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Host A Safe Labor Day Cook-Out with Hot Dogs and Brats


The first Monday in September, Labor Day, has been a federal holiday for over 100 years. It honors the labor unions that–well, labored–to improve conditions for American workers and has become the unofficial end of summer.

This year, some 67 percent of Americans plan to host or attend a cook-out, according to a survey conducted by nationaltoday.com. More than half intend to eat hot dogs, capping off a summer that saw us consume 7 billion of the sausages we affectionately call “tube steaks.” Their coarser, chunkier cousins–brats–will have a day in the sun, too, especially in the Upper Midwest (Wisconsin).

Not only are hot dogs and brats among the most economical meats to serve at a backyard cook-out, but they’re kid-friendly, too. If you’re expecting vegetarians or vegans at your party, pick up a package or two of meatless sausages.

You can keep things simple by putting out mustard, ketchup, and pickle relish, or you can offer an array of toppings to more adventuresome palates. For specialty hot dogs, check out the global variations listed here.

If guests will have staggered arrivals, Brats in a Hot Tub are a great menu choice as they can be kept warm in a beer bath with onions and peppers. 


Tips for a Social Distancing BBQ: 

Of course, this is the first Labor Day being celebrated in the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic, meaning certain precautions will have to be taken to ensure you and your friends and family remain safe:

1. Keep the party outdoors.

If possible, disease specialists say, keep the party outdoors. Arrange seating so guests can keep a safe distance from each other while still enjoying a conversation.

2. Wear masks when not eating or drinking.

Request that people wear masks when not eating or drinking. You could even provide masks in patriotic colors.

3. Encourage frequent hand-washing.

Encourage frequent hand-washing, and make sure each sink in the house is equipped with hand sanitizer.

4. Avoid serving communal snacks.

Avoid serving communal bowls of chips, pretzels, or other pre-meal snacks. Individually bagged snacks are a better choice.

5. Pre-plate the food as it comes off the grill.

Pre-plate the food as it comes off the grill, and serve sides like potato salad or beans in covered individual containers. (Restaurant supply stores are a good source; you can also purchase disposable containers from most supermarket delis or online.)


5 Hot Dog and Sausage Recipes to Serve This Labor Day Weekend

1. Samba Dogs

Samba Dogs

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2. The “Dear” Dog


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3. Hedgehog Hot Dogs

Hedgehog Hot Dogs

Add some flare to your typical American-style hot dog by using the hedgehogging technique and this recipe from Steven Raichlen’s cookbook, Project Fire.

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4. Bratwurst “Hot Tub”

Bratwurst "Hot Tub"

Nestled in their beer “hot tub”, the brats will stay warm and moist for up to an hour or two—enough time for you to cook them ahead of time, imbue them with the flavor of smoke and fire, and enjoy them during the game.

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5. Cardiologist’s Nightmare

This has been described as “a cardiac nightmare.” And a tasty nightmare at that. Hot dogs, smoked cheese, pickles, peppered bacon, and barbecue sauce — all rolled up in one heart-stopping package! How can you go wrong with bacon-wrapped hot dogs?!

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