Cooking hot dogs via electrocution

cooking   LED 1

How to cook hot dogs… with electricity!

[Disclaimerzilla: While we could give you lots of warnings about all the different dangers involved and how to possibly skirt them, the simple truth is that this just isn’t safe. If you are foolish enough to attempt this, you will have to deal with pointy things, raw electricity out of the wall, hot steam, and the possibility of fire. If that isn’t enough, and you succeed, you are still faced with the possibility of having to eat a hot dog. In summary: do not, under any circumstances, cook hot dogs this way.]

Power Cord


It’s… a power cord! The starting point for all sorts of fun projects that involve electricity and electronics. We’re making this power cable into a “suicide cable.” Sounds safe, doesn’t it?



Clip ends   Alligators

Get out the wire strippers. Clip off the end of the cord that doesn’t plug into the wall. Peel back the outer insulation to reveal the three cords within. Snip back the green ground cord– we don’t need it. Take the other two wires, white and black in this case, and strip the ends. Next, go put the cable and the wire strippers away because you shouldn’t be doing this. It’s highly unsafe. You’re just supposed to be reading along. Got it?


The next step is to solder alligator clips to the stripped cable ends. Make sure that the other end of the cable isn’t plugged into wall the during this step, m’kay?


On the plate


*Still* making sure that the other end of the cord isn’t plugged in, clip the alligators to a couple of forks that you don’t mind losing. Put them on a nonconductive plate, and go get out the hot dogs.



hook up   cooking
Plug the forks into the two ends of the hot dog.

And then comes the tricky part: damn carefully plug in the other end of the cord. A much better strategy is to first plug the other end of the cord into a power strip and then flip the switch on. Under no circumstances should you touch either one of the forks, the hot dog, or other exposed surfaces unless you can actually see that the other end of the cord is *not plugged in.* The hot dog cooks rapidly, in maybe one or two minutes. Watch for swelling, a change in surface shape and luster, and finally smoke and/or cracking to indicate doneness. Overdo it, and there may be a nasty smell to go along with it.




Eww! Common problem with this method that I haven’t seen much documentation about: The steel forks leave a black chemical stain in the ends of the hot dogs, so cut the tips off.



Catsup   eat

Add condiments. Ketchup? Mustard? Go whole hog to chili dog if desired. And, if you like, eat the thing. Hot dogs aren’t good for you; this step is optional.
LED 1   LED 2

If you’re *not* going to eat the hot dog, a neat trick is to stick a bunch of standard LEDs into it. (Yes, this really works!) Apparently the voltage between nearby points on the hot dog is fairly low, since the LEDs don’t seem to burn out.

As the hot dog cooks, the resistance of the hot dog increases and the LEDs get dimmer since less current can flow through them. If you look *very* closely (or take a time lapse movie) you can see the LEDs move further apart as the hot dog swells during cooking.



Lethal current, voltage, and fire can result from attempting this project. Just because we lived to tell about this doesn’t mean that you will. That cord is called a “suicide cable” for a reason– building one is asking to be killed by one. Do not, under any circumstances, cook hot dogs this way. We mean it.

Have a nice day. =)

This project is included in the food category in our Halloween Project Archive where you can find more ideas and recipes.

82 thoughts on “Cooking hot dogs via electrocution

  1. Never ever take electricity directly out of your outlet without an isolating transformer (1:1). Never. Suggesting or even showing how to do this is totaly BS. Never do it. The hotdog will probably explode and shoot one of the power cords onto your lap. Or you will touch one of the cords without pulling the plug beforehand. Or something else which will lead to injury or death. Simply don’t do it.

    1. A transformer won’t save you, a fuse might. If you are going to do stupid things, at least fuse both sides of the power cord.

      1. A fuse will only blow at several Amps, at least if you plan to cook a hotdog without blowing the fuse in the first place. But you will be pretty dead as soon as more than 100mAmps flow through your body. This means a fuse will help nothing.

        On the other hand, an isolating transformer not only allows you to touch any single wire without getting electrocuted, it also limits power, like a fuse. However, this doesn’t really matter, as stated above. A fuse would only help if it had such a ridiculously low value that cooking of any goods would be impossible.


    2. There was a science project book that my brothers and I checked out of the grade school library over 35 years ago. It showed how to cook hot-dogs with 120VAC. This was a kids science book. There was nothing mentioned about an isolation transformer, just a note about the danger and a reminder to be careful.

      1. Pound two large nails into a piece of pine scrap. Space the nails so you can impale a hot-dog on them.
      2. Connect the 120VAC hot to one nail, the 120VAC neutral to the other nail. (with the power cord unplugged, natch.)
      3. Impale a hot-dog.
      4. Plug in the cooker until the hot-dog is cooked.
      5. Unplug, remove cooked hot-dog, eat.

      The electrocuted hot-dogs always had a funny taste to them.

      1. I did this in Boy Scouts 25 years ago, fed my patrol and our Scout Leader, and got a merit badge for it. I’m only 41 but even I remember when the work wasn’t so paranoid about "the danger" of everyday living. There are things out there that should frighten the bejesus out of us. Cooking a hot dog with electricity isn’t one of them.

    3. You must be an engineer with no field experience,every electrician I know has done this.I have done it with 277 volts straight off the buss of a 2000 amp switch gear and I still say I was in more danger eating the damn thing than cooking it.A fuse maybe,but an isolation transformer for cooking hotdogs?

    4. Nonsense. First, there was a commercial product that did exactly this – the Presto hotdogger. No reports of exploding dogs or electrocuted housewives. I had one, and it worked fine. Second, we used to do this regularly with a slight "Mr. Wizard" twist: we’d tape two jelly glasses together, fill them with salty water, and bend the hot dog so that one tip was wedged into each glass and touched the water. Up the side of each glass was one lead of an extension cord that was folded over the edge and into that glass’s salty water. Worked fine, perfectly safe, cooked in a minute, and didn’t have the stains on the tip of the dog that the forks leave (the Presto Hotdogger left little marks too; also, the prongs were made of white metal and corroded from the contact with the chemicals in the hot dog over time). I probably wouldn’t do this with 240V, but with 120VAC it’s no biggie. The sky will not fall. Just don’t do something stupid like touching it while it’s plugged in. Unplug before eating . . .

  2. As if people need more instructions on how to do stupid, life and home threatening things.

  3. Great idea… will try this in Europe with 220v – LOVE to do stupid dangerous things with hotdogs and mains voltage!!!

    1. When we used to do this in the 50s, we avoided the scorched/oxidized contact points by using two glasses of water, lightly salted, into which the wires were thrust. Hotdogs back then had a slight curve, and I expect they still do, though some encouragement might be necessary. Place the dog, curve belly up so that its ends are in the water of each glass. Plug in and wait a minute or so. (Unplug before removing).

      Please bear in mind, though, that my method uses U.S. current (110V, 60 cycles); I have no idea what the hot dog (what could be wurst?) would do with 220 volts coursing along its length.

  4. To Anonymous @ 07:50 AM:

    Thank you for coming out from under your bed where you were hiding to tell us all how terribly unsafe we are.

    Now go back under your bed an.d continue hiding. The grownups are having a conversation

    1. The so called grown-ups would never fiddle arround directly with an outlet. If I do need to fiddle arround with 220V (yes, that’s double the mAmps flowing through your body when touching), for instance when building devices with integrated transformers, I use an isolating transformer, which is about 49$ on Ebay. If you don’t, it’s like one slipping with the screwdriver and zap, you might be dead. Which is kind of unfunny, even for "grown-ups" like you want to be one.

      On the other hand, sticking forks with mains voltage into a hotdog and waiting for it to explode: that’s total BS. It’s a shame someone publishes this on his blog. Totaly brainf*cked.

  5. This reminds me of a safety demo I hear about when I was a technician-in-training on Kodak photocopiers about 25 years ago. The illumination power supply for the Ektaprint copiers weighed about 60 pounds and had two huge coffee can-sized capacitors inside. There was a very specific sequence you had to go through to service this component, including tripping an grounding interlock and manually grounding the caps with a screwdriver-like tool included on every power supply.

    Anyway, the instructors used to scare the hell out of the students by discharging the power supply through a hot dog shielded in a plexiglass box. ZAP! Nothing but hot hotdog bits. It was intended to make you think twice about bypassing the safety procedures.

    1. Yep. used to work with a guy who had shorted those caps with his wedding ring. He was known as Nine Finger Joe.

  6. I’ve never been brave enough to try cooking a hot dog that way, though it sure is neat.

    I can vouch for an earlier post about illuminating produce, though. If you hook up a pickle this way, it does indeed glow

    My science teacher did it in seventh grade and it’s something to see. You really need a darkened room, since it’s not too bright, and one side of the pickle tends to glow brighter than the other (I can’t remember if this was due to the direction of the current or something within the pickle).

    We had all sorts of bright (ha!) ideas about using pickles as a new source of illumination and replacing the lightbulb and wouldn’t that be cool. And then he actually turned it on. Holy mother of god that is among the worst things I have ever smelled in my life. Naturally, we only discovered this after shutting all doors and windows in the classroom and pulling all the shades. A friend of mine even made a joke about not wanting to let any toxic gasses escape and boy was he spot on.

    Still, it’s really neat to see.

  7. As a teenager I worked for a wacky inventor/business man. One day he flew into the parking lot and yelled for me to "get in the car". First stop was the butcher shop, bought 10 pounds of ground beef. Next stop the welding shop. With my boss shouting orders to all the workers we soon had two half inch thick steel plates that were about two feet on an side wired to the big welding machine.

    My job was to form up some hamburger patties and then they were placed between the plates. After some trial and error we were turning out 6 perfect hamburgers in 12 seconds.

    On the way back to work my boss told me that he got the idea the night before at his work when one of the employees was electrocuted!

      1. Yeah !! I agree. The best !!
        It has all the good things a truly good story needs…
        Fun, carelessness, practicality, excess, personal touch, and extreme eewyness !!
        Oh, and subtleness.
        Lots of eeweyness.
        Concentrated eewyness.
        Condensed eewyness.
        And a happy ending – now we can get a fresh cooked burger, cooked and eaten, for the whole crew during a 3 minute coffee break!

  8. I once had a presto hotdogger and it was made with probes and a wire to plug in thats it. I thought it was so funny I wrote the company and asked if they plan to re-release this wonderful product..they wrote back and said they had no plans to do so.

  9. OK, so it’s been many years since I graduated with my EE degree, but what is the safety issue with eating the hot dog after you plugged an LED into it?

    1. RE: "what is the safety issue with eating the hot dog after you plugged an LED into it?"

      My guess would be paranoia about inserting the pre-tinned (lead-coated) leads of the LEDs into foodstuff.

  10. Your stainless steel forks have chromium and nickel in them that will electrolitically go into the sausage as ions. They are poisonous and carcinogenic. Don’t eat the sausage.

    If you put your stainless steel forks in a weak clear salt solution and repeat the experiment, you will see all the poisonous ions forming as a blue/green haze.

    1. … and nobody (Windell excepted) seems to recognize the greatest health risk … the hot dog itself. <sigh> I mean, really – considering what goes into them, you’re worried about a little solder and nickel? =P

      — Dave

      1. uhmm… yes.

        I’m very sincere about this. The idea is cool, but I think someone should put an extra warning somewhere to prevent people from eating that.
        I can (barely) stand the view of my kids eating hot dogs, but the idea that it could be contaminated with nickel ions makes me shiver. I’m not shure about chromium though… have to google it.

        I recently made a liquid rheostat with stainless steel electrodes, and it wasn’t simple to find an electrolyte where the electrodes didn’t dissolve fast.

        Btw, a pure tin solder electrode would be ok, since as far as I know tin ions are harmless, but if the solder has lead, it would be worse than nickel. A lot worse.

        1. The only thing touching the hot dogs is the stainless steel of the forks; there is no solder involved. But, the ions in the steel are bad enough.

          Also, I’m not sure what good an "extra warning" would serve– we’ve been quite clear that this project is *not safe* and that we *did not* give warnings about all of the possible dangers involved. If you follow our instructions exactly, then you will "not, under any circumstances, cook hot dogs this way."

          Windell H. Oskay

    2. Don’t be a cheapskate using stainless steel forks. If you use your mother’s sterling silver forks, there’s no health risk (until she catches you).

  11. My brother used to have a piece of wood with two nails through it, and an old extension cord wired to the nails. You could cook 4 or 5 hotdogs at a time with it. He kept it in his shop (he was a carpenter, not an electrician) and we’d make our lunch with it quite often. Handy? Of course. Safe? Ehhh, not so much.

    1. No one said that this was a new idea. I personally first did this in about 1995, after hearing about the old machines that used to work that way. Even cooler than the personal-sized ones were the commercial *vending machines* that cooked hot dogs that way.

      Windell H. Oskay

  12. I did exactly this. It was an 8-year old boy’s dream – steam, sometimes explosions with bits of meat flying everywhere, and if the forks touched great fireworks until the fuse blew. It started me on my lifetime profession – electrical engineering. But we don’t recommend it these days for recruiting more engineers – poor quality control of hot dog conductance.
    Chuck Shaw

    1. Growing up, someone gave my family a commercial hot dog elecrocuter. It was safer, in that the electricity turned off when you opened the top. However, the smell of electrocuted hot dogs isn’t wonderful, and they didn’t taste as good. After a few tries, we also gave it away.

    2. Can’t we inject a little national pride in this discussion? Austrians – our wieners are better controlled! Germans – not compared to our frankfurters! Israelis – our rabbis measure every kosher sausage’s conductance!

  13. Any clues as to how much power you need to cook a hotdog this way? Just wondering how much more efficient it is, compared to using boiling water…


    1. Since essentially all the power that you use goes directly into heating the hot dog, I would guess that it’s very efficient– especially compared to heating a big container of water and giving energy to evaporate some of it. But, let’s estimate, eh?

      The commercial versions of this, which several commenters have mentioned, cook six hot dogs at a time. We can assume that six in parallel draw less than 10 A, because most household outlets run on 10 A sockets, so I would guess that each hot dog takes a max of about 1 A of current, at 120 V AC, so the order-of-magnitude estimate of the power would be about 120 W, and let’s say that 1-2 minutes are needed. That’s a max of 120W*120 s = 14.4 kJ. That’s a significant overestimate because the resistance increases as the hot dog cooks.

      Using a microwave for 1-2 minutes does the same thing, but uses 1.5 kW– one order of magnitude less efficient. And, the stovetop– boiling a quart of water– is surely worse.

      On the other hand, you don’t get to eat the ends of the hot dog….

      Windell H. Oskay

      1. Close. This place lists it as a 1500W device, and most places mention a cooking time of a minute to a minute and a half. So that would be 15-22.5 kJ

    2. While it is true that this is a very dangerous stunt and should never be attempted by anyone who wants to keep living, technically, it is a great way to cook hot dogs.

      Back in the 70s when I didn’t care that much about living, I used to cook hotdogs in a similar method. The difference was that instead of forks, I used nails.

      At the time, I got a thrill from the shock, which I discovered early on when I was in too much of a hurry to disconnect the power.

      I used this method for months, eventually discovering that I could hold both ends of the wire. Like I said, I was going through a period when I didn’t reallly care about living.

      That was 32 years ago. While it is an interesting ‘experiment’, the potential for death is VERY high and should not be attempted by anyone without adult supervision. If your the adult, get an older adult. Life is too precious to throw away stupidly.

      In other words, don’t do it! You may survive it, but it’s a lot like Russian roulette. Sooner or later, it’s going to get you.

      In hindsight, I got lucky, I outgrew my ‘stupid’ period. You should too.

  14. Next week: cooking hotdogs with implantable radioistope heater units!

    <Kids, don’t try this at home!>

    — Dave

    1. Electrocuting a hot dog is not a very new idea: I saw a demonstration of this experiment as undergrad at the university. However there are other risks than electrocuting yourself: Parts of the meat in the hot dog (well, if you can assume that it contains some meat at all…) can be electrolyzed and can then form possibly toxic/carcinogenic substances. This will happen everywhere in the dog, not only in the ends.

      While this is really a nice experiment, I really wouldn’t recommend eating an electrocuted hot dog.

  15. There used to be a commercial product that worked this way. You put up to five or six dogs on to electrodes, conical in a tray, and then slid the tray into a cover that was plugged into the wall. I think it was the Presto hot dogger, but its been so long, that I’m not sure,

    Steve Thomas
    Great Bend, KS

  16. I think, as the hot dog cooks, the resistance goes down, not up. This has a two-fold effect: 1) the voltage across the diode leads goes down, causing a dimming 2) less current goes through the diode, since the resistance in the parallel path (hot dog) is less.

  17. You say cooking, it’s more like grill from inside. I do this thing when i was in school 14years old (very long time ago)in fysics lab i demonstrate hot dog cooking this way. It was recorded in super 8 film too. I have found a hot dog cooker on some backyard market, commercial made and sold on market. When you open the transparent lid the elektrical connection is broken automatically, sorry The Evil Mad Scientist there is a safe way to do this thing but that isn’t so fun.
    An another mad guy from Sweden

    1. If you wanna see something really cool, turn out all the lights and use a pickle instead of a hot dog.

  18. Judging by the power cable, that’s a US power outlet at 110v?

    Real suicide could be attempted quicker in the UK where the standard outlet is 240v heehehehh!

  19. Yay!
    Good to see there were more hi-voltage barbecue going on last summer! :-D
    Here’s my setup:

    Instead of going directly from mains (like I did in my childhood… he he he) I used a variable lab transformer, together with a voltmeter, lamp, ceramic insulators and misc. ancient electrical stuff just for the mad inventor look of it. It was a festival in an abandoned iron ore mine, and I was kindly offered a 380V 32A three-phase outlet. Did only need 3 amps and one phase.
    I primed the hot dog with a short jolt of 300V, then went down to something like 180 volts.
    We tried different sorts of sausages, and there is a hazard when using sausages/frankfurters with skin. There is a substantial build-up of pressure inside, and the sausage may (it actually did…) explode, spreading its stuff all over the place… I recommend using a fork and puncture the sausage at regular intervals as a kind of safety pressure valve! :)

    Happy electrocution!

    1. when I was young you could get an appliance called the hot dogger I think, that would cook up to 4 hot dogs at a time each on its own spike with a plastic cover going over the dogs.

      old mad scientist

    2. I wonder what happens if you try and cook it with 240. Hook 1 leg of your panel to each side of the hot dog.

      You could add in a dimmer for more controal. A laser thermometer would also help you know when it is ready and be safer.

      You could mount this all inside a plexi glass box with a lid and it would be much safer, particurally if you installed a contact switch that opened the hot lead when you opened the lid to the box.

    3. Hi, yeah, I used to work for a theatrical lighting company,Mcmanus, and did this at work, much less safely ,I was young . I used nails twisted with a 120 wire, it worked nicely, and would fit in ones’ pocket as an emergency hot dog cooker.

  20. Danger !This procedure is not RoHS compliant as posted.
    Please use RoHS solder.


    Get out there and build something !!

  21. If touching one side of a "hot" electrical circuit was guaranteed instant death, I would have been dead a long time ago. Sounds like there are lots of paranoid wieners out there.

  22. We have one of those cords in the lab at the office.
    Even with the INSULATED alligator clips, and we still call it "the suicide cord"

  23. I saw Mr. Wizard do this as a child and decided to try it myself. I used the power cord from an old lamp, some alligator clips and a hot dog. I connected the clips to the ends of the power cord and then shoved the clips into the ends of my hot dog. After plugging the entire thing in the clips exploded out of the hot dog with a loud pop. My father heard it from another room and asked what was going on. I shouted back, "Nothing." Nearly killed myself.

  24. First post as a user of EMS here. I find myself at this site because I needed to find out how long a hot dog is, and then decided, since I was on the subject, to see what the Web has to offer on hot dog electrocution. Why?

    Well, last evening at dinner a father of a very inquisitive 8-year-old son made the mistake of asking me how batteries work. Having been a teacher of science and everything else for more than 20 years in the uncontrolled (anything-goes-as-long-as-you-don’t-kill-our-kids) curricular environment of small church schools (yes, we were free to pursue any and all mad scientist tendencies and inspirations), electricity had been one of my 5th & 6th grade students’ (and my) favorite subjects.

    Well, at dinner, "how do batteries work?" led to many delightful recollections from science class, including the pure thrill of electrocuting hot dogs. Many a latent EE student has found his or her life’s calling upon witnessing the sheer power of household current exploding a hot dog, making a pickle emit a "nuclear" glow, or sending glowing balls of molten copper rolling out across the floor after some massive short circuit created by "the teacher." I dare say that kids who have witnessed first hand the incredible, sometimes destructive, power latent in the common household outlet are 1) much more likely to treat electricity with the utmost respect it demands, and 2) are more likely to become the scientists (or at least educated laymen) that we so sorely need in this country. And they may decide that they want to come back to school the next day, even if only to see "what’s next."

    So I found out how long the standard hot dog is, and some great new variations on the hot dog cooker theme, and most importantly, I ran across this site. Clearly here is a gathering of great minds, those caught up in the excitement of exploration and the near death experiences that my dad instilled in me so many years ago. Which makes me wonder, where did he put that carbide cannon – the one he modified to fire 12 gauge shotgun shells? I never quite felt safe watching him fire that thing!

  25. I found a Presto Hotdogger new-in-box recently at a local thrift! $6. I’ve cooked several hotdogs in it (usually takes a few seconds over one minute to do). It will cook up to 5 dogs .. impaled on ten prongs on a tray .. under a plastic dome .. The tray connects to the electricity only when it has been completely inserted into the dome .. Thus you cannot touch any electrified parts. Makes a great hotdog and no significant burns at the ends.

    I’ve wanted one ever since I read Penn and Teller’s book, _How to Play with Your Food_, which talked about the fluorescing pickle trick!


  26. I did this when I was a kid! i was just flipping through old blog posts, and saw this, and got excited. I made one with an extension cord that i cut the end off. I built a wooden stand with some scrap 2×4. one piece for the base and two sides. I drove a nail through each of the sides to skewer the dog on. wrap the ends of the wire around each end, plug it in, and there you go. Looking back it wasnt safe to do as a little kid at all!!! but it was really awesome.

  27. I made this system with an adaptor with 20V and 500mA it lights up the LED’s hard. And it burns the places where the fork touches

  28. I had just made a hot dog for my daughter when I mentioned when I was in HighSchool I did this on my own (1985). I actually soldered lamp cord to a couple old forks. I did things like this regularly so my mom was curious, but not worried. I was able to cook hot dogs in under 10 seconds. I tried other items but I soon realized the homogonous nature and direct in-line shape made hot dogs ideal. The only drawback was that black carbon residue built up quickly on the forks and was difficult to remove. My friends (who – as I am sure will be a shocker, were/are also geeks), were very impressed. It works fine, does not explode, and of course you need to be careful.

  29. Tin is just as poisonous as any heavy metal… I know someone who had a very bad case of tin poisoning.

    After a while, something’s gonna kill ya, might as well be fun.

  30. can anyone tell if frying a chicken with this method implies any extra dangers???

  31. how save is it to do this with a chicken??
    if i stick two knifes into it and connect them to the suicide cable,then plug it
    can the sparks blow out my fuse???

        1. The worst thing that could happen is that you could kill yourself.

          Although I suppose it could get even worse if, in killing yourself, you start a fire, too, and you can’t have an open casket at your funeral. If your wish is to be cremated, I suppose you’d save your surviving family members some time and money, but certainly cause them untolds amount of grief.

          Or, in other words, DON’T DO IT. PERIOD.

          1. Raw meat (whether hot dog or chicken) has too high a resistance to cause anything really bad to happen when current flows through it. This technique works well for hot dogs because they are linear – current has to go from one end of the hot dog to the other and it will seek out all the low-resistance paths in the process, thereby cooking them. This won’t work as well in an irregular object like a chicken, and you’ll probably get very uneven cooking.

            You can sanity check a given object by measuring its resistance with an ohmmeter. Thrust the leads into the meat in the same places you’re planning on cooking it. Anything above a hundred ohms or so and you’re fine, so long as you never, NEVER personally come in contact with exposed wires or the cooking meat while plugged in.

  32. I’d worry more about ANYTHING an industrial (Chinese, anyone?) process imparts to electronic components. Dioxin, anyone? You generally want to avoid putting non-food-grade industrial things in your mouth. If all you are thinking about is the stuff the LED is made of, you are not thinking.

    Think about that the next time you strip a wire with your teeth (or chew PVC).

  33. Lol, this is funny. I mean – sticking a bunch of LEDs into the hawt dawg and they actually LIT up??? Awesome!
    By the way, this method can also produce a boling water. And also corpses if you are not paying attention to where your hands are in the process.

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