A Tampa mother has invented a tool for combining two American classics: hot dogs and hamburgers.
After attending summer cookouts a few years ago, Ingrid Sterling came up with the idea for a pan that could shape ground beef like a hot dog and drain the grease as it cooks, providing a healthier alternative to a hot dog while preserving the convenient shape.
"You see muffin pans and pans for ground beef," she said. "No one sees anything in the shape of an all-American hot dog."
It's called the Burger Dogs Pan and has been licensed under Chef Tony Notaro's Healthy Cooking Bakeware line in conjunction with Love Cooking Co.
The pan is available on Amazon.com for $19.99 and will likely appear on QVC this summer. It's similar to a cupcake pan but has four long compartments to keep the shape of a hot dog as it cooks in the oven or on a grill. The pan also has a grated insert that filters grease out of the food as it cooks.
Sterling, a home health care worker who said she is "just shy of 50" years old and has four children, imagined it as a way to make healthier alternatives to hot dogs.
"You can use it to mold whatever you want … fish, chicken, steak, beef, tofu, veggies, or anything you can grind up, mold and do your own healthy hot dog," she said.
She worked with Davison Design & Development, a research and development company, to design the product and create a handful of prototypes. She worked overtime caring for elderly clients to come up with more than $10,000 to produce the prototypes, and is hopeful that the investment will pay off.
Several months ago, Love Cooking licensed the pan, and this month will likely sell it on a QVC segment called In the Kitchen With David Venable.
"I don't know of anyone that's ever done anything like this," Davison Design owner George Davison said of Sterling's invention. "We think it's going to be a hot item before football games. It's going to be out there in the world of tailgating and picnics."
Love Cooking and Chef Tony picked up a number of products through Davison to create a line of grease-minimizing cooking tools.
Last month QVC featured Chef Tony's Bacon Bakin' Pan, made for cooking bacon in the oven with space for the grease to drain out. It sold between 20,000 and 30,000 products. Davison said it was in such high demand that the company produced a larger version of it.
"We've done a lot of things around meat products and how to create meat products that are healthier for people," Davison said. "They take off like a rocket."
Beyond the health difference, Davison said that hot dogs are easier to eat than a traditional burger. He expects the Burger Dogs Pan to be a big hit with consumers, though he couldn't estimate what the demand is.
Regardless, Sterling said she has a book full of inventions that she has been saving up for. She is already working on her next trademark.
"I want the next one to have my name on it," she said.
Ingenuity is an occasional series about people with interesting or creative business ideas. Know of anyone who could be featured in a story? Email business editor Chris Tisch at email@example.com.