The corn dog’s birthplace may be disputed among gastronomists, but there is no denying that the corny dog, as the fried delicacy is known in these parts, made its first appearance at the State Fair of Texas. Dallas native Neil Fletcher formulated the recipe in 1942, set up a small stand at that year’s festival, and gave life to the magnum opus of fair food. While precise replication of a Fletcher’s Corny Dog is impossible (every Texan knows that family recipes are guarded more closely than the Hope Diamond), Skip Fletcher, the owner and general manager of the state fair’s famous corny dog stands, offers advice for making the next-best thing.
1 cup yellow cornmeal (not stone-ground)
1 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 cup sugar (optional)
1/2 cup to 1 cup water (or milk)
1 one-pound package of 8 hot dogs
8 Popsicle sticks
plenty of peanut oil for frying
cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven
Find Your Top Dog
The Fletchers use custom-made frankfurters, but you can attain a similar taste with any dog made from a beef-and-pork combination or with the beef-only kosher variety from Nathan’s or Hebrew National. “The main thing is that you need a firm dog,” says Skip. “A mushy one just doesn’t work.” Spear the dog of your choice with a Popsicle stick, leaving at least three fingers’ worth exposed for an easy grip. Set aside.
“Corny dogs are simple,” says Skip, “but they ain’t easy.” The difficulty lies with the corny dog’s coat: the batter. A few wrong moves and the result is disastrous—too mealy, too runny, too thick. Some tips: (1) Do not use stone-ground cornmeal unless you enjoy the texture of concrete mix. (2) Add water last—and slowly—so you can control the batter’s viscosity; aim for a consistency slightly thicker than pancake batter. (3) Do not overbeat or your dog will be too chewy.
The Frying Game
Frying is like lifeguarding: Looking away for even one minute can be catastrophic (and in this case yield a gnarly, burnt Frankenfurter). The quintessential corny dog resembles a beautiful golden-brown torpedo. Complete submersion is ideal for this look, but you can get away with a cast-iron skillet and three inches of oil. Once the oil reaches 365 degrees, dredge the skewered dog in the batter and fry each side for three to three and a half minutes. Remove the dog with tongs, allow the excess oil to drip off, and cool on paper towels.
Finish with a squiggle of mustard. Some blasphemers use other condiments, but the experts at the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council say it best: “Don’t use ketchup on your hot dog after the age of eighteen.”