© Denzil Green
Wieners are long sausages of medium-thickness that can be a seasoned combination of beef and pork, or all beef, or even meat-free these days. In general, East Coast Americans prefer all beef wieners; Midwesterners prefer a pork and beef mixture.
Wieners contain meat, fat, binder and filler (bread crumbs, oatmeal or flour), some egg white and spices (onion, garlic, salt, pepper, etc.) In America, if the meat comes from offal, the packaging must state “with variety meats” or “with meat by-products.”
The casings are usually synthetic collagen casings. “Skinless” wieners are stuffed into and cooked in cellulose casings, which are then peeled off by machine before packaging. Some higher-end wieners may use natural casings. Kosher wieners never will use natural casings; they’ll use synthetic collagen, or be skinless.
Turkey and chicken wieners have also appeared on the shelves. The most chicken wieners are eaten by people on the West Coast.
Wieners are sold fully cooked. Some wieners are also smoked, for flavour and colour.
The idea of a wiener was undoubtedly invented in Europe, but no one can dispute that wieners are now thoroughly American.
Wieners have become synonymous with hot dogs. The average American eats 60 hot-dogs a year.
For some reason, kids love wieners. And the cheaper the quality, the better. The strongly flavoured, nicely-textured adult ones that cost the earth don’t appeal to them. But if you get the wieners they love, and save yourself a mint in the process, they will happily eat wieners for days. Even picky kids will eat practically anything with wieners in it. Oh, you can’t push your luck and serve the wieners in a vegetable stir-fry, but beans and wieners, wieners and cheese baked in crescent rolls, boiled wieners, steamed wieners, barbequed wieners — the kids are happy, and so are you, as recipes with wieners in them seem to be minimum fuss.
Oscar Meyer Mobile in Henry Ford Museum
© (© User Pardee Ave (2011) / Flickr / CC-BY 2.0)
The Oscar Mayer Wienermobile appeared on the streets of Chicago in 1936. In 1951, Oscar Mayer put out Wienermobile toys. In 1963, the famous Oscar Mayer wiener jingle was first heard — “Oh, I wish I were an Oscar Mayer wiener” — and then heard, and heard, and heard on American TV and radio stations. Anyone born in the 1960s grew up with the jingle in their head. They would sing it in playgrounds, sing it in their sleep and dream of wiener factories. Even Canadian children sang it, though it appears the Oscar Meyer brand of wieners has never actually been sold in Canada. The Oscar Mayer company was purchased by Kraft in 1989.
Vegetarian wieners first started appearing in the 1980s. They tasted all right, and that made sense — popular wisdom at the time had it that there was practically no real meat in wieners anyway, so leave the meat out and why should they taste any different? But the texture was a bit rubbery. But 20 years later, there is little discernible difference now between meat-free and meat-based wieners, aside from the veggie wieners tasting a bit “leaner”, as they would of course without the fat in them.
Though it’s called a Vienna Sausage, “wiener”, a wiener is actually closer to a Frankfurter sausage, which is long and slim. The names “red hot”, “frankfurter” and “wiener” are used in various parts of the States. In Canada,, the word frankfurter is reserved for fancier, more expensive wieners – the packages that cost the same as other packages of wieners, but only have half as many in them. The big mystery throughout North America, though, is why wieners come in packages of 12 or 10, but the buns for them come in packages of 8.
All-Beef Wieners are generally darker in colour.
© Denzil Green
English wieners come in tins, though fresh wieners are now appearing on the meat counters there.
Cocktail wieners also come tinned. They are usually served simmered in some kind of sweetish sauce, such as cranberry or sweet and sour. But as much as we may love wieners, who wants to go to a fancy schmantzy do and eat wieners?
In America, 38% of all wiener sales take place between Memorial Day and Labour Day, with sales rising when economic times are tough. 
At Rutt’s Hut in Clifton, New Jersey, the wieners for their Hot Dogs are deep-fried. They are colloquially known as ”rippers” and ”cremators”; “rippers” because the skin on them rips open during the frying.
Wieners are already fully cured and cooked. They can be eaten cold (see health precaution, though, in Nutrition below) or hot. Wieners can be boiled, microwaved, grilled. When grilling, just cook them enough to heat them through, and give them a nice grilled appearance. Use tongs to turn, not a fork.
Contamination of packaged hot-dogs with Listeria can occur during handling after they’re cooked but not packaged yet. Turkey wieners from Sara Lee Bil Mar Foodservice meat-processing plant in Zeeland, Michigan were infected with Listeria in October, 1998.
To be safe, treat hot-dogs as though they were raw meat. Disinfect or wash anything that fluid from the hot-dog package touches, and don’t eat them cold, heat them thoroughly.
Frankfurt, Germany claims to have invented “Frankfurter” sausages in 1484 — 8 years before America was discovered. Other sources say that “little dog” or “dachshund” sausages were created by a butcher in Coburg, Germany — naming them “dachshund” because of their resemblance to the dog of the same name. The city of Vienna (which is called “Wien” in German) disputes both claims, saying that the name “wiener” shows that they obviously were invented in Vienna — as in Wiener Schnitzel, which has nothing to do with hot dogs, and everything to do with the city.
In 1940, supermarkets started selling wieners in plastic packages of 10. Previously, you just got them loose from the butcher, priced by the pound. 
Wiieners cooking on a grill
© User Kevin_P. Morguefile. 2011.
Literature & Lore
“—Sauerkraut and weiners [Ed: sic] and every thing usually kept in a first-class eating house at the I. X. L. Cafe.” — Advertisment in: The Evening Democrat. Warren, Pennsylvania. 23 November 1895. Page 4.
“In order to keep up with the increasing demands for their sausage, weiners [Ed: sic], bologna and other chopped meats they were compelled to purchase a new meat chopper made by John Smith & Son, of Buffalo.” “Extensive Improvements.” — Titusville, Pennsylvania: Titusville Herald. 7 April 1899. Page 4.
Sewright has foresworn ‘wieners’ and Miss Bell has cancelled the reward she offered for her dog.” — The Indianapolis Star. Indianapolis, Indiana. 16 February 1910. Page 1. (See entry on Hot Dogs for story behind this.)
 Fredrix, Emily. Hot dog sales sizzle as makers Ball Park Franks and Oscar Mayer embroiled in suit. Milwaukee: Associated Press. 22 May 2009.
 “Not until 1940 were hot dogs packaged the way we currently see them in the grocery store. When manufacturers began packaging hot dogs, they chose the 10 to the pack formula.” A Hot Dog Primer for Inquiring Minds. National Hot Dog and Sausage Council. Retrieved September 2010 from http://www.hot-dog.org/ht/d/sp/i/38599/pid/38599