Someone wise on the Internet once said something to the effect of: “Being an adult is spending $500 at Costco because you were craving a $1.50 hot dog.” That would be a reference to the famous $1.50 hot dog and a soda combo at Costco, a deal that puzzles as many people as it delights.
This stalwart part of the Costco shopping experience is not to be missed, but before you head out to drop $501.50, here are 15 things to know before buying that Costco hot dog!
15 Things To Know Before Buying Costco Hot Dogs In 2023
1. Costco Hot Dogs Are Older Than Some Of Your Coworkers
So, the Costco hot dogs aren’t 30 years old. However, the deal has been around since 1985, meaning that it’s lasted longer than most college students have been alive.
Costco first opened its doors in 1983, and the hot dog-and-a-soda deal began just two years later.
According to Eat This, Not That, the deal started as a hot dog stand/Costco collab. Further, Hebrew National ran the stand and sat outside a store in San Diego.
After that, it must have worked so well that the founders decided to formalize the endcap experience to shoppers’ visits and make it part of a food court.
Also, it’s worth noting that Hebrew National actually ended up gifting the hot dog cart to Costco.
2. Costco Hot Dogs Are Still The Same Price As In 1985
When Costco started offering its hot dog combo deal, it set the low, low price at $1.50.
Over 30 years later, that price hasn’t budged! That said, you can still end your Costco shopping trip with a sizable hot dog and a refreshing Pepsi drink for just $1.50.
Moreover, that price for that deal has become iconic, a memorable part of the Costco brand. It’s what many people think of, hungrily, no doubt, when they consider making a Costco run.
3. The Founder Hated The Idea Of Raising The Price Of Costco Hot Dogs
Did you know the CEO of Costco, Craig Jelinek, considered raising the combo price in 2018? He wanted to adjust the price just a bit to bring in more money.
Jelinek was talking it over with one of the founders, Jim Sinegal, and he made his opinions known in a most direct way.
“If you raise the price of the hot dog, I will kill you,” Sinegal apparently told Jelinek. As you can see, raising the price was unacceptable in his mind.
4. You Get ¼ Pound Of Meat With A Hot Dog
A quarter-pound of meat is quite a bit when you consider that many burgers contain that much.
So, while the Costco hot dog might not be exactly a foot long, as one fan suggested, it’s certainly bigger than your average ballpark frank (for a fraction of the price!).
In fact, Mashed calls it “a hot dog that eats more like a meal.”
5. If Costco Hot Dogs Makes You Thirsty, You’re In Luck
The hot dog combo is more than just a cheap dog; you also get a 20-ounce soft drink, and even better: unlimited refills!
If Pepsi isn’t your thing, you’re unfortunately out of luck because that’s the brand Costco carries at its fountains.
When Coca-Cola raised its prices in 2013, it would have meant raising the price of the combo.
So instead, Costco simply switched beverage vendors.
6. The Hot Dogs Get A Nice Bath First
There are a few methods for preparing quick-serve hot dogs (like counter-top roller grills), but Costco goes the hot-bath-and-a-steam route.
That is, the hot dogs go in a bath of 180-degree water to bring the meat temperature to 160 degrees. Then, the hot dogs get steamed in the bun.
7. The Toppings On Costco Hot Dogs Are Free!
You won’t be ordering your Costco hot dogs with toppings; instead, you put them on after you get your order.
While that means slightly more work for you, that also means you get unlimited toppings included with the modest price of the deal.
Additionally, according to some sources, if you ask nicely at the counter, you can get a side of chopped onions or sauerkraut to dress up your dog!
8. Costco Hot Dogs Used To Be Hebrew National
As I recounted above, the idea of selling hot dogs to hungry customers who have just checked out began when a Hebrew National set up shop outside a San Diego Costco.
Then, when Costco began formally selling them as part of its food court, it stuck with the Hebrew National brand for quite a while.
But in 2009, Costco switched it up. With that, Costco built its own factories to produce hot dogs (under the Kirkland brand) and began selling them as part of its in-store hot dog deal.
9. The Costco Hot Dogs Are Unexpectedly Delicious
Many people enjoy foods for the nostalgia, despite how sad they might taste.
But, Costco hot dogs are not for them. Instead, people genuinely enjoy these cheapie dogs, citing their “smoky flavor” and pleasing texture.
At Business Insider, one writer commented, “The dog is unexpectedly flavorful,” and went on to remark that the satisfying “snap” is present with every bite.
10. The Costco Hot Dog Deal Loses The Company Money
You read that correctly: Costco doesn’t make any money on the hot dog deal. Rather, it’s a loss it takes, and willingly.
However, 30+ years after introducing the combo, $1.50 for a hot dog and soda has become one of the defining characteristics of visiting a Costco.
11. Despite That, The Costco Hot Dog Is Likely Forever
If Costco is reluctant to raise the price on its hot dog deal, do you think the company would ever consider getting rid of it altogether?
The answer is no, at least, not any time in the foreseeable future.
Although it’s unknown what would have to occur for Costco to nix the combo, as the fifth-largest retailer globally, Costco can continue to absorb the financial loss.
12. Costco Hot Dogs Aren’t The Best Choice
Hopefully, you weren’t expecting Costco’s budget deal also to be nutritious.
With that, a single Costco dog can add 500-700 calories and 32 grams of fat to your day (plus a whopping 1,500 mg of sodium).
So, like a $500 Costco visit, the hot dogs are a splurge.
13. Cheaper Doesn’t Mean Lower Quality
Despite the less-than-nutritious calorie count and the super-low price point, people rave about the taste of Costco’s hot dogs because they’re made with quality ingredients.
Since Costco manufactures its hot dogs, it gets all the say in what goes in. Further, Costco’s opted for a 100% beef recipe with no by-products, corn syrup, or fillers.
14. Even Non-Members Can Get In On The Costco Hot Dog Action
Most Costco food courts are located within stores, and the only way to gain entry is to have a membership.
But, some Costco food courts are outside, which means they’re accessible to the general public.
So, even if you don’t have a membership, you are more than welcome to stop by and grab a hot dog combo if you have an outdoor Costco food court in your area.
15. You Can Buy Similar Costco Hot Dogs In-Store
While Costco doesn’t sell its food court hot dogs in stores, it has a comparable product; the Kirkland Signature Beef Hot Dogs.
Like the food court iteration, they’re 100% beef, with no nasty fillers or by-products.
Also, these are bun-sized, so at 24 ounces per package and 12 dogs, they’re only two ounces (compared to the food court’s 4+ ounces).
To learn more, you can also read our posts on things to know before buying Costco bacons, things to know before buying pizza, and the things to know before buying whiskey.
Costco’s hot dog deal is legendary, both for the ultra-low price of $1.50 (with a drink!) and the unbelievable quality.
Boiled and then steamed in the bun, the dogs come with unlimited toppings and make the perfect after-shopping snack.