It is officially barbecue season so fire up the grills and let’s talk about some good cooking. The odds-on favourite of this wonderful time of year is the burger, and if you disagree, it might be because you’re cooking it wrong. There are a number of ways to cook a burger, and some would suggest the grill isn’t even the best way. However, using the right techniques and taking your barbecuing duties seriously can result in a burger better than any you’ll find at a fast food joint. So if you’re looking to master the grill this summer, here’s what you need to know for making the perfect burger.
Before the grill:
1) Choose the right meat.
Choosing the right meat for your burger can be a challenge. Firstly, you might just have to ignore your healthier instincts if you truly want to make the best burger. I know, that’s not the wisest thing to advise but let’s be honest, if you’re making a burger, you’re no all that health conscious. Lean meat is a great option for some meals, but for burgers, the more fat, the juicier the patty will be. Also, if you can find freshly ground beef then go with that. It’s much better quality and forms a better patty.
2) Mix gently.
When it comes to the spices and accoutrement you want to add to your meat, that remains completely up to your own preferences. However, when you are mixing all the meat and so forth together, you want to be as gentle as you can be. Mixing to harshly toughens up the meat and makes it more likely to break apart.
3) Save the salt for later.
Again, what you add to your burger is completely up to you. Many people like to simply stick to salt and pepper for seasoning, and that’s a great choice. However, don’t mix your salt in with the beef before you’re ready to start cooking. Adding salt to the beef dries out the meat and robs it of some of its natural flavours. Instead, add the salt last, once the patties are made and just before they are about to go on the grill.
4) Pack properly.
Packing the perfect patty is a bit of an art. You want to make sure the burgers will stay together on the grill and aren’t going to fall apart when you try to flip them, so you need to pack them solidly. Also, you need to be aware of the proper size. If you’re using fatty meat (which you should be) they tend to shrink significantly when on the grill so build them accordingly. A good technique to help prevent too much shrinking is to put a little dimple in the patty.
5) Keep things cold.
Once your patties are packed, avoiding throwing them on the grill right away. Put them in the fridge for a while before barbequing. Keeping the beef cold helps to keep them together and will allow them to cook better.
On the grill:
6) Prepare the grill appropriately.
While your patties are cooling down in the fridge, you can start to prepare your grill for cooking. Yes, your grill needs more preparation than just a little heat. Firstly, clean your grill off between each cookout. A dirty grill can cause uneven cooking and you get bits of old, overcooked food in your meat. The temperature of your grill is also essential. Too hot or too cold and you’ll have a tough time cooking the burger to perfection. Also, have the grill hot and ready when you are putting the patties on. This ensures there’s no fluctuation with the heat as you cook.
7) Don’t press the meat.
This seems to be the instinct of many cooks, but unfortunately it is a wrong instinct. Sure, you like flatter patties and your burgers tend to get a little bulbous on the grill. But when you press the burgers, you lose so much of those delicious and flavourful juices.
8) Flip minimally.
When you’re cooking away, knowing when to flip the burger is extremely important. What you want to aim for is one flip and done. It’s daunting, I know. You have to make sure you’re completely done on one side before flipping and finishing it off. Flipping it too often toughens up the meat, while flipping it too soon causes the burgers to stick.
9) Add cheese at the end.
Once more, what you prefer on your burger is totally your business. But if you’re not putting cheese on your burger you are missing out. Of course, you need to apply the cheese at the right moment. Putting it on too early can leave you with burnt cheese and unable to flip your unfinished burger. Once your burger is done cooking, move it off the direct heat and slap a slice of cheese on top to melt it without overcooking your burger.