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Summertime Grilling: Building a Better Burger

Summer fun and summer heat are in full swing, with one of the biggest grilling days, July 4th just one week away. There will be more Hamburgers and Hot Dogs grilled on this day alone than any other holiday! Even though we grill year ‘round here in Texas, this article focuses on the perennial American favorite…the burger! The question of how to make the perfect burger has a two-part answer…your imagination, and the substance going into your grilled to perfection creation! Here are my thoughts that may be helpful to building your better burger.

The MEAT……Star of the Show!

For consistent results, start with flavorful, unprocessed meat.  Pre-processed and packaged ground meat has always been a mystery to me. I find it lacking flavor, unpredictable, and sometimes oxidized (outside darker in color than inside). “Pink slime” (meat by-product additive used as filler) is a deal-breaker. Another risk with pre-processed product, is a higher potential of e-coli bacteria. Generally, pre-packaged store-bought ground meat needs to be cooked well, 155 to 165 degrees F to ensure that bacteria won’t be an issue. Achieving the succulent results of medium to medium rare is not possible at this high inner temperature.

There are two ways to avoid pre-processed meat pitfalls. Grind the meat at home, or at the butcher counter, select meat ground in-house that day, or to your specifications. Grinding meat at home is simple with a mixer attachment made for this purpose. By making the meat blend at home, you can choose your favorite cuts of beef, chicken, turkey, bison, or game. My favorite beef blend is 1 part each; top round or sirloin, short rib, and brisket, and targeting 85/15 meat to fat ratio. My sister-in-law, nicknamed “Wimpy” by the family for her connoisseur level love of burgers says it is the best burger she has ever had.

Home grinding techniques that will yield the best results for your burger-fest start with the fat. I trim the fat off the edges to control the leanness and leaving a small amount of the surface fat.  The selected cuts are already marbleized, delivering much of the needed fat for that 85/15 ratio. Cut the meat into uniform 2-3 inch cubes for easy processing. When grinding a meat blend, work with equal portions of each cut together to ensure a consistent blend throughout the burger patty. Finally, a coarse grind helps the patty stay in one piece on the grill!  Home grinding takes 15-20 minutes or less., a short time investment to serve up BIG taste and high quality.

The Patty

The patty size should be about ½ inch smaller than the diameter of the bun. This will allow the fixings to be contained as well as keep the burger from sliding out of the bun. Juices to run through the meat if the path has some breathing room. Form the patty loosely rather than compressing it tightly. After the patty is formed, make a thumb imprint into the center, only to the mid-point of the patty. The indentation helps the patty hold its shape. We keep the seasoning simple and flavorful with the staple of our customers’ kitchens, Smokin’ Texas Gourmet Garlic, Salt, and Pepper blend on both sides, and a light dusting of Spiced Dry Rub on one side. Before grilling, let the burgers rest up to 30 minutes, lightly covered with parchment or plastic (do not use a paper towel because it will draw the moisture out) at room temperature before grilling.

The Grill and Cooking

Always pre-heat the grill. For a three or four burner grill, heat two of the sections on high and 1 or 2 on low. For charcoal grills, stack the charcoal on one side and light it. Once the charcoal is hot, distribute it to have a hot, direct heat side, and an indirect heated side. Sear both sides of burgers on the hot side of the grill and transfer to the indirectly heated side to finish cooking. Searing is the flavorful marker that the meat has gone through the Maillard reaction. This chemical reaction sparks amino acids and sugars to caramelize within 30 seconds of exposure to a heat range of 285-350 degrees F.   The following chart and graphics are a good guide.  Poultry should be cooked to well done.

The Bun

Think of the bun as the supporting role to the “star of the show”! It needs to be substantial enough to hold it all together while eating. There are endless options available at stores. We love brioche or pretzel buns, for a unique twist. Buns lightly buttered, and grill toasted for about 2 minutes on the “inside” part of the bun top and bottom adds a layer of complimentary flavor to the burger.

Top it Off

Add sizzle and flair to your burger with cheese, bacon, avocado, onions, fried egg, and more. Award-winning Smokin’ Texas Gourmet Jalapeno Honey Mustard offers a sweet, tangy “kick”, while our Fire Roasted Tomato and Sweet Onion Ketchup adds rich flavor. Nothing says “Burger” like “Fries”; however, pickles, chips, potato salad, or slaw are all classic choices to go with a classic American Burger.  Enjoy your grilling summer!

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