I love summer time! Nothing excites me more than warmer temperatures, late sunsets, lazy days, backyard cookouts and hanging out with friends. Gathering on the back porch, a cold drink in one hand, surrounded by good company and a grill sizzling with tasty food, simply is picturesque.
My favorite food to cook on the grill, happens to be America’s favorite, burgers. Nothing beats a juicy, all-beef patty grilled to perfection, topped with a thick slice of melted cheddar cheese, plump tomatoes, crisp lettuce, tangy mustard, all sandwiched between a toasted bun.
Taking that first, mouthwatering bite of burger, instantly takes me back to so many happy memories. I am quickly transported to my childhood and my first exhilarating, yet terrifying, summer camp away from home. To college tailgating, cheering on the school’s football team, all while making new friends. And of course to many 4th of July celebrations spent on the lake celebrating life, family and freedom!
While burgers are quintessential to summer, mastering the perfect burger, requires a little knowledge and know how. Below are a few of my favorite tips to make sure your next burger is flawless!
The meat: I like to use equal parts ground sirloin and ground chuck. The ground chuck, with 20 percent fat, helps yield a juicy flavorful burger. While leaner, ground sirloin adds an extra layer of beefy flavor and helps prevent the meat from shrinking too much. Ground turkey, chicken, fish, pork and lamb can also be used to make fantastic burgers.
Seasonings: Some burger traditionalist believe in simply seasoning burgers with only salt and black pepper. However, fresh onion or garlic, fresh or dried herbs and spices, cheese, pickled condiments, like jalapenos, and even prepared sauces, such as Stubb’s Marinade; can all be added to the burger mixture to for an extra pop of flavor. While these seasonings and sauces can be mixed directly into the burger mixture, salt and pepper should be added to the patties right before cooking, as salt dissolves muscle proteins, which can create a tough, dry burger. Before forming the burger patties, pinch off a piece of your burger mixture and cook it to check the seasoning amounts.
Forming the patty: Chill the meat for 20-30 minutes before shaping burgers. Wet hands with cold water and divide meat into equal portions. Shape beef into ¾-inch thick patties. Using your thumb, press a small dimple into the center of the formed burger. Be careful not to overwork the meat as it will yield a tough burger.
Cooking Whether grilling or pan searing your burgers, make sure your grill or pan is extremely hot before adding the burgers. Never, ever, press down on the burger patties as they cook. This releases all the natural juice and will result in a dry burger. Also, avoid closing the lid on the grill and over-flipping the burger. Flipping the burger only once during the cooking process will help prevent the burger from falling apart as it cooks. Since ground beef contains harmful bacteria, which is spread throughout all the meat, burgers should be cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
While the “All-American” burger I described earlier is classic, since I love burgers so much, I love experimenting with new flavor combinations. A steak and potato burger combines all my favorite flavors of a fancy steakhouse dinner: a juicy, seasoned burger topped with creamy homemade mashed potatoes and a robust mushroom gravy! Go on, grab your knife and fork and dig in!