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As a teenager I worked at Spencer’s Gifts at Clackamas Town Center. That tells you a lot about my pedigree, but you should know that even then I had my pride. I’d walk by the food court and see those poor bastards at Hot Dog on a Stick, decked out in striped tube-shirts and joke-toques in all colors of circus puke, and I’d solemnly shake my head. “Not me,” I’d tell myself. “Never.”

You may be saddened to hear this, but all Portland-area Hot Dog on a Stick franchises have shuttered. But you still need corn dogs in your life! Sure, you can pony up for needlessly presh vegan dogs at Hungry Tiger or 12 greasy, flaccid inches of Franks-A-Lot. Or you can do the dirty deed in the comfort of your own home, no pants required.

A corn dog, when done well, is transcendent: a toothsome, savory dog enrobed in a crispy, golden shell, a subtle sweetness highlighting the corn. For science, and for you, I have put my gastrointestinal fortitude to the test and tasted each of the 11 different corn dogs readily available at Greater Portland grocery stores. (I had a little help from my husband’s Dungeons & Dragons crew, with their refined corn dog palates.) Here are their rankings.*


Best All-Beef Corn Dog

State Fair brand all-beef corn dog ($6.99/12-pack) had good hot doggy flavor and a crisp, honey-sweetened coating, putting it at the top of tasters’ lists. If one had their own personal fryer, this would be the closest thing to an actual state fair dog. The Bar-S beef corn dog ($2.98/8-pack) had the most hot doggy flavor, but the texture of the dog was a tad rubbery. The corny coating was crispy, but a bit mealy on the interior. “Felt like a balloon,” one taster commented. (All-beef Applegate was also evaluated, and is described below in the “gluten-free” category.)


Best Chicken or Turkey Corn Dog

Between the Trader Joe’s turkey dog ($2.99/4-pack), Whole Foods’ 365 chicken dog ($3.99/4-pack), and the Foster Farms Honey Crunchy chicken dog ($5.59/16-pack), it was a mixed bag. The exterior of the 365 dog tasted the most like real cornbread, but unfortunately also had the texture of cornbread: moist and crumbly. Foster Farms’ offering had good crunch, leading one taster to call it “closest to a fair dog” (keeping in mind that “fair” is a homonym). For me, the Trader Joe’s dog was the best by a hair, with a crunchy exterior (the inside of the coating was slightly pasty) and a savory hot dog.


Best Vegetarian Corn Dog

Strangely, meat analog company Quorn doesn’t make a Quorn dog, missing an obvious marketing advantage over competitors. However, between Morning Star Farms ($2.87/4-pack) and Trader Joe’s ($2.99/4-pack) veggie options, the former won by a nose. Both had a rather mushy, pancake-y coating, but the Trader Joe’s dog itself had a softer texture that took the joy out of eating. “Tastes like fakery. Bad!” was one comment. Overall, the veggie dogs taste pretty similar to meaty ones, thanks to liberal use of sodium, sugar, and other delicious preservatives.


Best Cheese Dog

This will anger corn dog purists, but my personal favorite of all the corn dogs was the jalapeño-cheese dog from Foster Farms ($4.48/14-pack). It was like a corn dog and a jalapeño popper had a delicious little baby! Five stars. The cheddar flavor in the cheese-style Bar-S dog ($2.98/8-pack) was subtle at best, ranging to nearly indiscernible depending on the taster. “Insipid,” commented one person. The liquid processed cheese-goo should squirt menacingly when you take a bite! Remember the cheese-on-a-stick at Hot Dog on a Stick? It was just molten cheese inside a corny shell. Those were some good times we had.


Best Gluten-Free Dog

Having a gluten-free option is of concern to all health-conscious corn dog lovers (including our own editor Wm. Steve Humphrey!), so we also tried the GF offerings. Applegate usually makes pretty good cured meat products, but their GF beef corn dog ($6.97/4-pack) was not only the most expensive by far, but practically exploded during baking, and the coating was doughy and cloying. (The hot dog interior tasted fine.) Called “sweet and mealy” by one taster, Foster Farms GF chicken corn dog ($4.48/12-pack) was marginally better; it tasted more like a “normal” corn dog, if that’s what you’re going after.


*For those who care about details: All corn dogs were baked at 365°F for 18 minutes (splitting between the two recommended bake temps/times on the various packages), and were dipped in ketchup and yellow mustard only.