The Secret to Grilling Awesome Burgers
What is the right way to fix a burger? You could ask five different cooks and probably get five different answers. From cut of meat to stir-ins and seasonings, to propane or charcoal, the ways to put a tasty burger together are endless. A good burger should be a simple burger.
First and foremost, start with fresh ingredients. Especially your meat. Whether you’re going with good old beef or getting adventurous with something like buffalo or lamb, be sure you trust your source. Do they keep the work areas clean? How often is product rotated out? That kind of thing. Nothing will put a damper on a family weekend of grilling and fun like an escaped e-coli.
When selecting your meat, you want to consider the cut. While it may seem tempting to get the priciest stuff behind the glass counter, don’t be hasty. The cheaper, muscle-ridden cuts carry more flavor from when the animal’s active lifestyle carried blood and oxygen through them. Cheap cuts usually have a higher fat content, too, and this is a good thing (20-30% is preferred for the best hamburger).
Bonus points if you have a meat grinder at home and can do it yourself! You can experiment with combinations when you have your own equipment. However, don’t be afraid to ask your butcher to do it for you. They’ll happily run it to the back and grind it up . . . getting rid of the toughness but keeping that delectable palate friendly taste.
Some good cuts to choose from for optimal flavor and fat content: chuck, brisket, or short-ribs with leaner, cheap cuts like bottom round, sirloin, eye round, top round, or shank.
Now that you’ve got your meat sorted, it’s time to consider assembling and cooking your patties.
You want to keep your patties consistent in size and weight so they cook evenly. An average burger is between five and six ounces, about a third of a pound. Be careful when handling your meat. Too much messing with it can toughen your mixture, resulting in a chewy burger, while not enough will leave you with a crumbly patty that falls apart when you try to cook it. Form a ball of meat, then slap it between your palms until you have a patty.
Easy REUSE tip: Old mayonnaise jar lids, or similar sized ones, can be used to shape your patties.
Once your patties are formed, you’re going to want to indent them. When making a burger, the meat will shrink up as it cooks. Making an indent in the center of the patty solves this problem because it helps the burger to hold its shape as the meat contracts. Place your thumb in the center and gently press to create an indent.
You won’t need much in the way of seasoning. Salt, fresh-cracked black pepper, and a bit of garlic powder work perfect on the cheap, fatty cuts. Don’t work the salt and pepper into the patty, though. Simply season it on both sides when it’s time to go on the grill to help form that desired crust.
Last but not least. Give your grill a good cleaning to avoid having your burgers stick. Swabbing the grill with a vegetable or canola oil won’t hurt either.
Oh, and for the love of your burger . . . once you’ve put it on the heat, DON’T PRESS IT DOWN. Keep the juices intact. Remove when done, and dress to your heart’s content. Cheese, pickles, tomatoes, lettuce, onions, condiments . . . Happy Burgering!