Sausages and hot dogs are barbecue crowd-pleasers—but everybody likes them a slightly different way. Here’s an easy solution: Set up a DIY hot dog bar so guests can build their own dream dogs. Stocked with a variety of buns, garnishes and condiments, it lets everyone make delicious custom combos.
1. Set the Table
First, set up a long table with plates and napkins at one end. Then add your food, in order of assembly: breads, sausages and hot dogs, garnishes, condiments and, finally, sauces. Have everyone grab a plate and go down the line, customizing as they go. An interactive activity like this is a natural icebreaker, so it’s great for block parties, reunions and other big get-togethers.
2. Try Different Breads
There’s no limit on creativity when it comes to wrapping up your dog. Fluffy white hot dog buns are always a hit, but try laying out a few other options, like garlicky Texas toast, naan and toasted gluten-free bread slices. Crusty French bread and herby ciabatta rolls also delicious too.
Lightly toast or grill enough of each type of bun or bread to get everyone started. Serve them in individual baskets lined with a clean, dry towel and topped with another towel to hold in the heat. Add another freshly toasted batch when supplies run low.
Tip: To avoid cross-contamination, don’t toast gluten-free bread on the same grill as regular bread. You can use a toaster (one that’s used only for gluten-free products) or lay the slices on a separate baking sheet and broil them in the oven.
3. Meat Up
Need to keep things simple? Stick with one kind of sausage or hot dog, and let the toppings be the highlight. If you want to offer more variety, serve a couple of options. For example, offer classic wieners, as well as zestier German- or Italian-style sausages. Or try some with chili or herb seasonings to boost the excitement.
Tip: Be sure to grill up some tofu dogs for vegetarian or vegan guests. A disposable grill is great for keeping them away from meaty options. So is pan-frying on the stove.
Plan on serving two sausages or hot dogs per adult. As the dogs come off the grill, place them on warmed-up platters or trays and cover them with foil to keep them toasty. Label each option on the serving table to make choosing simple. Weighted place markers or mini chalkboards are fun at a barbecue—and they won’t blow away.
Leave must-have store-bought condiments like ketchup, mustard and mayo in their original jars—the labels are already there, so set-up is a cinch. If you want to offer more variety, add a selection of dill pickle slices, roasted or pickled peppers, jalapeños, sauerkraut and different relishes. Add a spoon, pick or fork where needed so guests don’t have to search for the right utensil or dip into multiple jars with the same one.
For more ambitious hosts, we have great recipes for homemade toppings to fill out your hot dog spread. Choose easy-to-make, unfussy options, like Sweet Pickle Relish, Creamy Curried Corn Relish and Quick Pickles. They’re all tangy and so good on sausages. For a sweeter touch, try Grilled Tomato Chutney. Or give your dog a spicy kick with our Hot Pepper Barbecue Topper. Be sure to label any fiery condiments clearly, especially if they could easily be mistaken for a milder cousin.
Finally, add some veggie garnishes: Think slices of tomato, shredded lettuce and chopped onions for a fresh note. Or whip up a batch of Caramelized Onion & Mushroom Topper. (Hint: It’s also a knockout on burgers.)
5. Kid-Friendly Party Tips
For kids, keep the choices simple. You can offer hot dogs in buns—assembled and ready to go—and a small array of mild toppings and sauces.
A separate kiddie table makes serving easier at a big bash, especially if it’s a little shorter so kids can reach all their toppings without help. Avoid using any hot dishes, and keep the table a safe distance away from the grill. Skip any pointy serving tools, such as picks or long forks—stick with tongs and serving spoons instead.