As July 4 — the day celebrating our national independence and our love of grilling meat — is once again upon us, sometimes it’s nice to return to the non-hipster, non-deconstructed classics. Hot dogs, for instance. In the time-honored tradition of using any holiday as an excuse to eat as much food as we can physically squeeze inside our bodies, Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island will return to make the day that much more patriotic. So, what is the record for the most hot dogs consumed?
Officially, Joey Chestnut holds the world record,with 69 hot dogs in 10 minutes. He achieved that feat back in 2013. However, last year, Chestnut lost to this other hot dog-eating wunderkind, Matt Stonie, who apparently pulled something of an upset by putting away 63 to Chestnut’s 61.
Nathan’s Famous takes the whole thing pretty seriously; you can currently vote for either Chestnut, Stonie, or some unnamed hot dog-inhaling dark horse online. The competition is separated by sex; on the women’s side, the favorites are Miki Sudo and Sonya Thomas. The defending champion is Sudo, who last year ate 38 hot dogs in 10 minutes, but she's not the world record holder. That goes to Thomas, who's also known as “The Black Widow” (in case you still do not believe that this is a thing people take extremely seriously). Thomas knocked back 40 hot dogs in 10 minutes in 2011 to become the first Women’s Champion of the contest. The feat netted her $10,000,. In 2012, she came back to break her own record, eating 45 hot dogs in 10 minutes. Still with buns.
You tend to associate other holidays more strongly with vomiting — St. Patrick’s, maybe Halloween or New Year’s — but then you learn and/or remember that competitive eating is a thing that exists, that people prepare for, like the Olympics.
“I trained hard for this,” said Stonie last year. “This is actually amazing… we don’t just go up there and eat hot dogs. We practice for this. We prepare out bodies.”
Stonie’s win racked up just south of 20,000 calories, meaning record-holder Chestnut has probably crossed that threshold. If you won’t physically be in Coney Island to watch this year’s showdown, don’t worry: you can probably catch it on TV, possibly while consuming a more human quantity of hot dogs. And buns.