FALLBROOK – Could any food be as simplistic and delicious at the same time as a grilled patty on top of a crusty bun, served with lettuce, tomato and one’s choice of condiments? Burgers are the go-to item for barbecues, campouts, fast-food meals, and casual dining. A juicy burger can satisfy so many cravings in one sitting.
If ever there was a recipe to master, it would be grilling the perfect burger. Though barbecued burgers may seem easy to make, all too often burgers are botched by a few mistakes. But don’t worry, burger mastery is within reach if one follows these simple tips.
Begin with fresh meat
Freshly ground meat, whether it be beef, turkey, or chicken will produce the best flavor. If unsure when the packaged ground meat was made, ask the butcher or someone in the meat department of the supermarket to grind up a fresh batch. Otherwise, a food processor or an attachment on a stand mixer can be used to grind the meat at home.
Fat has flavor
While dietary concerns must be evaluated, it’s a fact that ground turkey or chicken are lower in fat than beef. However, if one is choosing a lower fat option, more seasoning is needed to enhance the flavor usually contributed by the fat in beef. For beef eaters, a fair amount of fat (18 to 20 percent) keep burgers moist and juicy. Either a fair fat content or extra seasonings help guarantee flavorful burgers.
Keep the meat cold
Chilled burger patties will firm up and hold their shape better during cooking. Leave the pre-made patties in the refrigerator until the last minute. Keep patties on ice if cooking burgers in batches.
Don’t over-handle the meat
Compressing the meat and handling it too much can lead to dry, dense burgers. Avoid tough meat by handling it as little as possible. Keeping one’s hands wet while shaping the patties helps them come together easily.
Oil up the grill
Depending on a person’s preference, by applying either non-stick spray or oil on a clean grill will prevent burgers from sticking during cooking.
Make sure the grill is super-hot
The goal is to cook burgers over high heat and fast. This is achieved with a very hot grill. It may only take three to five minutes per side to cook the burgers, depending on the thickness of the patty.
Flip only once
Wait until the burgers have been grilling for a few minutes and they will release more easily from the grill grate. Flip them over and allow them to cook a few minutes more. This helps keep the juices inside the meat and prevents the burgers from turning into burnt hockey pucks.
Resist the urge to squash the burgers
Pushing down on the burgers with the spatula will only force the juices out. If one wants dry burgers, press them down. If one wants nice, juicy burgers, step away from the spatula.
Allow the burgers to rest
Take the burgers off the grill and let them rest for five minutes so that all of their juice redistributes through the patty. Toast the hamburger buns and then serve the burgers with everyone’s favorite toppings.
The cook can then dig in and enjoy his/her efforts, as well as the compliments from other diners.