I’m back to the grill and hamburgers, ground beef this time. Unfortunately I’m hungry for a good filling meal, but I don’t want to a ton of calories. How can hamburgers fit the bill you might be asking right now, well they don’t. HAHA, I usually cook the rest of my family the juicy and awesome burgers while I cook myself extra-lean turkey burgers. This blog isn’t about weight loss though, so we will not be talking about the turkey burgers.
I’ve made a ton of hamburgers in the past few years and have decided that I have a pretty good handle on cooking them. That is as long as there are not too many and I can start them all at the same time. I’m still working on the touch test and I figure after a few thousand more I should have it down.
Growing up I mostly ate well-done, super thin boring hamburgers. I’ve tried very hard to convince my parents to eat their hamburgers, or any meat for that matter, medium or even medium-rare with little luck. My dad has this fear of mad-cow disease and thinks he needs to cook the hell out of his burgers “just in case”. I’ve heard that if you get mad-cow, in the later stages you don’t even know that you’re sick, so what can be so bad about that.
I’ve also been to plenty of BBQ’s and parties with mediocre burgers. They have no real taste, the meat is sub par quality, they are dry, the buns are too big or small, etc.
So I’m going to document my findings so that I don’t forget. I also want to save anyone who reads this the time and effort of making the same mistakes I have.
First off let’s start with the type of meat. I’ve found that high quality, fresh ground meat from the chuck is the best. 80% to 85% lean is the number I shoot for. If you can find a butcher who grinds the meat daily, well what are you waiting for? If you don’t have access then try shopping at the higher quality grocery stores in town.
There is definitely a taste difference between the Harris Ranch or Niman Ranch ground meat and the stuff at Walmart. If you are counting calories or are concerned about fat you can buy ground meat from the sirloin or the round, but this meat will be leaner, will overcook faster and be less juicy and tasty. Another option is ground turkey, which can be good if you mix in some low fat ricotta, Worcestershire sauce and Dijon. I will post the recipe for this in the future.
Now this next one is a deal killer and I think many people don’t understand how important this is. Don’t take the meat straight from the refrigerator, form the patties and throw them on the grill. Leave the meat on the counter for at least ½ hour so that it can come to room temperature. The reason for this is simple; if you cook the meat while it is still cold, the inside will take longer to cook while the outside gets burnt to a crisp. How many times have you cooked meat for the time specified in a recipe only to find the inside still raw?
This is important for all types of meat.
Size matters when forming you patties… I wouldn’t recommend anything thicker than ¾ of an inch. At this size the patties will form a nice crust on the outside while the inside will be perfectly juicy and delicious, assuming you don’t overcook them.
Now we move on to the matter of spices. I personally love to make a very simple burger with a toasted bun, some cheese and salt. Once I form the patties I generously sprinkle and press the salt into each side of the burger. I find that without the salt the hamburger is rather plain, so don’t forget this step. Some recipes call for the salt to be added and mixed with the ground beef before the patties are formed. I personally am happy not to overwork the meat and I’m super happy with my technique. I don’t want any comments about this sentence.
Lastly, I use a gas grill so the cooking times will be a bit lower for a hot charcoal grill. I heat the grill on medium high for 15 minutes and my temperature gauge usually reads about 550. I throw the burgers on after spraying each side with some cooking spray or brushing with some oil to keep them from sticking. Cook them for 4 minutes on each side, take them off and serve them with pickles, onions, tomatoes, or just cheese. The sky is the limit.
Good luck with making some great hamburgers this summer and please let me know what works for you and any secrets that you can share.