When a hamburger is done right, you know it--the smokey, char-grilled outside and all juicy inside is barely contained in a toasty roll. It's an American tradition that’s hard to beat! Here are some general guidelines to get the very best results.
Tips to Grilling the Perfect Hamburger…
There are a lot of ways to grill a burger but there is agreement on one point: The best, juiciest burgers are made from ground beef chuck, which is about 20 percent fat. Meat labeled "ground beef" or "hamburger" can be up to 30 percent fat. 10% or less fat, although a healthier choice will lead to dry hamburger. An even better idea is to select a piece of chuck and have your butcher grind it and ask for a "coarse" grind.
Experiment with Different Types of Meats or Combining Them
Almost any kind of ground meat can be used to make burgers, or mix together different ones. I've heard of mixing pork with beef, chicken with lamb, or even buffalo with beef. For flavor, try mixing some fresh sausage in with another type of meat.
Don't Handle the Meat Too Much
The heat from your hands begins to melt the fat and makes the patty too dense. Wet your hands first and move it lightly from hand to hand. Make a patty ¾- to one-inch thick.
Don't Press Down on the Burgers When Cooking
This compresses the meat and squeezes the juices and flavor out of the meat.
Adding Flavors to the Meat
Many people argue that the perfect burger is made with great beef, straight up with salt and pepper. But it's also fun to add flavors, and if you are using leaner meats, or leaner cuts of beef, you can add moisture at the same time. Finely minced vegetables such as onion, mushrooms, or mild chiles are especially good for this. You can also take a lean cut of meat and add some olive oil for good fat, although this will cook faster than meats that are naturally fattier. Tip: When adding other ingredients to ground meat, use a spoon or spatula to avoid heating the meat with your hands - see above.
Liquids : Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce are perhaps the two most common liquids to add to burgers. Most recipes call for about a Tablespoon of liquid per pound of meat. Wine is another possibility, or, for blander meats, concentrated beef stock.
Spices: Other than salt and pepper, almost any spice in the cabinet is a good addition. Garlic or onion powder is probably the most common, but experiment with everything from chili powder to Asian spices to salad dressing mixes. Tip: Here's one ingredient to use carefully…wait on the salt! Salt will extract moisture from the meat, leaving you with bone-dry burgers. Instead of adding salt while making the patty, sprinkle each burger with salt right before you put it on the grill.
Before Grilling: Let the meat patties chill in the refrigerator for a couple of hours, even overnight to allow all the flavors to mingle. Stack the patties on a plate and separate them with waxed paper. Cover the plate with plastic wrap until ready to grill.
Grilling the Burgers
Get the BBQ and cooking grates really hot and grease the cooking grates with some olive oil. Put the burgers on and don't move them until they release naturally. Grill for 4 to 6 minutes, depending on how hot the grill is, the type of meat (leaner meat cooks faster), and how done you want it to be. Then flip the burger and cook on the other side until done, about 4 to 6 minutes more. It’s best if you have a meat thermometer and cook until 160° F.
The easiest way to get your grill ready for the season is to schedule a grill service or cleaning with us over the phone or in one of our stores (click here to schedule a cleaning). With a little elbow grease, it’s not too hard to do it yourself. Here’s what we recommend:
Many people stress over the thought of barbecuing for guests. Actually, the process is quite simple.
When grilling steaks, focus on three levels of doneness: rare, medium rare and medium. Well done is really a no-brainer. People who order their meat well done haven't learned to appreciate the qualities of a good piece of meat yet and are likely to be less judgmental of your work.
Preparing the Steak. Trim any excess fat from the steak before placing it on the grill. It is the fat drippings that cause flare-ups and flare-ups burn the outside of the meat. It is a catch twenty-two when it comes to the fat on a steak. Fat within the piece of meat is called marbling and it is marbling that gives a piece of meat its flavor. It is the fat around the edges of the cut of meat you want to trim back.
The grill should be pre-heated on the high setting. You want the grill as hot as it gets. A few minutes after turning the grill on is the best time to brush the grids clean. Brush off any left over food and dust that my have gotten into the grill. In order to do this you will need a long handled BBQ brush so you don't burn your hands or arms.
If you have a searing section on your grill, start your meat on this section of your grill. A searing section is nice to have but is not necessary to produce a wonderful steak.
Sear the meat for about one to two minutes on each side while the grill is set on high. This char on the outside of the steak helps retain the moisture inside the meat. Do this no mater what level of doneness you are targeting. One word of caution, if the steak is less than an inch thick this might be all you need to get it to medium rare. To continue cooking, move the steak off the sear burner or turn down the temperature to a medium to medium high setting depending on your grill.
A rare steak is bright red in the middle (about 1/3 the thickness of the steak) and charred on the outside. The temperature of rare meat is between 120 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit. It would be a good idea to use a thermometer at first to help you learn the characteristics of a rare steak. When the steak gets to 120 degrees F. touch the steak with your index finger. Notice that a rare steak is still soft, but a little firmer than the raw steak.
Medium Rare Steak
A medium rare steak is cooked to a center temperature of 130 to 135 degrees F. The color is red in the center (about 1/4 the thickness of the steak) and then pink. The outside surface is charred dark brown. When you use the touch technique it will feel firm on the sides but still soft in the very center.
A medium cooked steak has an internal temperature of 140 to 150 degrees F. The center is pink (not red) and then brown. The outer surface should be charred dark brown. The steak should feel firm to the touch with some flex to the meat.
1) All grills have different settings with different temperature ranges. You will have to learn how hot your grill will get at the different knob settings. This will take a few times to get it right but remember a thermometer and/or the touch technique will let you know when the meat is done.
2) The thicker the piece of meat the longer you will cook it to get to the internal temperature you want. The temperature of the grill should be turned down for thicker cuts after the initial searing because the outside will get too charred if you leave it on longer. You don't want to burn the outside while you are trying to cook a medium or medium rare steak.
3) When you have a number of steaks on the grill and different requests for the degree of doneness you have to pay closer attention to what you are doing. Have the grill set at different temperatures and know where the grill gets hotter and cooks faster. Move the meat around and stagger when you start the steaks. Rare steaks are going to get done a lot sooner than a medium steak. Don't be afraid to get a steak off the grill early if it is cooking too fast – it’s better that then over cooking it. You can always put a steak back on the grill if it is not done enough. If you over cook it, there's no going back.
4) Meat continues to cook after you take it off the grill. You are better off taking the meat off the grill about 5 degrees below your targeted temperature.
5) Don't pierce the steak with a fork, use a spatula or tongs to turn and move the steak. Piercing allows moisture to seep out and dries out the steak. Hold the salt until you are done grilling for the same reason. Salts pulls moisture to the perimeter and makes for a dryer steak.
Well that's it! After trying this method a few times you should be able to have the confidence to have your friends over for a BBQ and wow them with your skills. GOOD LUCK!