Burger on the Grill - © maudehunterspub ca

Summer Fun 2014: Burger DOs and DON’Ts…

Just a quick refresher on Summer BBQ Burger DOs and DON’Ts… We’ve talked about Burgers, in general, in this space before. And we’ve covered Grilling, as a technique, pretty thoroughly. But it’s the high season for grilling and it won’t hurt to go over the essentials one more time…

Classic Burger Plate - © grillonking.caClassic Can/Am Burger Plate, as served at the renowned Grill On King
in Niagara on the Lake, in the heart of Ontario, Canada’s Niagara
Wine Country. You want yours to look just like this!

I was reminded about this topic by a Yahoo! post this past week, leading up to Canada Day Weekend – the weekend when more Burgers, Dogs, Sausages, Steaks and Chicken Parts will be grilled than on any other holiday weekend in the year.

The Yahoo! post counts down most of the usual – and a few unusual – pointers for turning out the perfect Burger. Some of their assertions I agree with, some I don’t…

I like their suggestions to…

  • Keep it simple with the meat. Exotic combinations of different meats may just muddy the final flavour. Beef and Pork together lead inevitably to a Meatball / Meat Loaf-seeming burger. Bison, Venison, Emu, Kangaroo and other exotic red meats will be gravely insulted if you go out and spent a lot on them and then grind them up for burgers! Stick with good old Ground Beef Chuck and make sure you you get a grind with enough fat in it to create the classic burger flavour you want on the grill. Medium grade in Canada, or 70/30 by the U.S. system, are best.
  • Keep it simple with seasonings. Good old Salt and Pepper is all you really need.
  • Keep it simple with toppings. Don’t drown your burger in toppings and condiments. The whole idea is to enjoy the meat! Sweet Vidalia Onion, a slice of Beefsteak Tomato, a little crinkly Leaf Lettuce and a slice of Cheddar, Swiss or Monterrey Jack Cheese are all you really need. Mustard, Sweet Pickle Relish and Ketchup are classic Burger Condiments. Use them sparingly to avoid drowning your patty in a sea of salt, sugar and vinegar!
  • Keep it classic, with your flavour combinations. It is still a real burger if you go nuts on a Korean BBQ or Moroccan Tajine flavour tangent?
  • Keep it classic with the buns. Fancy, oversize buns will just detract from the overall greatness of your star patty and its supporting actors. And you don’t want to fill up on bread!

Now, there are some points the Yahoo! post neglected to make, which I consider to be of first importance, burger-wise.

  • The Yahoo! post does touch on the importance of not playing with your food – at least when it’s resting on the grill! Every time you flip, prod or – God help us! – press a patty with the spatula, you’re encouraging its wonderful natural juices to escape. That’s flavour and texture you can never get back! One turn is all you really need to give your patties. Try it. You’ll note the delicious difference immediately. And so will your family and guests!
  • …And leaving your patties alone to grill in peace also minimized the danger of grease fire flame-ups that will just turn the underside of your burgers to charcoal. You want to add flavour, but not that kind of flavour!
  • Don’t be afraid to add some binder to the meat patty mixture. most experienced Grill Cooks I know will add one whole large egg per pound (2 per kg) of raw meat to help the parries stick together through the cooking process. I also like to add 1/3 cup of fine dry bread crumbs soaked in 1/3 cup milk to 2 pounds / 1 kg of any ground meat that is too lean – i.e. – Canada Lean or Extra Lean grade, U.S. 80/20 or leaner.
  • If you want to brush on some BBQ sauce, wait until after the flip, until the second side is about half done – i.e.- until about 3/4 of the way through the total cooking time. Otherwise, you’ll risk burning the sugar-rich sauce to charcoal, which is one ‘classic’ flavour you don’t want in your Burgers. And resist the temptation to turn the sauced side down for a final few minutes. You’ll burn it for sure!
  • Don’t overcook your burgers. Unless they are very thick (i.e.- more than 2 cm or 3/4 in. thick) they should cook perfectly given three minutes per side on the average hot grill. Even if you don’t squeeze all the juice out them with the spatula, they’ll still turn out like little hockey pucks if you cook them too long.
  • On the other hand… Don’t undercook your burgers, either. We have just about eliminated the threat of ‘Hamburger Disease’ in these modern times, thanks to the ever-increasing safety measures used in the preparation, cutting and grinding of raw beef throughout the supply chain. But there’s no better place for something to get into your raw patties than when it’s sitting out on your kitchen counter or the grill’s side table on a hot summer day waiting for the fire. In my jurisdiction, restaurants and other Foodservice preparers must cook all ground meats to at least 165 F internal temperature to ensure wholesomeness. That’s light brown on the inside, to you backyard Chefs. It’s entirely up to you what you serve your family and friends, but I prefer to play it safe. And cooking your patties a little longer develops even more great grill flavour!

Now… Get out there and really enjoy your burgers and all your grill favourites!

~ Maggie J.