Recipe: Michigan Corndogs, plus Why Some People Don’t Like Corndogs

Please note that, because of the interest from Pinterest the week of 9/9/2018, the links in this piece have been updated and the downloadable version of the recipe has been reworked.

I like corndogs. In fact, I absolutely love them. I always have and probably always will. It doesn’t matter if they’re the frozen variety, as I can eat those just as well as the ones that are handmade. But when it comes right down to it, the handmade ones are certainly better.

This picture isn’t quite right, as squiggles of mustard are difficult to manage. Just imagine they’re there.

I had mentioned my love for corndogs early-on in Mary’s and my relationship, along with my wish for a deep fryer that was shaped correctly so I could actually make these little beasties. Granted, I’d never made corndogs before but I sure wanted to try. Not only was she curious as to how my corndogs would turn out, but she was more supportive of this idea than I could have imagined. Just prior to Christmas 2005, during a trip to Wal*Mart, a rectangular GE deep fryer landed in the cart as an early Christmas present. I was definitely on-my-way.

The corndog I wanted to make was more specific to Michigan than the frozen corndogs most grocers carry. I wanted to use locally-available ingredients of a better quality than what most people were used to. Having grown up in Flint, I knew the meat portion of the corndog had to be a Koegel product, specifically their Viennas in natural casings. These have always been my favorites whenever I’d have a Flint-style coney, and it made sense to make a corndog with them.

The simplest-possible corndog batter is the same as the batter for a corn muffin or cornbread. If you’ve ever been to Chelsea, Michigan, you’ve probably seen the massive silos plastered with the Jiffy Mix logo. This plant is the Chelsea Milling Company, the only place Jiffy products are made. You can take a tour of this plant, and have the whole manufacturing process and history explained to you. It’s a great place to take Scout troops and other small groups, which I’ve done more than once.

I like cornbread, but have never made it from scratch. Jiffy Corn Muffin mix cooks up extremely well, and is cheap enough that making this batter from scratch seems a bit of nonsense. And as Jiffy is a Michigan product, it works for this recipe.

Looking through some corndog batter recipes online, I found references to either prepared mustard or ground mustard. As the Jiffy Corn Muffin mix requires an egg and some milk for moisture, I went with the ground mustard. GFS Marketplace sells a nice ground mustard in a bulk container in their Trade East line, so that’s what I went with.

All I did to develop the Michigan Corndog was to make up a box of Jiffy Corn Muffin mix. Once it was mixed, I added enough ground mustard till it tasted right. That was it!

Ok, hold the phone … not quite …

There was the matter of a cooking technique. Commercial corndog fryers are tall, and hold the corndogs vertically while cooking. And while home corn dog fryers that used to be available also fried them vertically, those appliances are no longer made. I couldn’t cook quite so many in my deep fryer as the corndogs would float horizontally, but I also wanted to use it for fish, chicken, onion rings and other recipes as well so I didn’t want a “real” corndog fryer. I could lay three decent-sized corndogs in my fryer, and that seemed fine.

In making the corndogs for the first time, I first found I had to wipe any moisture off the hot dog before dipping it into the batter or the batter would slide right off. But even worse, when I deep-fried them, the batter ended up with massive air bubbles which expanded as the cooking progressed.

We ate some rather mutated corndogs that day …

The batter has to rest, the longer the better, before even beginning to think about starting the deep fryer. We’re talking at least two hours here, but preferably overnight in the fridge. This lets any air bubbles settle down, and gives the cooked corndogs a nice, smooth finish.

After Mary and I decided the corndogs were good enough, the real test were the kids. My Briahna does not like cornbread … unless it’s crumbled into milk and sugar added, to be eaten for breakfast. And Mary’s John is an exceedingly picky eater, with the cheapest possible corndogs being some of his favorite things to eat. The results? As small as she is at the age of 12, Briahna can easily eat four of my Michigan Corndogs at one sitting. And if I make them with the bulk package of cheap hot dogs from GFS Marketplace (sometimes $6.99 for a package of 50), John can also put away four of them if not more.

During the 2006 City Wide Yard Sale here in Luna Pier the first Saturday in July, I cooked corndogs to-order in the driveway, with the deep fryer on an old kitchen cart. We sold 50 of them for $1.50 each (yup, I was using that 50-pack package from GFS instead of the Koegel’s). What was interesting wasn’t just the people that came back after having their first one. Rather, it was the people who were telling others, “Hey, you know that trailer over near the beachhouse where they have corndogs for $3? This guy’s are way better!”

But then an odd but happy accident happened. After the yard sales had closed down and it was time for us to eat, I realized I was a couple Viennas short to make enough corndogs for everyone at the house. But I also happened to have a couple on the grill. So I wiped those off, then skewered, battered and deep fried then.

Here’s where it got interesting:

What happened was quite an eye opener. The corndogs that were grilled first tasted far better than those that had been dipped directly from the package. The light dawned: The reason people don’t like corndogs is that the hot dogs aren’t cooked. They’re merely heated up inside the batter. Grilling them first changes the flavor and texture of the hot dot itself, giving a much better experience. Playing around with thi concept proved that people who don’t like corndogs will like those where the hot dogs were grilled before battering.

Sometimes, what it takes is just a little extra care to make something taste that much better. Even something as simple as a corndog.

The following recipe is available here in a printable version which includes some extra notes. You may need to download and install the free Adobe Reader in order to view and print that version of this recipe.

Michigan Corndogs
Ingredients
1 8-1/2 oz. box Jiffy corn muffin mix
1/2 cup 2% or whole milk
1 egg
1 tsp ground mustard
1 8-pack Koegel Viennas
8 wooden skewers
Frying oil (clear vegetable salad oil)

Equipment
1 home deep fryer OR 2″ deep skillet
1 Outdoor Grill
1 8″ x 8″ casserole
1 medium mixing bowl
Paper towel
1 plate
Metal tongs
Thermometer (if using a skillet)
Good scissors or other cutting tool

In the glass casserole, combine the corn muffin mix and the ground mustard. In the medium mixing bowl, mix the milk and egg. Dump the liquid into the dry mixture and whisk it until it’s a slightly lumpy batter. Let the batter rest at least two hours, then stir it gently before using.

Fill the deep fryer to its fill line with the frying oil or, if using a deep skillet, fill to a depth of about 1-1/2″. Set the oil for a temperature of 375 degrees F. Once the oil is up to temperature, line the plate with some paper towel and set it aside.

Grill the Viennas first and set them on some paper towel. Use more paper towel to wipe any juices off up to three of the Viennas. If your skewers have sharp, pointed ends, use a good pair of scissors or some other cutting tool to cut these points off! Slowly work a wooden skewer into each Vienna, straightening the meat as you go while making sure the skewer doesn’t come out the far end. (If it does, just pull it back a bit.) Using a spiraling motion, dip each Vienna into the batter, removing it the same way, making sure the meat is covered completely from end-to-end.

Using the same spiraling motion (and keeping your fingers out of the hot oil!), roll the skewered and battered Vienna into the oil, dropping the skewer last, followed by the second and third Viennas when you have them ready. Use the tongs to gently and continuously keep the corndogs moving and rotating in the oil so they cook evenly. Cooking should only take a minute or two. When the corndogs are a golden brown, remove them to the paper towel-lined plate for draining. They can be served as soon as the skewer is cool enough to touch.

14 Comments

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  1. That would of been me 🙂 Thanks!

  2. Of course it was you! You were one of the four people we were thinking of. Hope you like this one!

  3. You just can’t beat good ole Jiffy Corn Muffin mix! Thanks for the recipe. We haven’t tried corn dogs at home yet. Our corn muffin mix is usually made as a side for homeade chili. I like to put a small can of corn in with the mix before baking.

    By the way, if you want to come to Chelsea to see the Jiffy factory, there are also lots of other things to do with a scouting troop, or just a group of friends. 🙂

    Leslie from Chelsea, MI

  4. Thanks, Leslie! BTW, is that drained whole-kernel corn, or cream-style? I imagine each would give a different texture.

    Your site really shows how much more there is to do in Chelsea than people here in Monroe County might know about. We hear about the Purple Rose Theatre, the Common Grill, Michigan Foodways, things of that nature, but your site shows just what a destination Chelsea can be for people.

  5. Thanks Luna! I usually use the regular sweet corn (not creamed) and drain the can of almost all of the liquid. The smaller can works perfectly, and makes the corn muffins nice and moist.

    And yes, a trip out to Chelsea is definitely worth the drive for a fun outing. Just don’t come on a Monday if you want to hang out downtown, because some of the best places — including the Common Grill — are closed on Mondays.

  6. For the corndogs, I’d actually considered using the cream-style corn while not using quite as much milk as the instructions on the box call for. I may still try that, and if it works, include that option.

    It’s interesting how a lot of towns, and even some restaurants, are closed on Mondays. I’m curious as to how that got started, how long ago it was, and where.

  7. My theory is that it’s just a practical decision. Places like the Common Grill are locally owned, and the owner is at the restaurant almost all the time. They do a ton of business on the weekends, so I guess they need to choose another day of the week to spend time with their families and do non-work stuff like mowing the lawn and doing laundry. 😉

    By the way, I love your blog. I have subscribed to it using an rss feed, so I’ll be sure to keep up with your new posts.

    Leslie

  8. I sold 470 corndogs in 2 days. I am in Phoeniix, Arizona and had a fair at the park. best recipe ever

  9. Glad to hear it, Hanna … thanks!

  10. Would you believe it is 12:34 in the morning and I had a massive corn dog craving. I toyed with the idea of dipping some hot dogs in jiffy mix batter and google behold–your recipe. I’m now enjoying my stickless corndogs with some onion rings also dipped in the jiffy batter. 🙂 Thanks.

  11. @Heather, I’ve had those kinds of cravings at about that same time, but never strong enough to break out the fryer. That’s a strong craving there! 😉 I’ve actually considered putting together a kit for this, complete with the sticks. I think it’d sell well.

  12. Rusty - Sacramento, CA

    Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix – Copy Cat recipe

    Makes: 6 muffins.

    When a recipe calls for a box of Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix, here’s a copycat recipe you can make at home.

    This recipe is equal to one 8.5 ounce box of Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix.

    Makes 8.5 ounces (equal to 1-box of Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix) Makes 1-1/2 cups of mix. Makes 6 corn muffins.

    INGREDIENTS

    2/3 cup all purpose flour
    1/2 cup yellow corn meal
    3 Tbsp granulated sugar
    1 Tbsp baking powder
    1/4 tsp salt
    2 Tbsp vegetable oil
    1 egg
    1/3 cup milk

    INSTRUCTIONS

    1. Combine flour, corn meal, sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix well with whisk. Whisk in vegetable oil and mix until dry mixture is smooth and lumps are gone.

    2. If another recipe is calling for a box of Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix, add the above mixed ingredients to that recipe.

    3. If you wish to make Corn Muffins, continue with instructions below.

    4. Preheat oven to 400F.Combine above mixture with egg and milk. Mix well. Fill muffin tins 1/2 full. Bake 15-20 minutes. Makes 6 muffins.

  13. @Rusty, this looks interesting. I know there are parts of California Jiffy doesn’t ship to, so there must be a lot of other areas in the U.S. that are Jiffy-less as well. Thanks for posting this.

  14. Dave,
    we are gonna get along just fine! I love your site! We are definitely foodies!!!

    The recipe that I used was a 50/50 flour cand ornmeal mix, plus I added 1 egg, 1/3 cup of sugar, baking powder, buttermilk and salt. It really takes less than 2-3 minutes to mix it up. About as fast as you can open a box of Jiffy, add the egg and milk and mix, I would also be finished mixing the corn dog mixture from scratch.

    I guess that because I cook so much, I’m spoiled and prefer to have everything made from scratch…or mostly everything.

    I KNOW ONE THING IS FOR CERTAIN…WE LOVE THIS STUFF!!! lol

    Marty

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