It was Charles Nagree of Wisconsin who lays claim to invention of the modern burger in 1885, selling his homemade meatball sandwiches at county & state fairs – Yet, it was more 50 years prior, as early as 1834, that New York City restaurants were featuring “Hamburg Steak” on their menus. To that end, the modern burger is as much a part of Americana as apple pie, baseball & gas-guzzling 4×4 trucks – For nearly 200 years this ground meat sandwich has been cooked 1200 ways from Tuesday, topped with anything from nothing to everything, & served from roadside diner to restaurant dinner, fast food stop to overly-pretentious steakhouses, date night to dude’s night, & everywhere in between. Today, burger culture is hotter than ever, divided between purists, moderates, progressives & those who have 0 political burger affiliations – they just love to chow down on a great, greasy hunk of meat slapped between 2 buns.
So, how is it that you, at home, can reap the benefits of two Centuries of tried, tested & true burger best practices? How can you deliver consistent, fantastic, flame-seared, juicy, steakhouse burgers for friends, family & those fortunate enough to attend your backyard barbeque? Well, below I will share a wealth of secret tips & professional recommendations, as well as common pit falls to avoid.
Read on. Grill on. Stay hungry! Oh… And, CLICK ON PHOTOS for my favorite
no-longer secret Gourmet Burger recipes!
All-time. Grill Master Tips, Sure-fire Recommendation, & Burger Best Practices:
- The first rule of Burger Club is, “You can talk about burger club.” The second rule of Burger Club, “There are no hard & fast rules in burger club.”
- Indisputable: Buying quality meat is step numero uno in preparing and plating unforgettable, mouth-watering burgers.
- Undeniable: Investing into cheap, heavily processed meat from an unknown source is step number one in preparing embarrassing, dried-out, flavorless, grilled hockey pucks.
- Fresh ground burger is simple, easy & provides luscious results – Once you ground your own steak into burger… I promise you’ll never go back to buying pre-ground again. So, which type of beef should you choose for your masterpiece? Well, it depends on the occasion:
1. Are you asking your girlfriend to marry you? If you expect her to say, “Yes” – 50/50 of Ground Rib Eye Steak + Ground Spinalis Steak
2. Letting neighborhood know who’s the culinary boss? 50/25/25 Mix of Ground Brisket + Ground Short Ribs + Sirloin.
3. Dude’s night backyard Brews & BBQ? 80/20 of Ground Chuck.
5. Don’t like your friends anymore? Pre-packaged “hamburger” from your local grocery store.
- How much meat should you buy? Calculate the number of burgers you need and multiply by 6-8oz of raw meat.
- Using a scale to measure your patties can help with ensuring all burgers cooked evenly & to temperature.
- Loosely form patties. Do not over work the meat. Over-worked patties = De-linked proteins = tough, dried-out hockey puck burgers.
- Proteins contract when cooked – Form raw patties just larger in diameter than bun. No one likes a little meat hidden in a bed of bread!
- Burgers plump when cooked – Using thumb, gently depress a well into top-center of formed patties, allowing burgers to rise back to form when grilled. No one likes Burger Footballs.
- After forming patties – Leave meat chilled and covered, until the last minute prior to grilling. This will assist in developing exterior crust while maintaining pink, tender interior. Also, will help the patty to stay together while cooking over live fire.
- Salt and liberally season your burger just before laying to flame… Not before, as salts dissolve proteins and draw out moisture.
- My traditional seasoning combination of choice – Olive oil, a liberal dusting of kosher salt and fresh ground peppercorn, granulated garlic and onion powder, smoked paprika, a splash of Worcestershire and a pinch of sugar.
- Ensure grill grates scrubbed clean, well oiled & piping hot before laying meat down to cook. Burgers should really sizzle when they hit the grill grates!
- Spatulas are used for flipping burgers – Never. Ever. Compress burgers. Baby kittens cry when you smash burgers.
- Burgers should flip easily on the grill when using a spatula. If still sticking to grates… the patty needs more time to sear.
- Grill with 2-zone fire – 1 direct high heat hot zone and 1 indirect heat cooler zone.
- Thin Burgers (4-8oz): Sear patties with the grill lid open for 3-4 minutes per side over direct, high heat. Then move to indirect heat until desired internal temperature achieved.
- Thick Burgers (10-16oz): Employ the reverse sear grilling method – Lay patties over indirect heat until within 20F of desired internal temperature, flipping once ½ way through. Move to direct, high heat, searing exterior 2-3 minutes per side.
- NO Grill? Use a pre-heated CAST IRON pan. Warm the pan in oven @ 350F for at least 20 minutes. Place pan on stove-top burner over med-high heat. Lay burger to pan 4 minutes per side, basting burger in butter during final minute of frying.
1. Test if pan is pre-heated appropriately: A drop of oil smokes when it hits the warm cast iron pan = too hot. If oil beads and simmers = just right. If oil does nothing = too cold.
- I love you and I love medium-rare burgers. But, you are not Bobby Flay and I do not need a food borne illness. If I attend your outdoor cooking soiree, please use a nice digital read internal thermometer to gauge doneness of your burgers.
1. Ground Red Meat – Internal Temperature Guide: Med-Rare: 130-135F. Medium: 140-145F. Med-Well: 150-155F. Well:+160F
- Drink 1 beer before plating your burgers. Rest and tent burgers for 5 minutes after grilling and prior to serving – This time allows the natural juices the opportunity to redistribute through meat after cooking, avoiding all the flavor spilling out of your burger after the first bite!
- Great buns are lightly butter, toasted and should be considered the leading lady alongside your Academy Award-Winning, mantastic bit of flame-seared red meat. But, if toasting those buns, stay close. A fire roasted bread roll goes from golden brown to black in an instant!
1. Best bun options include: Brioche. Potato. Challah. Kaiser. Ciabatta. Pretzel. Classic white fluffy, with no frills.
How you know if you’re an annoying Burger Purists: You feel as though adding anything to your meat beyond salt and pepper makes the grillmaster a miserable human. Best case, you feel as though you’ve just been served grilled meatloaf.
How you know if you’re a Semi-Tolerable Burger Moderate: You feel as though a great burger should be composed of burger… save the dramatics and fireworks for bun selection and creative topping combinations. But, dammit, that meat better be seasoned with salt and pepper only!
How you know if you’re a Burger Progressive: Food is fun. Exercise your imagination. Think outside the box. Stimulate your taste buds in a new way!
ME: It’s your meat – do what makes you happy. Be creative. Play with different cuts of beef or use beef alternatives, including bison, lamb, turkey, salmon, ahi, quinoa and black beans. Serve it high-flyin’ Hawaiian-style, rodeo-style with a badass barabeque, mix up a Medditranean burg with kalmata bruchetta and feta. Throw down gargantuan surf and turf burgs with grilled prawn. Depart from your life savings and top that seared filet burger with fois gras & black truffles. Or shred that hunk of slowly cooked meat, toss it on slider buns and serve with waffle fries. Heck, pour milk on it and serve it for breakfast… just eat burgers!!