Making Your Best Summer Burger
By Blaine Kelton
Summer marks the start of the BBQ season, and that means one food is ready to make a serious comeback into your weekly menu—Burgers. If you haven’t already busted out your grill this season to show of you outdoor culinary skills, you won’t be able to contain yourself after reading some of these tips for making your best burger yet.
There are definitely some staples you can use to kick up your average burger. Some fresh ground pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder are commonly used and will enhance the flavor of the beef. And of course, there is the important ingredient of salt.
Do not, I repeat, do not skip salting your ground beef. If you can’t take my word for it, Serious Eats has a step-by-step explanation with pictures showing the difference salt can have on your patties. The results are quite astounding for a seemingly simple additive, but what might be more surprising is the drastic difference between patties because of when the salt was added.
They added the salt before grinding the hamburger (since most of us probably don’t have our own meat grinders, that one might be a little irrelevant) and for the second and third tests, they made a batch adding the salt to the ground beef before forming the patties, and a batch were he only added the salt to the patties after they were formed, right before cooking. The difference in texture of the burgers (cooked the same way) is astounding. For a classic texture (lose, tender meat), they recommend that you add the salt just before cooking.
When forming your patties, The Food Network recommends making them at least as wide as your buns, and about 3/4 – 1″ thick. Keep in mind your patties will “shrink” slightly during cooking. You can also push down the center of the patties slightly in the middle with your thumb, so they keep an even thickness when cooking.
After you form your patties, pop them in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Chilling them before grilling can help them keep their form.
How you cook your burger can make all the difference in the outcome of its flavor and texture. When you’re planning on grilling, a fat ratio like 80-20 is usually the best option. You can go with a 85-15 or even a 90-10, although if you go leaner, there is the possibility of your burger being slightly drier.
For 3/4″-1″ thickness, medium to medium-high (direct) heat is best. When the burger releases from the grill without sticking, it’s time to flip (about 5 minutes per side).
There is still some debate against flipping your burgers too often, but for the most part it seems to be a myth that you can only flip your hamburgers once. In fact Food Safety News recommends that you flip at least a few times to ensure even cooking on your patty.
The Final Touches
Food Network host and burger expert Guy Fieri recently wrote an article for Verizon Wireless explaining some little know ways to take your grilling to the next level. If you’re adding a sauce to your burgers, such as buffalo or BBQ for a tangy twist, Fieri suggested that grillers “apply barbecue sauce only in the final minutes of cooking. Sugars in the sauce tend to burn and darken your meat, creating unsavory smoke on a gas grill or a cloud of ash over charcoal.”
After you’ve added any sauces you might want, consider some different cheeses and toppings for your burgers. How about sauteed onions, mushrooms, and bacon under a nice slice of melted swiss? Or go artisan with an heirloom tomato slice, red onion, baby spinach, and a poached egg. For something spicy, you can go with pepper jack cheese, jalapeño slices, and fried onion.
Of course there is something to be said for the classics. For something a little more standard, there’s nothing wrong with lettuce, tomato, and onion, but at least try and step out of your comfort zone a little with some new cheese!
And hey, you’re an adult now, no more $2 hamburger buns. Give that patty a good home in some quality breading. The extra dollar or two will make all the difference when you’re chowing down on a burger nestled between a toasted bakery bun or pillowy kaiser roll.
Time to fire up the grill! With these pro tips you’re sure to be your neighborhood’s go-to griller for your next block party.
Blaine Kelton is freelancer writer willing to write about anything and everything—especially if it has to do with food. He’s also a self-described grilling fanatic.
Copyright: dfikar / 123RF Stock Photo