Nothing really defines the first cookout of the year than a juicy, perfectly grilled burger. No matter the toppings, if your hamburgers are grilled just right, then the cookout will be a success.
Every time we light up our grill, there is always the chance we might overcook – or undercook in our paranoia – burn, or even char our precious, rightly-seasoned hand-patted burgers.
Instead of guessing, follow some basic rules and there will be no need of substituting hotdogs for burned burgers. Friends and family will be toasting and praising your mad grilling skills.
Tips for the Perfect Burger
Temperature lesson #1
Don't even let your burgers get near the grill until your temperature is just right. Make sure to let your grill get nice and hot before you throw them on. This will give the burgers a nice crispy sear on the outside that will seal in all the delicious flavors.
You can definitely over-season, but a generous spicing and peppering can help bring out the flavors in the meat.
BUT never SALT. Salt can dissolve muscle protein, which will in turn make your patties turn into shoe leather very quickly. Only salt right before you put your burgers on the grill.
Season well and mix until spices are just mixed in. Overworked meat tends to end up tough and chewy, an outcome you want to avoid.
Who gives a flip?
You give a flip! As many times as you like. Although the age-old rule is to only flip once, there's really no proof that multiple flips don't do the exact same thing, which is to cook the burger evenly.
There may be evidence that frequent flipping might cook more evenly that only flipping once – at least according to my own backyard research.
Refrain from flattening
Don't squish your burgers down with the spatula during cooking, even the slightest. This pushes all the good juices out of the meat and will aid in your burgers becoming very dry very quick.
Temperature Lesson #2
Touching with your finger is all well and mostly overdone, but you aren't Zoltar the Mind Reader. Don't risk showing off with the touch technique. Instead of taking chances, use a digital meat thermometer.
Use these temps as a loose guide:
- 120°F and below for rare (red/raw in the center)
- 130°F medium-rare (pink, warm)
- 140°F medium (totally pink, starting to dry out)
- 150°F medium-well (grayish pink, more dry)
- 160°F and above for well done (completely gray, very little moisture)
Don't forget a great recipe! Once you're prepared to grill, try my Red, White and Bleu Burger!
Red White and Bleu Bacon Burger
Makes 4 burgers
- ¾ lb. ground chuck
- ½ lb. ground round
- Sea salt
- Fresh cracked pepper
- 1 tsp. Herbs de Provence
- 12 slices of cooked bacon
- 2 red peppers, cored and grilled
- 8 slices or chunks of Gorgonzola
- Fresh bib lettuce
- Your choice of condiments
Mix and cook burgers according to above tips. Cook or prepare toppings.
Let burgers rest for 2 minutes then dress your burger as you like.
Twinkle VanWinkle has over 20 years of professional cooking under her apron strings, feeding thousands of friends, family and other folks. She baked apple pies for the "Oprah Winfrey Show" and has appeared on Food Network's "The Best Of..." Along with producing dynamic lifestyle content for LIN Media, she is a mother, urban gardener, chef, musician and social media fanatic.
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