The smell of grilling meat permeates the air during the summer (which will be here soon) throughout many of the neighborhoods of Central Jersey and one of those things being grilled are hamburgers. This smell of meat being kissed by hot flames makes an aroma that will make your mouth water and make you think back to the best hamburger you ever had right off the grill.
So what meat to use?
Picking the type of meat is the most important thing in making a good burger. When I am reading articles about making burgers they always recommend grinding your own beef so you know you are getting good quality and fresh ground meat. I never seem to have the time to do that, so I go to the local supermarket where I know they grind the beef daily.
Grind your own beef, and not only do you control everything from the meat blend, to the grind size, to the fat content, but even better, you get to tell people that you grind your own beef.
Instant street cred
There are three cuts of meat that ground beef comes from: chuck, round and sirloin. Chuck is my favorite because it’s a little fattier than the others, but will produce a burger with a great flavor. Ground beef from the round or sirloin tends to be leaner, which is a good thing if you’re counting calories but a bad thing if you want the juiciest, most delectable burger possible. My favorite is 85 percent lean ground chuck.
Making the burger patties
Now that you have the beef, you need to make the burger patties. Get your hands into the meat and pull out a small mound, about 6oz. If you have a food scale weigh the meat. Now gently work the meat into thin patties. If you really pack the meat into patties you will get burgers that have a texture with the consistency of meat loaf. The thinner you make the patties the more evenly the burgers will cook and less they will shrink. After you have the patties made, dust them with some salt, pepper and a little garlic powder.
It’s time to make your neighbor’s mouth water
Now it’s time to talk about the fire. Don’t make a flaming inferno in your grill. More flame doesn’t mean better cooking. If you are using a charcoal grill, The Weber Charcoal Guide recommends you want to have a fire that consists of 50 briquettes. For a gas grill you want to use a medium setting. Wait to put the meat on the grill until you can hold your hand over the grate and only hold it there for 2 seconds.
The BBQ Bible “Grill Guru’s Mantra” recommends the following way to tell if your charcoal grill is hot enough, you place your hand about a half beer can high over the grate. Start counting: “1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi,” etc. By the time you reach “2 or 3 Mississippi,” the intense heat of a properly lit charcoal grill will force you to snatch your hand away.
When you put the burgers on the grill, step back and don’t touch them again for about 3 minutes. One of the worst things you can do is to keep touching and flipping the burgers. After 3 minutes pick up the burger and move it to a place on the grill that no other burgers have been cooking and flip it over. This will make sure that you are putting the burger back on a hot spot on the grill. This way the grill doesn’t have to heat back up and the burger will get a nice char crust on both sides. After you flip the burgers, let them cook till they are done to your liking. Now don’t do something I am sure you’ve seen countless fry cooks do; don’t press the burgers while grilling. You might think you’re making better grill marks or speeding up the cooking, but all you’re really accomplishing is pressing out those precious juices and making more smoke in the process.
When the burgers are close to being done to your satisfaction and if you want a cheeseburger, now is the time to add a slice of your favorite cheese and let it melt all over that burger. I use American Cheese, but a slice of Pepper Jack will give the burger a little kick.
How do you know they are done?
For a burger to be cooked all the way through the internal temp should be 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Knowing what the true temperature of the burger should be is all well and good, but really knowing when to take them off is something you have to learn yourself as you make your burgers. I do it by touch. Gently push on the middle of the burger — a little give for medium and barely firm for well-done. Until you get good enough at that though, the best bet is to use an instant thermometer to see how close to 160 degrees Fahrenheit you are. The downside to this is you are piercing the crust of the burger, letting the flavorful juices out.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture takes a hard-line, recommending that you cook ground beef all the way through (to a 160 degree Fahrenheit internal temperature). That caution comes in response to periodic outbreaks of food-borne illnesses caused by commercially processed ground beef. Whole cuts of beef don’t carry the same risk, which is another argument for grinding it yourself or buying it from a reputable source.
Now I like my burgers on a big roll with sesame seeds on it, not too hard or too soft, so they won’t fall apart when the juices of the burger come out. I try to pick up fresh Kaiser rolls from the bakery section of the supermarket or from the bakery at the farmers market. When I am in a hurry I grab a bag of “Big Marty” rolls from the bread aisle. They fit my burgers and hold the juices in the bread so I don’t lose any of that great flavor, and they are soft so you get a good combination of meat and bread with every bite.
With just a dab of mustard, it’s time to savor the great flavor of the meat combined with the cheese and spices. To complement this hot juicy burger a cold glass of iced tea or a cold beer goes just right.
So get out there enjoy this hot weather and cook up some juicy burgers.
– serves 4 –
1 pound 85/15 Chuck Ground Beef
For Cheese Burgers
American cheese slices – 1 for each burger
Enough rolls for all your burgers