10 tips to help you grill burgers to perfection | TribLIVE.com
Food & Drink

10 tips to help you grill burgers to perfection

Want to make the perfect burger? Follow these 10 tips.

Americans consume some 50 billion hamburgers a year. What’s so hard about shaping some ground meat into a patty and cooking it?

Meat experts, cookbook authors and chefs say plenty.

We use the wrong grind of beef. We handle the meat and shape them wrong. We cook them wrong.

People need to realize burgers need fat, says Bill Hoemke, meat manager at Royal Oak, Mich.’s Hollywood Market. That’s why he and most experts strongly recommend ground chuck that’s 80% lean and 20% fat.

“That fat gives you the most flavorful burger,” Hoemke said. Other leaner options, he said, are ground beef that is labeled 85% lean and 15% fat or ground sirloin, which is 90% lean and 10% fat.

“With those leaner grinds the burgers will be drier,” he said.

In “Weber’s Ultimate Grilling: A Step-by-Step Guide to Barbecue Genius,” author Jamie Purviance writes that the ground meat shouldn’t be overworked.

“Super-squashed, packed-down patties lack the minuscule air bubbles necessary for creating food burger texture and collecting the sublime melting fat and juices,” he writes.

Burgers need to be meaty and mighty. We want flavorful and seasoned blends to pair with flavorful toppings.

Speaking of toppings, cheese is the most popular topping for a burger. It’s followed by lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle, according to nationaltoday.com.

And when it comes to cheeses, Americans love American cheese on a burger. But cheddar is a close second followed by Swiss, pepper jack and provolone.

And so, here’s our guide to grilling burgers to perfection.

What kind of beef should I use?

Choose beef with fat in it. Most cookbooks and burger aficionados say the ideal choice is 80/20 beef chuck. You can go somewhat leaner if you like with ground beef labeled 85/15. Any leaner be sure to add some moisture like Worcestershire sauce or wine to prevent the burger from drying out.

How do I grind my own meat if I don’t have a meat grinder?

You can come close using a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Choose the cut of meat you want — chuck, round, brisket, short rib, sirloin — and make sure it’s super cold. Cut it into 1-inch pieces. Add to the bowl of the food processor and pulse a few times to get chop into smaller pieces. Don’t process it too much or the meat will get mushy.

How should I mix the ground meat?

Make sure it’s cold and always mix the meat gently so it just comes together. Do not over mix. If you over mix the meat (the same holds true when you make meatballs and meatloaf) the meat will be more compact and not as tender.

Should I season the ground meat?

You can, but don’t let the seasoned meat sit too long. According to Weber’s Purviance, allow 1 teaspoon kosher salt and ½ teaspoon ground black pepper for each 1 ½ pound of ground beef. You can mix it in the meat or sprinkle on the outside of the formed patties. If you do the latter, Purviance advises to refrigerate the patties for 30 minutes or less to allow the seasoning to distribute. If you let it sit longer the salt will draw moisture out of the meat, he writes.

What’s an ideal amount of beef to use for each burger?

Plan on a burger that is 6-ounces before cooking. Use a scale if you have one make sure burgers are all an equal size. That 6-ounce burger is an ample size for serving as your main dish. But you can make them any size.

What’s the best size for a burger?

You want to match the size of the patty with the bun. Figure there will be shrinkage, so shape the patty about ½-inch larger than the bun. Generally, a 4-inch in diameter patty, with a dimple in the center, that is at least ¾-inch thick will suffice.

Why should I make a dimple in the center of the formed patty?

If you don’t do this, the burgers will end up more of a round shape and puff up like a tennis ball. The burgers won’t fit the bun and you end up with a top bun that slides off.

What’s the best way to grill?

Burgers like high heat. This helps form that exterior crust. Cook them on the non-dimpled side first over direct heat. Once a crust develops, flip them over and cook on the other side. Do not press down on the burger. When you do this, you’re beating up that poor burger and pressing all the juices out.

How long should burgers be grilled?

That depends on how you like them done. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) safe internal cooking temperature for ground beef is 160 degrees. That means it’s well done. And the cooking time will depend on the thickness of the burger — but generally at least 5 minutes per side. If you like it at less done than that and depending on the thickness, figure about 3 minutes per side for medium-rare or 130-135 degrees and 150-155 degrees for medium-well.

Categories: Lifestyles | Food Drink
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.