How to Grill Perfect Cheeseburgers
One of my friends was just lamenting that he has a grill but isn’t a very good cook. So, for him and anybody else who cares, here is how to grill perfect cheeseburgers.
I’m going to assume a charcoal grill here, because that’s what I use and I think they make better tasting meat.
What you’ll need:
Charcoal - A lot of people swear by Kingsford, and it’s good, but I found some I like better that’s actually cheaper. I think it’s called Royal Oak. Comes in a big red bag. Menard’s carries it and so do some grocery stores.
Charcoal lighter fluid - They make some charcoal that you can supposedly light without it, but I’ve never tried it. It’s good to get a name brand here, as the really cheap stuff can make your burgers taste funny.
Hamburger - 85% lean ground chuck. I know, the 98% lean is healthier, but it’s also expensive, dry, and flavorless. The burgers are going to be around 1/3 pound each, so figure out how many you want to make and do the math.
Buns - Get big ones. Sesame seeds if you like them. Kaiser rolls are awesome. The grocery store bakery ones are good, but you usually need to cut them. Use a serated knife, cut away from your hand, and apply no more pressure than the weight of the knife.
Cheese - The individually wrapped slices are convenient, but stay away from the store/generic brands, they can be horrendous. Kraft ones are usually OK. Better is just to get a block of cheddar, American or colby/jack and shave off some thin slices. Some people think cheese is optional. I’m not one of them.
Lawry’s Seasoned Salt - This is key. Never make burgers without it. I’ve used the Aldi’s version of it and it’s very nearly as good.
Assorted condiments - You know, whatever you like. Catsup, mustard (I like the borwn spicy kind, but it’s not for everybody), dill pickle slices, lettuce, thinly sliced rings of onion, tomato slices (the thinner the better)… And need I say bacon? Mmmmmm…bacon….
Butter - If you really want to go above and beyond, have some butter on hand. Real butter is far superior to margarine, and most nutritionists these days agree it’s actually better for you.
Get the Grill Going
You want to put enough charcoal in your grill to make a single layer of bricks underneath your burgers, so it varies depending on how many you’re making. You also want to have a small area to one side of your cooking rack without coals below it. Just big enough for a burger or two. Some burgers will get done before others, and it’s good to have this cooler spot to stack the ones that are done so they can stay hot but not burn.
Remove the cooking rack and stack the coals into a pile roughly pyramid shaped, and douse with lighter fluid. Don’t drench them, but try to get some on all the exposed charcoal bricks and some down in the middle of the stack. Light them from three or four points at the edges of the stack. I like to twist up a sheet of newspaper, light it, then use it to light the coals, just dropping it into the grill when I can’t hold it any longer. Or you can use one of those fancy long grill lighters if you have one, but it’s not as much fun. At any rate, make sure the entire stack is completely engulfed in flames. Leave the rack off and the lid open.
It’ll take awhile for the coals to be ready, so this is the perfect time to make your patties.
Pounding Your Meat
First thing you want to do before you start grabbing handfuls of hamburger is to open your jar of seasoned salt. Your hands are going to get messy, and if you don’t open it now you’ll wish you had.
Now you’re going to grab a handful of hamburger and press it into a ball between your hands. Bigger than a golf ball but smaller than a tennis ball. Cue ball maybe? Anyhow, do that until you have as many balls as you want burgers.
Now we’ve got to press them flat. I like to do it on a cutting board just to keep the mess more isolated, but whether you do that or just use the counter, lightly sprinkle some seasoned salt on your surface first. It’ll help keep them from sticking. Just how much salt you put down is a matter of taste, but be aware that you’ll be adding more on top after you press out the patties.
The goal is to get them about the diameter of a CD, maybe a little bigger, and around a half inch thick. As they cook, they will shrink in diameter and thicken in the middle. Press a ball of meat flat with your palm and get it roughly that size.
Now you have to slap it a bit. This knocks all the little pockets of air out and keeps them from just falling apart on the grill. So slap it quickly and repeatedly with your fingers held flat about as hard as you would if you were surprise smacking your partner’s ass. OK, maybe not quite that hard. Somehwhere between a slap and a pat. As you do this, continue to shape the patty. It will get thin around the edges, and they will start to split and break a bit. Use your thumb to press the edges back in until you have a nice dense uniform patty. Once the patty is done, sprinkle some more seasoned salt on the top. If you’ve never used it before, you should probably err on the side of too little until you know how it tastes. Carefully work a thin spatula under each patty, and lift it from the surface you pounded it out on. It will want to stick, so try not to rip it. If it rips, you might be able to press it together. Worst case you can ball it up and start over. Stack the patties on a plate and pop them in the fridge while we finish getting the grill ready.
Want Amazing Buns?
This part is optional, but it’ll make the difference between really good burgers and the best fucking burgers ever. Take your buns and spread a thin layer of butter on each half. If the butter’s too hard to spread, try microwaving it for 5 second increments until it’s nicely spreadable. Set the buttered buns aside for now.
Back to the Grill? Seriously?
I’m afraid so. By now, hopefully the coals are ready. They should not be openly flaming and should be mostly (85% or so) covered in gray ash. If they are, spread them out into a single layer. Put the grill rack (the part you cook on), over the coals. Ideally, it will still be dirty from thelast time you grilled. That’s not a joke. Good steakhouses never get their grills too clean, it adds a lot of flavor. But we do need to get it good and hot and scrape off the big chunks, so close the lid of your grill to let heat build up on the rack. Couple minutes is good. Open the lid back up and scrape off the top of the rack with your scraper and wire brush. Your grill is now (finally!) ready to cook.
Cooking the Burgers
So get your plate of burgers, and carefully pick up each patty and place iton the grill. I use my hands to lift each patty, because they’re less likely to fall apart that way, but if you do the same you’ll want to get them on the grill quick. As they go on, flames will probably flare up from the coals. This is a good thing unless it gets too out of hand.
With burgers, it’s good to keep them flipping, because it’ll help you monitor just how done they’re getting. Do not close the lid to the grill or your burgers will burn very quickly. The good news is, even if you cook them until they’re crunchy, they’re still good.
Some people like burgers pink in the middle, but that’s not really a great idea. Steaks are safe to eat rare, but hamburger? Not so much. On a steak, the surface that’s been exposed to air is on the outside and gets plenty of heat. On burgers, that exposed surface gets worked into the middle. Cook them brown all the way through to be safe.
If you buttered the buns earlier, move all the burgers to a side of the grill without so many hot coals under it. Stack them if necessary. Place the buns butter-side down on the grill until they become brown and crispy. It doesn’t take long, so keep a close eye on them, lifting and checking regularly. One they’re all nicely browned, move them off the grill and onto a plate.
Now all we need to do is melt the cheese. I just spread the burgers out on the grill, put the cheese on top and close the lid for 10 or 15 seconds or so. That will get the cheese a good start toward melting, and it’ll melt more as the burgers sit.
So pull them off the grill with a spatula and place them on a plate. If a burger’s got cheese, don’t put another burger on top of it. All that’s left to do now is put them on the buns, dress them, and eat. Enjoy!
|Posted in Misc||21:38:53|