Monday, September 1, 2008

How to Cook a Hamburger on the Home Grill.

I first posted this in Memorial Day Weekend. It's Labor Day Weekend, so I'm posting it again. Enjoy the holiday and have a home grilled hamburger and cold beer on me.

It is the time of the year when many cooks make hamburgers on the outside grill. It's easy to do, not so easy to do right. Too often they are overcooked and dry. I know, I do it all the time.

Here are a few suggestions that have helped me:
  • Use chuck roast with some fat, about 15-20%. Too lean and you have a steak burger with little "hamburger flavor", too much fat and you flame out the grill and create a huge mess.
  • Have two sections with two intensities of heat. One with high heat to get a sear on both sides, and the other for a indirect heat for the burger to cook through.
  • Don't make them too big. 6 ounces is about right. If you make them the same size all the time and set the heat the same way, you'll get to know when they are done, without poking them.
  • If you use the scientific method (I don't) and use a thermometer, you want about 160 degrees on the inside.
  • Don't overflip. The average size burger needs just a couple of flips. Make sure the first flip is after it has seared, otherwise it will not separate from the grill.
  • Salt and pepper a little when you make them, and a little after you flip them. Add cheese on last flip and close lid.
  • Weber grills work as designed when the lids are closed, otherwise you are just sear cooking.
  • Add a little water to your ground beef before you make patties. Trust me.
  • Don't compress the patties too much when you make them, and definitely don't compress when you grill them.
A New York Times article today suggests grinding your own chuck roast in a food processor. I like that idea, since you know what you are getting. If you do grind your own make sure the beef is very cold first and don't over process. Cut into 1" chunks and then do a quick pulse chop. I don't like to trick up my burgers too much with garlic, onions, etc. They do need a liberal dousing of salt and pepper, though. I do like cheese melted on top and cold red onion slices. But here's the most important point: taste comes mostly from the choice of beef and in the burger being cooked properly, and secondarily from the grill and the seasonings.


Anonymous said...

I heard/read somewhere that you shouldn't salt until the last minute because if you do it too early the salt will draw out the moisture of the burgers.

I haven't tried this yet but it seems to make sense.

Your description of the burger with the red onion slice has made me hungry for a burger...and its 7:10 a.m.

Francis Shivone said...

Yea, I think there is some validity to that suggestion. Most folks think that because you are cooking a burger for just a couple minutes it doesn't hurt to salt a little prior to cooking. I think the salt pre-cooking blends a little better.

I like the crunch and coldness of the red onion with the burger.