Anyone who is a fan of football is all fired up and ready to tailgate. The weather is cooling off and turning into the perfect tailgating temperature. (Once it gets too cold, I’m out.) And people are planning their grocery trips for grilling.
I love a good brat, or chicken wings, even smoked wings. But my absolute favorite thing to eat at a tailgate is an awesome burger. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve watched that lone tailgater heat up his grill, put a gorgeous hand-made burger patty on it, only to proceed to cremate the thing by pressing on it until it no longer gives and is completely blackened. So sad…
Please let me show you the right way to form your perfect burger patty then grill it to perfection. This doesn’t have to be a huge production, but it should be done a certain way.
Lets start with the meat. I think the best grind is 85% lean or less. More fat means a juicier burger. If you’ve got the means, grind your own or get your butcher to grind some chuck fresh for you, the better. Whatever you do, DO NOT buy the frozen patties. They look easy and are cheap, but who knows how long they’ve been sitting in that freezer? Not awesome – SAD.
Also, go for a loose grind that appears chunky. Meat that looks like meat. You don’t want your ground meat to have been worked over too much. You’re not going to man-handle the meat either. The less it’s been handled, the more tender your burger will be. (See the picture above.)
I’m skipping seasoning because that’s up to the cook. Everyone’s got their own preference on what they like their burgers to taste like. I’m a purist. The ground beef should taste like ground beef. My only rule is don’t salt until you’re cooking, or the meat will get tough. (It’s proven!)
I’m going to skip directly to forming the patty. This is the part that I struggle with. If it isn’t formed properly, the poor thing will fall apart on the grill and you’ll be left with burger pieces.
Again, so sad…
Step by step…
1. With lightly wetted hands, loosely gather 6 oz or more of ground beef into a ball in your palm. (Weigh it! 6 oz is the perfect in between weight - less than half a pound and more than a quarter pound.)
2. Take that ball and press down in the middle and in from the edges forming a solid 1/2-inch thick patty. I’m not saying squeeze it to death, gently form the patty.
3.Press an indent in the center (to 1/4 inch) to prevent the burger from turning into a ball when grilled. (See picture.)
4. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Now you’re going to grill/broil/saute your burger to perfection.
1. Make sure your cooking surface is HOT. The bottom of your grill should be completely covered in charcoal that is hot and ready to go, or it should be on high for gas . Your pan should be over high heat and oil should smoke lightly on the stove top.
2. Add your burgers and close the lid for grills, or don’t touch on the stove top. You want a nice crust to form. DO NOT PRESS ON THE PATTY EVER. Got it?
3. Grill 5 to 7 minutes per side for medium doneness. There are differing schools of thought on flipping. Some say not to touch it and only flip it once, others say that a burger is more evenly cooked when it is flipped every 15 seconds. I suggest testing the theory!
The next step is service! Make sure you use fresh, quality ingredients. Go to your local bakery and get brioche buns if you can. (So yummy!!!) Get some fresh lettuce, tomato and onion.
Top your patty with cheese of any type, bring a few for your guests to choose from! Add the cheese to your burger patties about 1 minute before they are done on the grill.
If you’re adventurous, you can bring a small skillet to make bacon on the grill if you like. (Die and go directly to heaven…) For me a burger isn’t a proper burger without bacon, cheese and onions.
Really, the sky is the limit.
Most importantly, sit back, relax and have lots of napkins on hand cause it’s gonna be a juicy one!
Barbecued Cheddar Burgers
Yields: 4 burgers
1.25 lbs 85% lean ground chuck
1/4 cup of your favorite bbq sauce
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp ground black pepper
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
4 sesame seed hamburger buns, lightly toasted
Mix first 3 ingredients in a large bowl until blended. Shape half of meat mixture into 4 1-inch thick patties. (Can be made 8 hours ahead. Cover and chill.)
Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Season patties with salt and grill to desired doneness, topping with cheese for last minute of cooking, about 6 minutes per side for medium rare patties. Place burgers on bottom halves of buns. Top with lettuce, tomatoes, onions and upper halves of buns.
Feta Burgers with Grilled Red Onions
Yield: 4 burgers
1.5 lbs ground beef
1/2 cup packed crumbled feta cheese
1 tsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 cup evoo
1 medium red onion, peeled, cut crosswise into 4 slices
4 hamburger buns
1 large tomato cut crosswise into 4 slices
Break beef up in a large bowl. Sprinkle feta and oregano over; toss. Divide into 4 portions; form each into a 1-inch thick patty, pressing in the center to form a slight indentation.
Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Brush onion with olive oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Season burgers with salt and pepper and place burgers and onions on grill. Cover; cook about 6 minutes per side for medium rare patties. Transfer to plate.
Toast buns on grill for about 1 minute. Place burgers on bun bottoms. Top each with onion, tomato and bun top.