Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Unified Hamburger Theory

It's time to dust off the barbecue grill and have fun!  I still had ash in it from last year that I had forgotten to clean.  Good thing I keep it sheltered, or it would have become concrete.

What's the secret to a perfect burger?  Everyone has their own ideas.  I'm bringing together the best tips I've found from numerous sources into a single post.

1.  Use 80/20 ground beef.  We all want to eat less fat and calories, but this really is the best meat for hamburgers.  Leaner cuts will be tough, and the really fatty ones will drip everywhere and soak the bun.

2.  Form the patties correctly.  I don't care if it's 1/4 lb or a full pound per burger.  Shape your patty based on the size of the bun.  It should be slightly larger than the bun because it's going to contract as the proteins coagulate and fat burns off.  Those lovely hamburger molds make the job quick if that's the size you want.  Then, once it is shaped, make a dent in the middle.  As the burger seizes, the center will bulge out on its own.  If you start with a slightly rounded patty, you're going to end up with a softball.

3.  Season lightly.  Unless you're making some kind of a statement or a stuffed burger, it doesn't take much to give the patty a little kick.  I dusted two pounds of ground beef with about half a teaspoon of Lawry's seasoning salt.  Really, you're only doing it for the one person who doesn't put ketchup, mayo, or another dressing on top.

4.  Watch the burgers for doneness.  You can still close the lid for even cooking, but check every couple of minutes.  I love mine charred within an inch of their lives, but most prefer to have theirs pulled before the thermometer hits 165º.  And do keep a food thermometer by the grill for those who prefer rare or medium-rare.  If you're cooking chicken on the grill, it's a must, but let's stick with ground meat for now.

5.  Flip only once.  From what I understand, this allows the liquid fat on top of the half-cooked patty to permeate the meat before being burned off.  It won't pool up on the already cooked side, so you're going to get a dry burger if you flip it several times.

I hope this helps with your next barbecue.  If anyone knows additional tips, please add to the list!

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