Why the number of hot dogs and buns never seem to match

Hot Dogs Photo by Shutterstock/WS-Studio

Ever wonder why the number of hot dogs in a package never quite matches the number of buns? Well, so has condiments-manufacturer Heinz.

The company started an online petition, asking hot dog and bun manufacturers to better collaborate on the number of products offered in each of their packages. “Hot dog wieners come in packs of 10. Hot dog buns come in packs of eight,” writes Heinz. “We’re calling on Big Bun and Big Wiener companies to find the answer to this hot dog packaging mismatch.”

At the time of publication, the petition had over 29,000 signatures.

This mismatch in the hot-dog-to-bun ratio has been the bane of many barbecue aficionados. So much so that it’s featured as a frequently asked question on the website of the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council (NHDSC).

According to the NHDSC, there is some history behind the mismatch. As it turns out, hot dogs were originally eaten bunless and were sold in varying quantities at the butcher shop. The exact origin of the hot dog is cloudy, but experts point to the late 1600s, when Johann Georghehner, a butcher, living in Coburg, Germany, popularized the “dachshund” sausage or “little-dog” sausage.

It wasn’t until 1940 that hot dogs started to be mass-produced as we see them in the grocery store today. At that time, most manufacturers settled on the 10-to-a-pack formula.

Buns have a similarly cloudy origin, but experts assert that they weren’t introduced into the hot dog equation until at least the 1860s. An alternative theory suggests that buns were first used at the St. Louis Louisiana Purchase Exposition in 1904 by Bavarian concessionaire, Anton Feuchtwanger.

According to the NHDSC, Feuchtwanger loaned white gloves to his customers to better handle the hot sausages. Few of the gloves, however, were returned, causing Feuchtwanger’s supply to dwindle. To solve the problem, he teamed up with his brother-in-law, a baker, who created rolls that the sausages could be placed into, saving customers from burnt fingers.

It wasn’t until later that buns started to be sold in packs of eight. The reasoning, according to the NHDSC, is pretty straightforward. At that time, the baking pans used were designed to hold a maximum of eight buns. More recently, larger pans have been introduced, allowing manufacturers to bake 10 or even 12 buns at a time. But the eight-roll pan remains the most popular.

For those looking to avoid a mismatch in their hot-dog-to-bun ratio, the NHDSC says that you’ll have to buy four 10-to-the-pack hot dogs and five bags of eight-to-the-pack buns to break even. That’s a total of 40 hot dogs and buns.

If you are inclined to purchase that many hot dogs, we suggest inviting some friends over first.

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