2013

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

By feasting — On Jan 25, 2013

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!

By JackWhack — On Jan 24, 2013

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.

By kylee07drg — On Jan 24, 2013

@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.

By shell4life — On Jan 23, 2013

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.

By CellMania — On Jul 22, 2010

@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.

By alex94 — On Jul 22, 2010

@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.

By dill1971 — On Jul 22, 2010

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?

By anon37313 — On Jul 18, 2009

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

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