I love hot dogs and it’s not a seasonal thing. If someone is cooking them for “the kids”, even in the dead of winter, I am known to request one more be tossed on. Street vendors, baseball concession stands, BBQers – bring me your dogs! (Bun optional, but extra mustard is a must.)
Only problem with them is what’s in them.
One of the more demonized additives found in conventionally cured meats (used as a preservative and to keep the meat from turning grey) is nitrites – usually in the form of synthetic sodium nitrite. The concern (which is inconclusive) is that when heated and ingested it forms carcinogenic compounds. So it’s led many people to be wary of the words nitrates and nitrites.
Nitrates however occur naturally when plants break down nitrogen. They are plentiful in green leafy vegetables and root vegetables (in particular celery.) So in order to get around the nitrite issue and use the claim “ No Nitrates/Nitrites Added” or the term “Uncured”, many manufacturers use celery salt and sea salt (both high in natural nitrates) to cure the meat. (Oh and the claim “Uncured” on packages, simply means that no synthetic nitrites were used in the curing.) These claims however lead buyers to think that the products are entirely free of nitrites, but they’re not…
When we buy Uncured or Nitrate Free meat, they are not “nitrite free”, they’re simply free of synthetic nitrites. And when we ingest naturally occurring nitrates, our body still converts them to nitrites – the same supposedly “bad for you” nitrites as the artificial ones (and often at higher levels). Though there is some concern that synthetic chemical nitrites also contain trace levels of toxic by-products.
This same argument, though, of “no difference between synthetic and real” could be (and is) made for MSG (found naturally in food such as seaweed) and natural flavors (which when made in a lab are chemically the same as the actual food from which the flavor came.)
My opinion on the nitrite issue is this: If given the option, I will definitely choose meats that are cured “naturally” (ie. the kind NOT found at ballparks and concession stands). Knowing now, however, that nitrates are still high even in these “all natural” products (and there may be a health risk to high levels or nitrites from any source), I am conscious of keeping cured meats to a moderate level (which is especially important if you’re a kid.) So my advice is this: eat meat (of any kind) in moderation and when you do, eat the highest quality, most “natural” ones you can find.
Leeks with Sausage and Mustard (this is a fabulous winter dish and hotdogs could easily be used in place of sausages)
Get Posts By Email