Summer time is here and that can only mean one thing, it’s time to fire up the grill. There is nothing better than cracking a few beers in the sun with a bunch of your friends and family while cooking meat over flames. It’s as American as Bourbon and Apple Pie. In every group of friends you have the one guy who thinks he knows everything there is about cooking/grilling and always takes the aggressive lead to make sure HE is on the grill and not you. If you’re buddy happens to be a 3-star chef ,then by all means let the Grill-Nazi do his thing. But if he’s just a regular guy who thinks he’s Bobby Flay, here are a few tips to making a perfect burger which will shut him up.
1. The Meat
The meat is the most important part of a burger and for some reason your sorry ass still thinks going to a store and grabbing a frozen pack of Bubba Burgers is good enough to make the grade. Sure if you’re a 15 year old with no money and a no self-respect serving that to your guests is acceptable, but you’re in your mid-twenties, grow up and form the burger yourself.
– You want to use a good cut of beef such as chuck, sirloin, hanger steak and make sure it has at least an 80% to 20% beef to fat ratio (you can even ask the butcher for a 70% to 30% ratio if you’re feeling adventurous).
– The next tip is don’t over form the meat, the more you handle the burger the tougher it gets. So the goal here is to roll the meat in your hand form a patty as quick as possible, while applying the least amount of pressure.
– Don’t go adding diced onions and cilantro, peppers, ect.. into your meat. It is a burger NOT meatloaf. Salt and Pepper before the meat hits the grill and that is it.
2. The Bun
In most backyard BBQs this is where the biggest misstep happens. I mean just think about it, when you look at a burger the Bun covers about 40% of the entire sandwich if not more. So why do people go through all the trouble of getting great meat, good cheese, homemade condiments and then just slap all that quality stuff in-between a bun that you got on clearance? It for some reason in an afterthought which makes zero sense.
– I’m pretty sure where ever you live there is a bakery within driving distance, go there. Odds are your local super market won’t have a great variety of buns to maximize your burger potential. Here you will find maybe a ciabatta roll or maybe a pretzel bun.
– If you don’t have a bakery in mind here is a helpful tip, head to your local bagel/breakfast sandwich shop. I will guarantee they will have kaiser rolls on hand. Kaiser rolls are massively underrated when it comes to acting as a bun for your burger. Plus you can get them with sesame seeds or poppy seeds which only add to the experience.
– If you’re really in a bind, use an English Muffin. No, not the small little ones you ate growing up. Most super markets now carry a variety of English Muffin sizes and you should obviously be springing for the largest.
– The last item in this section is toast the buns. The reason I recommend this is because when you add your burger and your condiments the toasted bun will stand up to the moisture better than a non-toasted bun. Just melt some butter down, paint some on the bun and pop them on the grill for a minute or two. If you’re against butter, canola oil or olive oil works as well.
3. The Condiments
Sure ketchup is great on it’s own, and I don’t know if you heard but Heinz now has a new yellow mustard recipe, but you want to show you’re Grill-Nazi buddy up. So we have to take these condiments to the next level, which is a lot easier than you think.
– Ketchup: This one is simple. Take your favorite plain ketchup and squeeze it into a bowl. In a food processor/nutri-bullet/blender/or anything that grinds and chops, add 2-3 chipotle peppers in adobo, some of the adobo past and 2 cloves of garlic. Mix until smooth and add it to the ketchup. Whisk together, add salt and pepper to taste and boom you now have Chipotle Ketchup.
– Mustard: Yellow Mustard is cool, I guess. But we can do better. Get some regular Dijon Mustard and some Whole Grain Dijon Mustard. Put equal parts into a bowl, add some honey for sweetness, if you want you can use agave syrup which is all the rage. Whisk together, add salt and petter to taste and you’re not adding texture to the burger via mustard.
– Mayo – You can kick up your mayonnaise in a ton of ways because mayo is a blank canvas. In fact most super markets offer a assortment of gourmet mayo’s that you can choose from. I would suggest to just go that route. No need to do extra work when it is right there in front of you. Quick tip though, if you do end up making the Chipotle Ketchup from above, don’t go out and get a Chipotle Mayo, it’s just redundant. Instead if you MUST get Chipotle Mayo, make a BBQ Ketchup. It’s as simple as it sounds, take your favorite BBQ sauce, add it to your plain Ketchup and whisk.
4. The Cheese
No burger is complete without cheese. In fact I don’t refer to a burger with cheese as a “cheese burger” that to me is just a burger. Why in the hell if given the option to have melted gooey cheese atop of the grilled meat would you choose not to? I’ll tell you why, because you hate America.
– Keys to a good burger is to make sure the cheese is melted. If someone ever hands you a burger where the cheese is still intact and not oozing over the sides of the meat, throw it back in their face. Listen it takes an extra 40 seconds to melt the cheese, why wouldn’t you?
– Don’t over think this part of the burger either. Sure everyone loves gouda or gruyere cheese but those should be reserved for a dinner party in the Hollywood Hills served next to crackers, grapes and wine. This my friend is a backyard cookout so cut the shit. Stick to the classics. American, Cheddar, Jack and Swiss. I’ll let you throw on a few Blue Cheese crumbles if you must but like I said this is an All-American BBQ.
Note: I’m not saying at a restaurant they shouldn’t go out of the box and do high quality burgers with goat cheese and brie, but for our purposes it isn’t necessary.
5. The Cooking
Okay, so now we are ready to hit the grill. This is probably the easiest part of making the perfect burger but people tend to get overwhelmed so let me help you. First we need to establish that if you go through all the trouble to make this a burger taken to another level for your backyard bbq, you will accept nothing other than people who want it cooked medium. A tip I’ve picked up is that along with making my own burgers and forming them myself, I have picked up a a pack or two of formed super market burgers. No not the frozen ones in a box, but ones that were packed by the super market. If someone wants a “well-done” burger than throw one of those bad boys on there and save your special blend for the people with a conscious.
– Before the meat touches the grill make sure that the heat it cranked all the way up. This is key to getting good grill marks on your meat. Jack up the heat and let it get to temperature before you start putting the meat on.
– As we said above, salt and pepper on the meat before it goes on and brush the burger with that melted butter or oil we spoke about. This will help with the meat sticking to the grill and add a crust which is key.
– Once the burger hits the grill WALK AWAY! Don’t sit on top of the burger pressing it and prodding it. All you’re doing is forcing the natural juiciness of the meat out and letting it hit the bottom of your grill pan instead of the bottom of your stomach.
– ONLY FLIP ONCE, eventually there will be pooling of liquid on the top of the burger that is when you know when to flip. After you successfully execute the flip, walk away again for the same reasons as above.
– After 4-5 minutes take two slices of cheese and place them on the meat, close your lid so it can melt. Once the cheese is completely melted your work is done. Take the patties off of the grill and enjoy. You are looking for a nicely charred crust on the outside with a juicy inside.
There you have it, follow these 5 steps and you will be the new king of the grill this summer. Cut up some tomato slices, have some romaine on the side or some arugula for crunch and you have a perfect summer burger. If you take your time and do the little things right you will come out with a perfect burger every single time. If you can get comfortable with this then step it up for the next BBQ party. You can pickle some red onions, cook up some bacon, slice up some avocado, ect. But again all that is just extra, in the grand scheme of things all people want is a burger cooked medium with a good amount of melted cheese. Do that and you will be a hero.