Time to fire up the grill for burgers
Who could have ever imagined that a ground beef patty placed between two pieces of bread would become the most influential food of our time?
There’s no certain answer to the real origin of the hamburger but some historians credit the Mongols of East Asia who were known to stash raw meat under their saddles to soften as they rode steeds for hours before they would flame roast the meat.
In the U.S., there is good evidence that a cook in Tulsa, Okla., served the first hamburger on a bun in 1891. The hamburger did go on to make its official debut at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair.
What is of fact is that with the industrialization of America came the demand for food that could be mass produced, affordable and made easy to eat at home. The one food that scored well in all areas was the hamburger.
Beginning in 1921 with White Castle, recognized as the world’s first fast-food hamburger chain, fast-food corporations have continued to hold influence over the evolution of the American palate. Some folks like saying “the hamburger is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”
Memorial Day is viewed as the kick-off to summertime fun. With that thought, it’s time to fire up the grills. Don’t let the heat of the season slip away before making time to flip a few burgers. Keep it simple while keeping it safe; toss into the mix a bottle of hand sanitizer for when friends and family gather. With this said, “let the good times roll” once again.
Likely, you are “your own favorite grill master” and seek no help when it comes to grill work. Anyway, I went on a search of ideas for grilling the perfect burger; hints even conflicted at times. Here is my compiled list of suggestions for grilling the perfect burger, including a couple from celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey, who is rumored to have on the menu of his NYC restaurant a $106 burger:
Clean and oil the grill grates. Always put burgers on a HOT grill.
Use a fresh, never frozen, 80-20 blend of good quality beef; flavor is in the fat.
Don’t over handle the meat. You’re not making meat loaf, so, don’t dump meat into a bowl and start adding BBQ sauce, egg and bread crumbs when you want a burger.
The three-ingredient burger simply made by blending ground chuck, Dijon mustard and Worcestershire Sauce seasoned with salt and pepper to taste rated high among many opinions.
Shape but don’t pack the meat too tight. The best tasting burgers are shaped and then sprinkled with seasoning spices. Form the beef patty l-inch wider in diameter than the size of the bun to be used. Guests should not have to ask “where’s the beef”; avoid making burgers greater than 3/4- to 1-inch thick.
Preferred seasonings or spice blends include smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, black pepper, salt, brown sugar, cumin and basil. Because salt drains the meat of moisture, it’s best to sprinkle seasonings on patties just before the burger goes on the hot grill.
Once on the grill, use a finger or thumb to make a small dimple in the center of each burger so it will lay flat and nice; otherwise, expect the center to possibly puff up. Some suggest putting a small ice cube inside the dimple to add moisture as well as to serve as a timer. When the ice melts, it’s time to flip the burger. Flip burgers no more than once during total grill time because every flip toughens and dries out the meat.
Burgers should not bleed out and die before your eyes; hence, quit pressing burgers as they cook with a spatula for each time you press moisture escapes, making the burger less juicy.
If you plan on adding cheese, do so two minutes before the burger is cooked.
Test the temperature of the meat by inserting the thermometer into the side of the burger. Rare burger (120 degrees, cook 2 minutes per side), medium-rare (130 degrees, cook 3 minutes per side), medium (140 degrees), medium-well (150 degrees, about 4 minutes per side) or well-done (cook 160 degrees, about 5 minutes per side).
For burgers less than 3/4- to 1-inch thick, it’s best to grill with the lid open throughout to avoid overcooking the meat, which can easily happen when the lid is down.
Dress burgers with any of these common favorites and try adding a special sauce to make it out of the ordinary: sliced cheese, dill pickle slices, raw red onion, caramelized or grilled (best to add salt, pepper and a touch of oil before placing the onions to cook on the grill), tomato slice, green leaf lettuce or iceberg, avocado, bacon and pineapple with barbecue sauce and jalapeños. As for bread, the potato bun is the most popular but sesame seed, brioche or pretzel work.
Now that you’re ready to flip a few burgers, consider these recipes for adding something special to their taste.
(a Top-Secret version)
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1-1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1-1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
Combine all ingredients. Put into shaker for sprinkling on burgers before grilling. Makes about 2 tablespoons of mix; use 2 teaspoons per one pound of meat.
Could this next recipe be the secret sauce used by the biggest fast-food company in the world?
THE SECRET SAUCE
1/2 cup mayonnaise (no substitute)
4 teaspoons sweet pickle relish, drained
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons French dressing (Kraft)
1 tablespoon white onion, fine minced
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
Stir all ingredients in a bowl. Cover and store in refrigerator overnight to blend flavors; stir a few times.
If you have ever eaten at the famed Bobcat Bite in Santa Fe, N.M., you know the popularity of chile burgers.
NEW MEXICO GREEN CHILE CHEESEBURGER
(Traeger wood pellet grills recipe)
1-1/2 pounds ground beef
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
3 cloves garlic
3 teaspoons olive oil, divided
Salt and black pepper
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
4 whole Hatch chilies (can sub Poblano peppers)
4 slices Pepper Jack cheese
4 burger buns
Combine ground beef, salt, cumin and chili powder. Mix with hands to combine; shape into four 1/3-pound patties. Heat grill to 350 degrees with lid closed for 10 minutes. Toss the garlic with 1-1/2 teaspoons oil and a pinch of salt and black pepper; seal them in foil to form a pouch. Brush the onion with the remaining 1-1/2 teaspoons oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Grill the chilies, onion slices and garlic in foil pouch for about 15 minutes. Chiles should be blackened all over; turn every 5 minutes to char. Onion slices need to be tender and grill marked; turn both onion and garlic pouch after 7 or 8 minutes. Place chilies in a bowl, seal with plastic wrap and steam skins loose, about 10 minutes. Peel and seed the chiles, chop finely and transfer to a bowl. Meanwhile, finely chop the garlic and onions; add to the chiles. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, stir to mix and set aside until ready to use. Place burger patties on the grill and cook until desired doneness. Last two minutes, top each patty with cheese to melt. Toast buns if desired. Top each patty with the green chile mixture, lettuce and tomato.
(Taste of Home magazine)
1-1/2 pounds ground beef
Salt and pepper
4 slices mozzarella cheese
8 tablespoons pesto
8 jarred roasted red pepper strips
Shape ground beef into four 3/4-inch thick patties. Season with salt and pepper. Grill over medium heat until meat is no longer pink, about 5 minutes per side. Top each with a slice of mozzarella, 2 tablespoons pesto and 2 roasted red pepper strips. Cook covered until cheese is melted. Serve on buns of choice.
Here’s a tasty, unique side to serve at your next cookout.
AVOCADO CORN SALAD
2 (15-ounce) cans of yellow sweet corn, well drained
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive, divided
1 pound cherry tomatoes halved or quartered
2 avocados, peeled and coarse chopped
1/2 red onion, thin sliced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
3 tablespoons lime juice
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
First, sauté corn by heating a drizzle (about 1 tablespoon) of oil in a skillet (cast iron is great). When oil is hot, toss in the corn. Stir around until kernels begin to blacken just a bit until all look as if grilled. Remove corn from heat and cool. Meanwhile, in a bowl combine tomatoes, avocado, red onion, cilantro and minced garlic; add the cooled corn. Drizzle the top of salad with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and lime juice. Add salt and pepper; season to taste. Gently toss salad to blend ingredients. Refrigerate covered until ready to serve. Serves 5 to 6. Easy to increase recipe.
A study from UCLA and printed in Reader’s Digest (April 2021) found that topping a burger with half a Hass avocado helped alleviate negative effects red meat has on the heart. Loaded with omega-3’s, avocado reduces the restricted blood ftow in arteries and inflammation that occur in the hours after eating red meat.