It’s summertime, and the livin’ is easy! And when it comes to summertime and food…it means one thing: Grilling season! What better way to start off the 2014 grilling season than a tutorial on how to make the perfect burger every time?
Burgers may seem like a simple enough thing to make, but it can be reaaaaally easy to mess them up. Heck, I even still do once in a while.
It has taken me a long time to feel confident in claiming that I can truly make a perfect burger. I’ve burned them, shrunk them, broken them, made them chewy, served them raw. But through all of the mistrial and disappointment (and patience of my family and friends), I have become a master of the burger craft, with lots of tips on how you can avoid all of my past mistakes!
It’s really quite simple when you get the hang of it, and once you’ve made them correctly a few times, it will come so naturally that you won’t even have to refer back to these tips anymore.
Rule # 1: Always, always, always (should I say it again?) make sure your grill is clean and properly greased. Otherwise, the burgers will stick and fall apart into a bunch of sad pieces when you go to flip it. Can you tell this has happened to me more than once?
Rule #2: Size does matter! You can make burgers in an array of shapes and sizes, but be prepared to cook your burgers accordingly, and always try your best to form them in the same size so that they all cook the same way at the same time.
Rule #3: Make A Well-The one thing to always remember, is to make a 1/2 inch well in the center of your burger patties. When burgers cook, they shrink on the sides and rise in the center, which is why most people have trouble cooking them evenly. Making the well (indentation in the center) allows the burgers to cook evenly, and in the end you will be surprised to see that the whole burger is flat on top and the well is gone. You’ve done your job!
Rule #4: Fat is your friend. Burgers are one of these instances where some fat is not only good, but necessary (unless you like hockey puck burgers. Then by all means…). When you buy ground beef, try to aim for at least 20-30% fat. It will not only keep your burger juicy, but it will add a crispy outer layer, and keep your burger together. In all honesty, if you want the best burger you can get, grind your own beef at home. You will get the freshest, best quality flavor possible; just a suggestion. If you’re making turkey or chicken burgers (which I do often), try to add some kind of fat to make up for these extra lean animals. Some heart healthy olive oil is a perfect contender. A tablespoon or two per pound is excellent.
Rule #5: Never flatten or squish your burger patties while they’re cooking!!!! Please, I beg you. All of that juicy, tender goodness you’ve been working for will be pushed away and ultimately result in a dry, crumbly burger!! I see so many people make this mistake, because they’re trying to cook their burgers faster, or think it will keep them cooking evenly when they notice them shrinking up. Refer back to rule #3 and they WILL cook evenly, and you will have a juicy, perfect burger to consume.
Now that we have learned some rules and how to form a perfect patty, here’s how to cook these fellas.
The first important thing to know is how to check the doneness of your meat. I think this is probably what we all struggle with the most. A few years ago, I was watching a Gordon Ramsay cooking show, and he refered to the method of using your hand to check doneness. I thought it was crazy and never imagined it would work. But, boy does it ever! (Sorry for doubting you, Mr. Ramsay). I realize that everyone’s hands are different, but it gives you a good estimate by the feel of how tight and firm the meat is. I made this quick and easy chart for you all to refer back to. Print it and keep it somewhere safe! It will save your meat in the end.
When cooking your burgers, whether on a grill or stove top, remember to keep your heat at a medium high. You want to get a nice sear on the outside while it still gets a chance to cook in the middle. Having it too high will make the outside burn while the middle is still raw. Having it too low wont get a sear on the outside to keep the juices in, and they’ll end up soggy, dry, and probably falling apart.
I like to give my burgers about 4 minutes on the first side. Then, I flip it and allow it to cook an additional 4-5 minutes, checking the doneness with my hands. It really depends on how you like them cooked.
I hope some of these tips will help you in your quest to make the perfect burgers. BBQ’s and picnics are my favorite part of Summer, and a perfect burger will make it even better!
I hope you all have a great holiday weekend, and Happy Memorial Day!!
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