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.
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