The 12 Best Hot Dogs, Burgers and Buns at the Grocery Store, According to Chefs

Even the professionals go with store-bought sometimes. That’s why we asked chefs for their favorite barbecue staples for everyone, from carnivores to vegans.

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June 27, 2019

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When you’re planning a summer barbecue, there’s a lot to think about. Do you have enough ice? Will the weather hold up? Which cousin is a vegetarian, again? With all the planning, sometimes there’s just not enough time to make everything from scratch. And, while great weather and cold beer make pretty much everything taste good, having the right burgers, buns and dogs can be the difference between a good and great party. These days, though, there are so many options for barbecue essentials that it’s easy to get frazzled as you stare down the aisle.

To make shopping for your next barbecue a breeze, we asked chefs to share their favorite burgers, veggie burgers, hot dogs, buns and more. Our pro tip? Be sure to stock up a few days in advance, so that you’re not rushing around last-minute only to find that something is sold out!


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Tom Cuomo, chef-owner of Papa Shogun in Raleigh, NC, loves these squishy potato rolls for burgers. “They take a little butter really well just before toasting on the grill, and have a touch of sweetness that makes them delicious. Plus, the structure holds up really well to your meat.”

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“For that classic, Chicago-style smokey hot dog, go for Vienna Beef Polish Sausages,” says Kathy Fang, chef-owner of Fang in San Francisco, CA. “Go crazy with the toppings: raw onions, tomatoes, relish, etc. Nothing beats that perfect classic hot dog!”

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“I personally love it when the bun wraps around the hot dog,” Fang says. “Don't skimp and get just any hot dog buns — most are tasteless and toast up like cardboard when you toss them on the grill. King's Hawaiian has this beautiful sweet and slightly yeasty flavor to them. They’re super soft and buttery even when grilled.”

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“These are incredible,” Fang says. “They look and taste like meat—they even bleed a little! The Beyond Burger is the closest thing you can get to a faux meat burger, and it definitely satisfies the craving.” You can fire it up just as you would a beef burger, and cook it to your desired doneness.

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This is about as close to a sausage that plant-based food can get. “The flavors are bold and spicy, so you don't miss the real thing as much,” Fang says. They’re often sold out at her local grocery store, she says, so be sure to stock up on these in advance.

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If you’re a vegetarian or vegan and craving a grilled sausage, all is not lost. “Trader Joe’s Soy Chorizo is dope,” says Teddy Diggs, a vegetarian, and chef-owner of Coronato in Carrboro, NC. “I always buy some and throw it on a charcoal grill when we cook out at the house.” It’s a crumbly sausage, he warns, so don’t expect to eat it like a hot dog. Still, it works piled into a bun, or as part of a taco.

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“I love these Carolina Reds snuggled in a Martin's Potato Roll, topped with chili and a sweet mayo-based coleslaw. We call this a Classic Carolina Hot Dog,” says Kyle Teears, chef of Whiskey Kitchen in Raleigh, NC. The hot dogs are a blend of pork and beef, and there’s enough red pepper to make them spicy without totally knocking your socks off.

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If you’re going for pre-formed patties, Teears recommends these Bubba Burgers, made with Angus Beef. He serves his on a white bun, with thousand island dressing and crushed sour cream and onion chips. Give it a try, or just go with the classic LTO plus ketchup and mustard.

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For an old-school burger, Teears recommends Stroehmann white hamburger buns. They’re soft and have a very mild flavor, so your burger and toppings can hog the spotlight.

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If you’re a vegetarian, or catering to vegetarian guests, heat this up in a pot on the grill while you grill up burgers for the meat eaters. “Then, serve it as you would pulled pork,” Diggs says. You can find this vegan barbecue jackfruit in the refrigerator section at Whole Foods or Target, or buy it online from Thrive Market.

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If you like bacon-topped burgers but want to branch out a little bit, try grilling sweet Chinese sausage and then slicing it super thin as a burger topper.

"You can get Cantonese sausage at any Asian supermarket, and it's best used the way you might use bacon,” says Lucas Sin, chef and culinary director at Junzi Kitchen in New York City. A few minutes on the grill will heat the already-cooked sausage and render out some of the fat. “The best brand is Hsin Tung Yang," Sin says.

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If you’re a true burger snob, you know that a pre-formed patty can never quite measure up to the kind you make yourself. Ray Lampe, co-owner and pitmaster at Dr. BBQ in Tampa, FL, loves buying Publix “market” ground beef, a 75 percent lean, 25 percent fat mixture. “It gets you the trimmings off steaks and roasts that they cut in-house,” Lame says. Don’t worry if there isn’t a Publix near you — most grocery stores do this kind of ground beef, you may just need to ask the butcher to point it out to you. Then, get to assembling these Perfect Beef Burgers.

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