What Does “Uncured Beef Franks” Really Mean?

Uncured beef franks have become a popular alternative to traditional cured hot dogs in recent years. But what does the term “uncured” on a beef frank package really mean? Is it just clever marketing, or are uncured franks actually better for you? In this article, we’ll examine what’s behind the uncured label, if uncured franks are healthier, and how they compare to traditional cured beef hot dogs.

What Does Uncured Mean?

The term “uncured” on a package of beef franks means that no sodium nitrite or other curing salts were added during processing. Sodium nitrite and other curing salts help preserve the color and extend the shelf life of products like hot dogs and deli meats. They also prevent the growth of bacteria that can cause botulism.

However, there’s a potential downside. When exposed to high heat, sodium nitrite can form compounds called nitrosamines. Nitrosamines have been linked to cancer in some studies. This potential risk has led many consumers to seek out uncured options.

Manufacturers have responded by developing alternative curing methods that don’t directly add sodium nitrite. These uncured products use ingredients like celery powder, celery juice, or sea salt that are naturally high in nitrate. The nitrate converts to nitrite during fermentation and processing, resulting in cured meat products without directly added sodium nitrite.

  • No sodium nitrite or other curing salts were added
  • Vegetable powders, juices or sea salt provide nitrate for conversion to nitrite
  • The finished product contains nitrite, just from natural sources

Are Uncured Beef Franks Healthier?

There are a few reasons why uncured beef franks may be slightly healthier than traditionally cured hot dogs:

Less Nitrite: Even though uncured franks still contain nitrite, the levels tend to be lower compared to traditional cured products. Some studies have found 40-80% lower nitrite levels in uncured meats.

Antioxidants: Ingredients like celery powder and carrot powder are high in antioxidants like vitamin C. These may help prevent nitrite from converting to carcinogenic nitrosamines during cooking.

No Artificial Ingredients: Uncured products often have fewer artificial preservatives, flavors and colors. However, traditional cured beef franks can also be made without these additives.

Perception of “Natural”: The “uncured” label leads many people to perceive the product as more natural and healthy, even if the differences are small. Perception can influence feelings of wellbeing.

However, the differences in nutritional value between cured and uncured beef franks are relatively minor. Both contain similar amounts of protein, fat, sodium and calories. And both require safe handling and cooking to destroy harmful bacteria.

So while uncured franks may offer some advantages, they’re still a highly processed meat. Don’t consider them a “health food” compared to less processed choices.

How Do Uncured Beef Franks Compare to Traditional Hot Dogs?

Let’s look at some key differences and similarities between uncured beef franks and regular cured hot dogs:

Taste and Texture: Most people find little difference in taste and texture. Uncured franks tend to be just slightly less salty.

Cooking: Uncured franks can generally be used the same as regular hot dogs. Cook thoroughly to an internal temperature of 165°F.

Shelf Life: Traditional cured hot dogs last 2-3 weeks unopened, 1 week after opening. Uncured franks have a slightly shorter shelf life of 1-2 weeks unopened.

Ingredients: As described above, uncured uses nitrate-containing vegetables instead of sodium nitrite. Both still contain beef, fat, seasonings.

Price: Uncured beef franks cost $1-3 more per package than regular cured hot dogs. You’re paying a premium for perceived health benefits.

Safety: Both cured and uncured hot dogs need to be cooked thoroughly to kill pathogens like E. coli and Salmonella. Safety depends on handling and preparation.

Nutrition: The nutrition stats are very similar. Uncured may have slightly less sodium and nitrite, but calories, protein, and fat content are comparable.

So in terms of taste, texture, cooking method, and nutrition, uncured beef hot dogs are highly similar to regular cured hot dogs. The only major differences are the curing method and price.

Should You Choose Uncured or Regular Beef Franks?

Here are some things to consider when deciding between uncured and cured beef hot dogs:

  • If avoiding nitrite is your priority, uncured is the way to go. But remember both contain nitrite in the end.

  • If you like the idea of ingredients like celery juice powder, go for uncured. But know that traditional cured beef franks can also be made with no artificial ingredients.

  • If you perceive uncured as healthier and more natural, choose uncured for the placebo effect. But don’t consider them a whole food.

  • If you want to avoid potentially carcinogenic nitrosamines, opt for uncured franks cooked at lower temperatures. High heat increases nitrosamine formation.

  • If you’re simply looking for an occasional hot dog and aren’t concerned about curing methods, go for regular beef franks. They’re fine in moderation.

  • Look at ingredients and sourcing on both uncured and regular hot dogs. Ingredients like grass-fed beef and recognizable spices are optimal.

No matter which you choose, moderation is key with processed meats like hot dogs. The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends limiting consumption to just 18 oz per week. More important than cured vs uncured is sourcing quality ingredients and avoiding overconsumption.

The Bottom Line

Uncured beef franks offer some minor health advantages but are still highly processed. When shopping:

  • Read ingredients and choose options with recognizable, high-quality ingredients

  • Look for grass-fed or organic if you want meat from humanely raised animals

  • Prioritize safe handling and cooking to 165°F to control pathogens

  • Limit consumption of hot dogs and other processed meats to no more than 18 oz per week

  • Don’t overpay for perceived health benefits of uncured that aren’t supported by evidence

  • Enjoy uncured beef franks occasionally as part of an overall healthy diet, not as a health food

The curing method plays a relatively small role compared to ingredients, cooking, and avoiding excess consumption. With some savvy shopping and moderation, both uncured and traditionally cured beef franks can occasionally be part of a healthy lifestyle.

Uncured Hot Dog


Are uncured beef hot dogs better?

But even if the label says “uncured,” “no nitrates added” or “all natural,” it doesn’t mean these options are necessarily healthier. Natural preservatives, such as celery powder and celery salt, may sound better, but there’s no evidence they’re safer, so it’s still best to minimize your intake.

What is a uncured beef frank?

Uncured hot dogs today are those that contain “no nitrates or nitrites.” For years nutrition experts have warned about the use of these potentially harmful chemicals in foods. They are also added to meats, such as ham and bacon, as well.

Are uncured beef hot dogs fully cooked?

With a healthy ingredients list that never includes nitrates, nitrites or preservatives, these delicious franks are a smart choice for you and your family. Hot dogs ― fully cooked and grill ready ― are vacuum sealed and flash frozen at the peak of freshness to ensure optimum flavor.

Is uncured beef better for you?

Since people who eat uncured meats are still exposed to nitrates and nitrites, there’s likely little health benefit to be gained from eating uncured meats instead of cured meats. For questions about poisonings from cured meats, get help online with webPOISONCONTROL or call 1-800-222-1222.

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