25 May If it’s summer, it’s barbecued burger timeNothing says summer like a barbecued burger hot off the grill. But wouldn’t it be great to have a few tried-and-true burgers to throw on the barbie when casual entertaining calls for a step up from the old standby smothered in ketchup?While beef typically has been the popular choice of meats for burgers in the United States, it’s certainly not the only way to go. At first glance, premade frozen hamburgers look like a convenient choice, but there’s always the issue of thawing the burgers so they’ll cook evenly. Forming your own burgers ends up being a good way to go.
When it comes to building a burger, it’s wise to start with the best grade of ground beef (or chicken, sausage, turkey and salmon) you can. Low fat can be a mistake when choosing ground meat for burgers. You want some fat in the meat so it will stay juicy and flavorful. It’s best to ask for coarsely ground meat if you have the option. Finely ground meat tends to dry out on the grill.
Limit the fillers when making your own burger patties. It’s tempting to add additional ingredients to the burger mixture when making them, but keeping it simple has its advantages. Some foods cook faster or slower than the ground meat and can present a challenge for the griller. You can garnish your burger when it comes off the grill with sauteed or roasted vegetables, interesting cheeses, lightly tossed greens, salsas or jazzed up mayonnaises. It’s best not to overdo it when mixing your burger ingredients. Overmixing can result in dense, tough burgers. It’s essential to wash your hands, cooking utensils and work surfaces thoroughly before and after handling raw meat to prevent food-borne illness.
When ready to grill, preheat your barbecue to medium or at the most, medium high. Cooking your carefully constructed burgers over too hot a flame can render them burned on the outside and raw on the inside. You want slow and even cooking so the whole burger gets cooked through.
Much like cooking a steak, you want to avoid poking and prodding at all costs. Please do everyone a huge favor and promise not to cut into (gasp!) the meat on the grill to check for doneness.
One cut, and it’s done all right. The hole you create by slicing into meat provides a convenient exit for all of the juices to run right out. Seasoned grillers can tell the degree of doneness by pressing lightly on the meat and noting the resistance without ever peeking inside.
My advice is to streamline the size and thickness of the burgers you make, cook them at a consistent temperature and take notes on how long you cooked each side. The internal temperature of all beef burgers should be 165° or above to ensure safe eating.
Use an instant read thermometer or a spatula with a thermometer built in.
Letting the burgers sit for a short time after taking them off the grill will allow the juices in the meat to redistribute. If you’ve ever taken a burger off the barbecue and immediately cut it in half and watched the juices run all over the board, it’s because there wasn’t enough time for the burger to rest.
Lastly, let’s not forget about the bun, which, in my mind, often makes or breaks a burger. The best bun is a honey whole wheat bun made by my mom from my dad’s wheat. But that’s a treat that doesn’t happen every day.
Thankfully, local grocery bakeries recently have expanded the variety of buns. Shoppers can find potato rolls, sourdough buns and onion rolls in addition to the whole wheat and white hamburger buns. An easy way to make marvelous buns is by doctoring crescent roll dough and fashioning buns out of them, as described in the South of the Border Burger recipe below.
Variety is the spice of life, I say. Why not mix it up and try out a few new better burger recipes this summer?
Just in time for summer cookout season, I give you my Special of the Day: Better Burgers on the Barbie. Enjoy.
SOUTH OF THE BORDER BURGERS» 6 burger patties »6 slices pepper jack cheese » 12-ounce jar roasted red pepper, corn and black bean salsa » ½ cup real mayonnaise » 1 clove garlic, minced » ½ tsp. chili powder » 2 10-ounce tubes Pillsbury Big and Buttery Crescent rolls » 1 7-ounce can mild green chiles, diced » ¼ cup cornmealGrill burgers to desired doneness, about five minutes a side. Top with pepper jack cheese slices and grill until melted. Remove from grill, tent with foil to keep warm.
For Garlic Chili Mayonnaise, mix mayonnaise, garlic and chili powder together in a small bowl. Set aside.
For Cornmeal Crescent Buns, unroll crescent rolls onto work surface. Press two triangles together to form a rectangle. Sprinkle with 1 tbsp. cornmeal and ½ tbsp.
Roll up rectangle starting with a long side, then coil into a round spiral, sealing edges as you go. Sprinkle with additional cornmeal and press into a bun shape.
Repeat to make six buns.
Bake on lightly greased baking sheet at 375° for 12 to 15 minutes, while burgers are grilling. Remove from baking sheet to a cooling rack.
To assemble South of the Border Burgers, slice Cornmeal Crescent Buns in half to create a top and a bottom.
Spread both top and bottom with about a tbsp. of the garlic chili mayonnaise.
Place grilled burger patty on top of bottom bun. Top with 2 tbsp. of Roasted Red Pepper, Corn and Black Bean Salsa. Place top bun on top and serve.
Makes six burgers.
» 1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed» ½ cup Italian recipe diced tomatoes, drained » ½ tbsp. crushed red pepper » 1 egg, beaten » ¼ cup Italian bread crumbs » ½ tsp. salt » ½ tsp. pepper » 1 tbsp. Merlot or other red wine » ¼ cup fresh sweet basil, minced » ¼ cup Italian bread crumbs » 6 sourdough hamburger bunsGently mix together all burger ingredients with the exception of the last ¼ cup of bread crumbs. Form into patties, using ½ cup burger mixture for each burger. Separate burger patties with waxed paper and refrigerate until ready to grill.
» ½ cup real mayonnaise1 clove garlic, minced » ¼ cup parmesan cheese, gratedMix together all ingredients and refrigerate until ready to assemble burgers.
1 cup baby arugula, stems discarded 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
¼ tsp. salt
Toss arugula with olive oil and salt. Set aside.
To serve, place grill basket on preheated barbecue over medium heat. Brush grill basket with olive oil.
Pour the last ¼ cup of bread crumbs in shallow dish and coat each burger patty with bread crumbs.
Carefully place burger patties into grill basket on grill.
Grill for about 5 minutes on each side, until sausage is cooked through and liquids run clear.
Spread a tablespoon of garlic parmesan mayonnaise on each inside of each bun.
Top with grilled burger patty. Top burger with arugula. Top with top bun.
Makes six burgers.
Sydne George is a food journalist specializing in recipe development, food writing and food photography. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.