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Posted on Feb 23, 2008 in For Kids, Meat, Tips, Tutorial or How-to | 31 comments

Octodogs revisited: Fry hard

Octodogs revisited: Fry hard

Deep-fried octodogs

Some Japanese readers commented on my article on how to make an octodog (octopus-shaped hot dog) that deep frying actually gives the most attractive results. I’d passed over oil-based cooking methods in an effort to produce a healthier octodog, so I decided to give them a go here for the sake of completeness. Japanese arabiki sausages with natural casings (in the foreground) showed the most pronounced difference over boiling — the deep-fried version has fantastically curled legs that really do evoke an octopus. (Click for the full review.)

The octodogs to the left of the chopstick below were pan-fried with about a tablespoon of oil, and those on the right were deep fried (see the earlier entry for sausage types). Compared to boiling, both frying methods produced a crispier exterior that was nice in the larger hot dog, but unpleasant in the smallest cocktail sausage. My texture-sensitive three-year-old wouldn’t eat the arabiki sausage legs and the smallest cocktail sausage, though, saying that they were too hard for him.

Octodog comparison: Pan-fried vs. deep-fried

Compare the fried versions above with the water-cooked versions below (pan-fried with 1/2 cup water on the left, boiled on the right). While it’s true that deep frying produces more attractively curled octodog tentacles, I still prefer boiling them in water for health reasons. Boiling doesn’t add oil and even renders off some of the fat from the cut sausages. I already feel that processed meats aren’t the healthiest lunchtime option, so I’ll take every advantage I can get!

Octodog comparison: Fried vs. boiled

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  1. What kind of oil did you use? I’ll use a little olive oil to help the octodog tentacles spread, but it’s a bit too much to use it to deep fry since it isn’t exactly cheap.

  2. These are cute! I’m a long time reader. I haven’t actually gotten to make a bento, mainly since I don’t have anyone to make them for. But I’m stuck with my picky 8 year old brother for a few days and I think I’m gonna try out the octodogs. And I know your a big fan of Lock & Lock containers, so anyone on near a Hannaford/Shop n’ Save supermarket, they’re currently selling most of the sizes.

  3. @1 from MercChan: I used canola oil that I get in a big jug at Costco. I do have an oil pot that filters out food bits and stores lightly used oil so I can use deep-fry oil more than once.

  4. Now that’s a thorough investigation! I love it.

  5. The deep fried ones look very appetizing, but much fattier. I think I may try this next week for my daughter. I just bought some little cocktail sausages. I may try the toaster oven though (my favorite cooking method). I usually use it to heat hot dogs and sausages. I press some foil down along the rack to make grooves and then curl the edges up to catch water or oils that run off.

  6. you have inspired me to order my first two bento sets! they’ll be arriving in the mail next month – can’t wait

  7. @2 from Megan: Thanks for the tip on the Hannaford Lock & Locks, Megan! Let us know what your picky brother thinks about the octodogs — they might just be weird enough that he’d get a kick out of them. Or not.

  8. @4 from Kitt: I thought that I shouldn’t ignore a potentially superior technique because of the added fat, even though I might not use it going forward. It was fun trying out the different cooking techniques on different sausages — I felt like I was in Cook’s Illustrated’s test kitchen!

  9. @5 from Amber in Portland: Definitely let us know how the toaster oven fares for octodog cooking, Amber! Is there a reason why you line the rack with foil instead of using a broiling pan in the toaster oven?

  10. @6 from sarahsouth: Woo hoo, very exciting! Happy bento-ing. :-)

  11. Biggie, I hadn’t really considered the broiling pan. My husband caught the one that came with our toaster oven on fire almost 2 years ago and nearly took out our kitchen along with it. I never really thought about getting a new one. Also, its a pretty quick clean up.

  12. @12 from Heidi: Thanks for the heads-up on Nathan’s hot dogs and beef vs. pork sausages. I’ll try some out! I’m amazed at how creative all of you are — very stimulating.

  13. Your site has started going to my Junk Mail everytime lately. When I “un-spam” it and forward it back to me, I am told that a server other than Outlook must be used and that I may receive even more junk mail as a result. Is there anything on your end that can be done about this?

  14. I was inspired by your post yesterday and did the octodogs for my daughter. We normally only eat hotdogs when my “bonus” sons, who are 16 and 18 so I didn’t do octodogs for them, are here, and their reactions were much better than my 23month old’s. I boiled the octodog with their hotdogs. They were surprised that the hotdog “exploded” like that. LOL

  15. @14 from Tory: Hmm, that’s strange. I’ll ask a web guy I’ve been talking to about it. Thanks for the heads-up, Tory!

  16. @15 from LoriAnn: Ha ha, how funny that your 16- and 18-year olds liked the octodogs! Your 23-month-old was nonplussed, I suppose?

  17. Heck, my stepfather is amazed at my octodogs. To make mac n cheese more interesting, I started making them to sit on top of it. It helps make an otherwise boring meal a little whimsical. I love whimsical! :D

    I tried frying the dogs once, but I really didn’t like em. I’ll stick to the boiled. Seems more natural.

  18. @18 from Sile: Ah, if I’ve got sausages around next time I make mac & cheese for Bug at home, I’ll pop an octodog on top of it. Fun idea!

  19. I do admit the fried version looks more “authentic” but I still would be a bit worried about their healthiness… Maybe for a special “treat!”

  20. @21 from Kitt: I just popped over to Cool Tools and turned up a review of the Mr. Bento. Was this it? http://www.kk.org/cooltools/archives/001906.php I’m on the Flickr groups for bento boxes, Laptop Lunchboxes, and Mr. Bento thermal lunch jars, BTW. Thanks for the heads up, though!

  21. @20 from Amber: Yeah, I just can’t feel that good about deep frying hotdogs. Good thing boiling does the trick!

  22. I’ve been “sharing” my bentos at lunch at work. The others in the office get a kick out of them. ;-)

    I used the hotdog flower idea off of justbento.com and then had to show everyone the octo-dogs here so they could see them! I’m thinking there will be a couple more people making octo-dogs than there used to be!

  23. @24 from chriesi: Thanks for the kind comment, chriesi.

  24. @25 from sarah: I figure little octodogs and other little sausage creations are popular with kids in Japan for a reason — a little bit of whimsy to brighten up your afternoon. Glad your coworkers are getting a kick out of your bento habit! Just remind them that bento lunches don’t have to feature time-consuming food art to be attractive or delicious. ;-)

  25. @26 from gatekeepers_21: Hey, thanks for the heads up on the octodogs making Serious Eats’ Photo of the Day today. Way cool. A big welcome to everyone making their way here from Serious Eats!

  26. @14 from Tory: Tory, the web guy I asked about your Lunch in a Box e-mail update spam issue wrote back with the following:

    “…from the sounds of your e-mail, the server that the ladies email comes through has just become a bit more strict on its e-mail policies. Thus feedburner using certain methods to send out emails, it has now been flagged. I’m not sure what to do about that at the moment, I’ll put my mind to it though.”

  27. Has anyone tried this with veggie dogs? My son’s obsessed with squids (close enough to octopi in my book :D), and he’d love these.

    If not, maybe I’ll be the pioneer and let you know how they turn out!

  28. Hi,

    This is in response to both this post AND the question regarding veggie dogs:

    I stumbled upon this site about a week ago because I am excited about my daughter attending Kindergarten this fall. Her school has a great lunch program, but she is picky (both with food selection, and she prefers smaller & more numerous meals throughout the day. Le sigh). Bentos sound like an excellent idea for her, and I’m already looking at boxes and sets online.

    I decided to try the octodogs tonight, but I didn’t have any meat dogs (only veggie–Morningstar Farms brand). I made one long octopus, and cut another sausage in half to make two small ones. Once boiled they remained rather floppy, but she really liked the small ones. She even asked if I had any more, which was awesome! The longer one was way too floppy to look like an octopus, so I made some creative cuts and emerged from the kitchen with a Giant Squid-dog. She thought it was hilarious.

    Next time, I’ll try either frying a veggie dog, or boiling an all-beef dog. Thank you all for the tips; this site is really quite fabulous.

  29. I know this is random, but I totally love the bendy straw you used as a separator < 3

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