This time of year, grilled burgers are everywhere. Barbecues, picnics, even a quick weeknight dinner are all fair game for burgers to take center stage.
Last week, I had a hankering for a burger and started researching ways to make the best one. There is no shortage of opinions among cooks, both amateur and professional, but the following tips seemed be fairly unanimous:
- Use ground chuck for best flavor with 85 percent lean/15 percent fat content.
- Handle the meat as little as possible; the more you mess with it, the tougher it will be.
- Season as desired ahead of time, but add salt just before cooking. If it sits for a long time, the salt will pull the juices out and produce a dry burger.
- Unlike most other meats, burgers should be kept chilled until cooking. Sources cited both health concerns about ground beef, which behaves differently from whole cuts in terms of bacteria growth potential, and also the reaction of the cold fat to the high temperature, enabling a sort of “crust” on the exterior of the burger.
- Sear the burger on a high heat to start, establishing the signature “grill marks” and then move to a more moderate temperature to finish the cooking. This ensures a juicy, properly cooked burger, even if you are going for medium rare.
- Flip the burger one time only.
I also came up with what I thought was a bit of an innovation — pressing thinly sliced onions into the exterior of the burger — but my editor tells me that is a common practice in Oklahoma. Regardless, it added a great flavor, and I will continue to use this technique, tipping my hat to the Sooner State.
Here’s my method for either three or four burgers, depending on your size preference.
1 pound 85 percent lean ground beef
½ of a small onion, sliced thinly
¼-½ teaspoon salt
Generous sprinkle of pepper
Form patties — I prefer a thinner burger, and aim for about half-inch thick.
Firmly press the onion slices into the burger, making sure they will stay and not fall out when cooked and flipped.
Just before cooking, sprinkle salt and pepper onto the burgers.
Place the burgers on a hot grill and allow them to sear, about one minute. Rotate the burgers 90 degrees to create “hash marks,” if desired.
Move the burger to a less-hot area of grill for about three minutes, or until about 50 percent cooked to your preference.
Flip the burger onto a hotter part of grill. Allow the second side to sear, and repeat the rotation technique, if desired. Move the burger, again to the less-hot part of the grill to finish cooking, about another three minutes.
Serve immediately with toasted buns, pickles, ketchup, sliced tomatoes and any other fixings your crowd desires.