You can cook professional-tasting dogs at home, but it requires a major bite out of your budget, like $500 for a commercial roller grill or $650 for a steamer hutch.

I’ve spent a major portion of my life trying to cook hot dogs. Grilling is OK, but I’d really like to duplicate a stadium or cart dog, or the wieners at the old Woolworth’s lunch counters.

The problem is the gear. You can cook professional-tasting dogs at home, but it requires a major bite out of your budget, like $500 for a commercial roller grill or $650 for a steamer hutch. A hot dog wagon can cost as much as a small car. These obviously are total overkill for home use and designed for daily serving of dozens of dogs.

Some companies have read our dog-starved minds. They are busy rolling out, so to speak, personal hot dog cookers for less than $50. It is a definite trend.

The commercial units are all stainless and all business, designed for decades of hard use. The cheaper ones are plastic and metal, fine for the occasional hot dog craving.

You face a cooker decision here: Steamer or roller. Steamed dogs often are sold from sidewalk carts and at sports venues, heated by electricity or Sterno. They are juicy and soft. Steamed is the way to feed a crowd. Many will cook more than 100 dogs at once. Expect to pay more than $400.

Roller weenies are grilled all over. Their skins become crunchy. You will find these at drive-ins and standup counters.

Broiler cookers offer similar texture but higher output than rollers. Stick your dogs on stainless spikes and watch the rotisserie turn. The Broil-O-Dog with a 24-wiener capacity is a hefty $752 from commercial-ware seller www.instawares.com.

One other component is a must — warmed buns. Home units usually offer a warmer tray. Your dogs will not taste right without it.

We need to readjust our cooking style for these. It’s not the microwave for 30 seconds stuff. Rollers and steamers can take up to 30 minutes, so plan ahead. Slow cooking does improve the noble sausage’s flavor and texture.

There’s a cooking race happening here. Cuisinart claims 8 minutes for its elegant, nonstick stainless roller at $60. Others counter with 6-minute grillers.

The competition must be heavy. Maverick Appliance offers a six-dog Hero steamer for $30. It’s in the shape of a puppy. It barks when done. Just lift the tail and eat. Too cute to live.

Then there’s the hybrid Outset Griller. This places an array of five stainless rollers on your outdoor grill. Rolling it across the grill with the included handle turns the dogs. It’s $25 from Amazon.com. Here’s a look at some others:

ROLLERS

Emson Express: Five rollers, bun warmer, 30-minute cooking time, $34 at Amazon.com.

Nostalgia Electrics: Five rollers, warmer, up to 30 minutes cooking time, canopy, $54 at Sears.com.

Old Fashioned Hot Dog Roller: Cooks eight regular or four foot-long dogs or sausage, $30 at Wal-Mart.

STEAMERS

Star Steamro Jr.: Stainless, 130-frank, 36-bun capacity, $490 at Amazon.com.

Gold Medal: Stainless, up to 90 hot dogs, 40 buns, $462 at Sam’s Club.

Glass Front hot dog steamer: Stainless, cooks up to 50 dogs at once plus 18 buns for $349 at www.epopcorn.com.

Canton Repository