Ahhh, summertime. The days are a little longer, the temperatures are definitely a little warmer and the pace of everyday life slows just a little as we take more time for ourselves than perhaps during the busy school year.
Since it is Father's Day and a day to relax rather than trying to cook something like a whole hog, we thought we would give you some pointers in making a better burger.
We recommend using fresh ground (same day) Certified Angus beef which is somewhere between 80% to 85% lean. Conversely, that would mean the meat would be anywhere between 15% to 20% fat. As much as healthy folks hate to admit it, the fat in the ground beef is what makes your burgers juicy and adds the best flavor. If you go with a lean ground round or other lean beef, you are not going to achieve the desired flavor or juiciness.
If you cannot find fresh ground beef and frozen is all that is available, be sure to allow sufficient time for the ground beef to thaw completely in the refrigerator. If you try to grill frozen ground beef, more than likely, the meat may end up raw instead of rare/done.
Ground beef, unlike a steak, can be a harbinger of germs which can really do a number on you. Before removing the meat from the grill, check to insure the meat is done. "Done" would mean the center of the meat should read 155°-160°F. To check the temperature of the burger, insert a meat thermometer (we prefer an instant read thermometer like the chefs use) into the side of the burger so that the tip of the thermometer is in the middle of the meat. For the record, germs are killed at about 142°F. but to be on the safe side, run it up to 155°-160°F because you never know if the burger has been cooked evenly.
Keep a spray bottle of water near by while grilling burgers. Remember the fat content of the meat? When the fat renders and drops into the fire, flare-ups are common and can be dangerous, not to mention burn the meat. A gentle spray on the flames will keep this under control for you.
Remove the burgers when they reach about 155°F because, like most things that come off of a hot grill, the heat keeps on cooking the burgers after having been removed from the grill. To fully understand this technique, wait about 3 to 4 minutes and then test with a thermometer and you should find that they are at 160° F. AGAIN : Please use a meat thermometer to determine when the meat is done.
To obtain the juiciest burgers, we suggest shaping your patties evenly - about 3/4-inch thick. That way they should not dry out quickly over the fire. One suggestion we found that had merit was to make a small hole in the middle of the burger which will allow some juices to escape from the middle thus preventing the meat from "bulging" and having horizontal separation while grilling.
Get your fire up and going well before you are ready to slap the burgers on the grill. We would recommend that the grill grates be very hot when the meat is placed on them. This will not only give you great grill marks, but will allow the meat to release from the cooking grate when it is ready.
Don't forget to season your burgers. Most folks use salt and pepper, but don't limit yourself. We use a great steak seasoning on ours.
Now that your burgers are on the grill ..... leave them alone! Never press the burgers to watch the flames roar and smoke soar. This just forces the wonderful juices out of the meat. You don't want a dry burger, do ya?
Garnish your burgers as desired with cheese, grilled onions, lettuce, mayo, ketchup, barbecue sauce, or even the kitchen sink. Make them yours and enjoy!
Want to try something a little different? Try making "sliders". Not familiar with 'em? They are the small burgers which many trendy restaurants are serving these days. They are done pretty much the same way, but they may cook just a little faster. These minatures are a fun and entertaining way to serve burgers.