God, I love hot dogs. My parents used to reward me with the cheap and oh-so-delicious hot dogs from Costco for making it through a Sunday afternoon shopping session, so that’s probably why I love them so much. The reward center of my brain lights up every time I see or smell them. So when I came across a hot dog toaster that toasts both hot dogs and hot dog buns at the same time, I had to have it. Call it a completely irrational quarantine splurge, but I convinced myself I would love this toaster, which I found on sale for the low, low cost of $17. If you could put a price tag on happiness, $17 is well worth it.
Unfortunately, I got what I paid for. I can’t even return the thing, because I’d have to clean the burnt remnants of dog and bun out, and frankly, that’s an impossible task.
This hot dog toaster is part of the Nostalgia line of 1950s-inspired kitchen appliances, which covers everything from snow cone machines to 3-in-1 breakfast makers. It’s stuff that looks like it could have been around in the mid-20th century, but according to my mom, wasn’t.
Me: Did anything like this hot dog toaster exist in the ‘50s or ‘60s?
My mom: No, I don’t think so. Grandma usually boiled hot dogs for us or my father grilled them on the BBQ.
I guess it’s impossible to feel nostalgic for a product that never existed, but toasting hot dogs sounds so much more fun than boiling them. And even my mom thought the concept is neat, if historically inaccurate. The candy red coating helps sell the shiny, happy dystopia of post-WWII American consumerism. Unfortunately, the novelty of this toaster wears off immediately after using it.
Let me start with this toaster’s design. The cord is too thick to wrap neatly under the toaster—and that’s one of its highlighted features. The cord attaches to the front of the toaster on the underside, too, so unless you want to wrap the already short cord around one side to reach a kitchen outlet, the heat dial and rest of the toaster controls will face away from you toward the wall.
The heat dial, stop button, and lever all work as expected, but not every brand of bun will fit into the bun-toaster. Ballpark buns, for example, are too fluffy and sticky to fit inside the toaster when you press the lever. I had to push them in with my fingers. When it was time for the buns to pop out of the toaster, they got stuck again, sometimes not even popping out at all, so I had to use the provided tongs to pull them out.
You can put any dog made of any kind of meat (even tofu dogs) into the toaster, which is a bonus But the heat dial applies the same amount of heat to both the hot dogs and buns. If you want slightly toasted buns, the hotdogs will come out cold. If you want hotdogs with crisp skin, the buns will burn.
I ended up setting the heat dial to 2 (out of 5), cooking the hot dogs first, and then putting the buns in, so the buns got one round at the second heat setting and the dogs got two rounds. It was the only way I could get both to my preferred level of doneness, and keep both the dogs and bun nice and warm. That’s not so convenient for a machine that is supposed to cook both at the same time.
But no matter the heat setting, the dogs and buns will burn. If your wieners aren’t jumbo-sized, they will tilt over in the hotdog basket, press against the hot metal, and burn quickly—but just the tips. (I honestly can’t believe I just wrote that sentence.) The buns burn along the edges, and the only way to prevent that is to leave the charred remains of sacrificed buns stuck to the inside of the toaster. It makes a protective barrier, and is as disgusting as it sounds. Even if I didn’t want to return this toaster, I have to leave burnt bun on the inside to protect the buns I toast. Hot dogs don’t leave the same kind of ‘protective’ layer, so it’s burnt wieners, every goddamn time.
After all that unnecessary struggle, the hot dogs tasted...fine. The specially designed hot dog toaster accomplished nothing a normal toaster oven wouldn’t, except for burning hot dog tips. Will I ever use the Nostalgia hot dog toaster again? Probably not. It’ll sit in the back of my kitchen cupboard, where all bad appliances go to die. The saddest part about all this is I wasn’t even drinking when I ordered it. I just really, really wanted a hot dog toaster.