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Corn dog days of summer

These home-dipped Iowa State Fair-style corn dogs fried up nice and cakey, like traditional cafeteria or carnival corn dogs. (Adriana Janovich)

Bring on the blue ribbons, corn on the cob and corn dogs.

County fair season is right around the corner. And that means fair food – or pretty much anything deep-fried or served on a stick – or in the case of corn dogs, both.

If you’re craving the distinctly American staple, you don’t have to trek to the nearest fairgrounds. You can make the carnival classic at home, impaling a hot dog on a skewer or chopstick, dipping it in cornmeal batter, then deep-frying it until the coated hot dog loosely resembles an ear of corn.

Whether you’re in the mustard or ketchup camp – or enjoy dousing your corn dogs with both – here are a couple of recipes I tested – with mixed results.

Iowa State Fair Corn Dogs

From, adapted from Gourmet magazine at

This recipe makes a traditional, cakey corn dog.

The original calls for grilling the hot dogs first for added smoky flavor. Skip this step, and the corn dogs still won’t disappoint.

For more kick, double – or even quadruple – the amount of cayenne pepper. Its flavor gets a little lost in the batter. On the flip side, using a little less salt – ¼ or ½ teaspoon instead of ¾ teaspoon – might not be a bad idea. The recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of oil in the batter; leaving that out doesn’t drastically alter the texture or taste.

Flour helps the thick, consistent batter stick to the hot dogs, giving them a uniform coating that doesn’t slide off.

The recipe calls for vegetable oil; use peanut oil if you can.

After dipping 8 corn dogs in the batter, there’s likely to be enough left over to coat four or five more – or use to batter and fry up asparagus, green beans, pickles or onions. But don’t expect enough to make a loaf of corn bread.

8 hot dogs

1/2 cup, plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided

About 8 cups vegetable oil (peanut is recommended), plus 2 tablespoons

11/2 cups cornmeal

11/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon cayenne

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

11/4 cups well-shaken buttermilk

Ketchup and mustard

Oil grill pan, then grill hot dogs over medium-high heat, turning occasionally, until lightly charred on all sides, about 5 minutes total.

Transfer to a plate and cool slightly, then insert a wooden stick into each hot dog. Put 3 tablespoons flour on another plate and roll hot dogs in flour to coat, shaking off excess.

Heat 3 inches oil to 350 degrees in a deep 3-quart heavy pot over medium-high heat.

Meanwhile, whisk together cornmeal, remaining ½ cup flour, 2 tablespoons oil, baking powder, sugar, baking soda, cayenne, and salt in a medium bowl. Add eggs 1 at a time, whisking well after each addition. Whisk in buttermilk.

Transfer some of batter to a tall glass, filling it almost to the top.

Working in batches of 2 or 3, dip hot dogs, 1 at a time, into glass of batter to coat (add more batter to glass if necessary), then fry, turning occasionally, until batter is cooked through and golden-brown all over, about 3 minutes. Transfer corn dogs to paper towels to drain. Return oil to 350 and refill glass with batter between batches.

Note: This recipe calls for ice-pop sticks, but simple wooden barbecue skewers also work just fine.

Yield: 8

Corn Dogs

From Alton Brown via Food Network

If you’re looking for the classic, fair-style corn dog, this isn’t it.

Alton Brown’s gourmet take on the traditional features an almost tempura-like batter, boosted with ingredients you don’t normally find in carnival corn dogs. Onion and jalapeño add a little extra flavor to this thick and moist batter, which fries up light and crispy – not cakey like most premade or carnival varieties.

It’s also a bit lumpy due, mostly, to the whole kernels in the cream-style corn (and how thinly you mince the jalapeño).

Despite the aid of corn starch, it’s difficult to keep this batter from sliding off the hot dogs while pulling them from the batter-filled glass. This leads to patches of bare hot dog in the finished, deep-fried product.

And the measurements don’t add up. The called-for quantities make way too much batter for the 8 hot dogs the recipe requires. You could probably coat double that number – maybe even more – with this oversized amount, which yields some 2 to 2 ½ cups of extra batter.

Online comments from reviewers of the recipe at had similar results, using leftover batter for waffles, deep-fried pickles, cornbread pudding and hush puppies. I added eggs and made a small loaf of extra-moist cornbread.

1 gallon peanut oil

1 cup yellow cornmeal

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons (approximately 1 large) jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely minced

1 (8.5-ounce) can cream-style corn

1/3 cup finely grated onion

11/2 cups buttermilk

4 tablespoons cornstarch, for dredging

8 beef hot dogs

Pour oil into a deep fryer or large heavy pot and heat to 375 degrees. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and cayenne pepper. In a separate bowl, combine the jalapeño, corn, onion and buttermilk. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients all at once, and stir only enough times to bring the batter together; there should be lumps. Set batter aside and allow to rest for 10 minutes.

Scatter the cornstarch into a dry pie pan. Roll each hot dog in the cornstarch and tap well to remove any excess.

Transfer enough batter to almost fill a large drinking glass. Refill the glass as needed. Place each hot dog on chopsticks, and quickly dip in and out of the batter. Immediately and carefully place each hot dog into the oil, and cook until coating is golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes. With tongs, remove to cooling rack, and allow to drain for 3 to 5 minutes.

Note: Alton Brown’s recipe calls for 8 sets of chopsticks, not separated, for skewering the hot dogs. Simple wooden barbecue skewers also work just fine.

Yield: 8