Outdoor grilling season is coming. Time to bump this post from a bit back:
In this post, I’ll take a break from copywriting and marketing stuff and show you how to properly grill burgers.
I feel this is needed, because quite frankly, most people make pretty bad burgers (sorry!) The grill gets brought out around May, the man of the house usually defaults to cooking because “it’s a guy thing”, and because he really doesn’t know how to grill, proceeds to basically do little more than char raw meat over fire. Yea guy, your wife is happy that she isn’t cooking tonight, but secretly, she hates your burgers. And I’ve eaten at your house – she’s right, your burgers are awful.
So let me show you how to do it the right way (hint: it’s not very hard).
Let’s start with the meat. You can use any fancy blend you want, but for this exercise, we’re going with plain old supermarket burgers. I buy grass-fed, 85% lean, because to me, that’s the perfect fat content – 80% is too fatty, and 90% is too lean. And grass-fed just taste better. I like to buy my patties already made – you can also make your own, but if you DO make your own patties, use a patty maker. And press them really good – “loose” patties tend to get really fat when cooked (and trust me, nobody likes three-inch thick balls of meat.)
Ok, when you get your patties made / unwrapped, season them with a thin layer of Oil (canola or safflower are fine), then a generous amount of Salt and Pepper. Both sides, please. Then (and this is important), poke a few tiny holes in each patty with a fork. This will allow some juice out when they cook (so they don’t “squirt” when you bite into them).
A note – the bun is VERY important. Stop buying crumbly, cheap, store-brand buns. Actually, even some name brands are really poor too. I’ve done lots of experimenting here, and there’s only one type of bun to get – Martin’s Potato Rolls.
Yes, they are more expensive. Buy them anyway. We’re talking $1.80 a pack for the lousy buns, and $3.50 for these. That’s about 20 cents more a bun. Even if you are feeding 50 people, that won’t kill you.
Now, I like to get a little flavor on the buns, so I put a thin layer of mustard on the base. I like Bavarian Sweet Mustard myself, but any mustard will do – it gives it a nice, subtle flavor without being overwhelming.
For cheese, I use one slice of American cheese for each. I like a little Swiss too, so I add a bit of that to mine. You can do whatever you prefer here.
A good pickle is essential. I use the large, thin slices, and cut them in half.
This is what I usually drink when I grill. Your mileage may vary.
Ok, time to grill. Listen up, dudes, HEAT IS YOUR FRIEND.
This is my grill, a Big Green Egg. You do NOT need a grill like this to do burgers well. Any grill will do – just get it HOT. That said, I am a HUGE fan of this grill, and highly recommend it if you like cooking at all. It’s pricey, but it’s also a lifetime grill (I went through three gas grills over the last decade, none of which I was happy with.)
Ok, we put the burgers on the grill and then closed the lid. If you can, keep whatever lid you have closed. Open after 3 minutes – they should look like this, with some juice forming at the top. Go ahead and flip them.
and cook side two for 4 minutes. I like medium to medium well for a burger – 4 minutes on side two before putting cheese on gives me that. If you like well done, you can go to 5 minutes on side two. If you like them rarer (not recommended for burgers), go less.
Don’t worry about juice leaking out – there’s plenty more in there (by the way, that nice crust you see? That’s from the oil and salt). But before we put the cheese on, I have to scold a lot of you guys – when you cook burgers (or anything on the grill), you really should only be flipping it *once* to cook it (I’ll give you an additional flip before you put on the cheese, but that really doesn’t count.)
And while I’m scolding, for the love of God, stop pressing the meat down with your spatula (yea,I know it makes a nice fire – and it also dries out your burger.) I can’t count the number of amateur backyard grillers who just kill their food by pressing it down, flipping it nine times, or (worst of all), jabbing it with a fork. (remember, we already poked a few holes in the raw meat – no need to further “de-juice” these).
All right, after your desired time on side two (4 minutes in this case) throw your cheese on (like I said, you can give them one more flip before placing your cheese on).
and put the lid down for another twenty seconds or so (until they look like this).
I like to have the buns ready, and go right from the grill to the bun. I think it tastes better. I know it’s a teeny bit more work. I do it anyway.
Here we go:
Add pickle and ketchup. You can add some onion too or whatever else you like (not much more than that, though – I find the more basic the burger, the better). And if you are lucky, your wife might make you some awesome macaroni salad (complete with tuna and red peppers in it!!)
And here’s the result:
I love burgers, and have had them all over the country. These are the best available… All of these things I mentioned: The oil / salt, high heat, closing the lid, not crushing / flipping nineteen times… these all combine to lock in the juice (but not too much juice), and give you a perfect, tasty, “snappy” burger that isn’t too fat, too thin, or too mushy. And that roll – sublime.
oh no…. Heidi wants one…
Yes sweets, I made you one too:
Hope you found this informative!! If you are ever in upstate NY, let me know. I’ll cook you up one of these.
Bonus Video – here’s a quick video taken by my friend Bob in June 2013. It doesn’t go through all the steps, but I do mention some of the important things.