Lyons Family Cookbook

Hamburgers - How to Grill


BEEF - A good burger starts at the supermarket. Be sure to read the label. Ground Chuck, a shoulder cut with big, beefy flavor, is recommended. By comparison, ground round and the generically labeled "ground beef" can be gristly and livery. And play the percentages -- buy 80 to 85% lean beef or your burger will dry out.


BUN - It's not a burger without the bun. We like big burgers (6 oz each), so we need buns to match. Soft yet sturdy Pepperidge Farm Premium Bakery Rolls, with a generous 4 1/2" diameter and hearty wheaty taste, are the test kitchen favorite.


THE WORKS - Preferred brands: /// KETCHUP: Hunts /// MUSTARD: Gulden's /// PICKLES: Cascadian Farm Bread and Butter Chips


KEYS TO SUCCESS - DON'T UNDERSEASON: Just dusting salt on the exterior of shaped patties doesn't cut it. Put the ground beef in a bowl, Lightly break up the meat with your hands and sprinkle evenly with salt. Use 1 tsp salt for 1 1/2 lbs of beef, the amount you will need for 4 burgers. DON'T OVERWORK: Ground beef is not Play-Doh. The more you handle it, the denser and more rubbery it will become when cooked. After you've seasoned the meat, divide it into individual portions and, with lightly cupped hands, shape into patties. As soon as the patties hold together, stop! DON'T PRESS: Flip the burgers just once --- after they've developed deep brown grill marks --- and don't be tempted to press on them. Pressing down on the burgers as they cook squeezes out the flavorful juices, which end up in your grill (causing flare-ups) instead of in your burgers.


FIGHT THE BATTLE OF THE BULGE --- The collagen, or connective tissue, in ground meat shrinks when heated. This causes the bottom and sides of the meat to tighten like a belt, which forces the surface of the burger to expand. To prevent a bubble burger, press a 1/2" divot, or indentation, tn the center of each patty. The collagen will still tighten, but the indented meat won't bulge.


AVOID A STICKY SITUATION --- Be sure your grill is both hot and clean before you set the burgers down. Otherwise the crust of the burger will stick and rip. 1. SUPER-HEAT: The self-cleaning function in your oven blasts away stuck-on gunk. You can get your grill to do the same. A sheet of aluminum foil traps head and gets the grill grate super-hot. 2. SCRAPE CLEAN: Standard wire bristles wear down after just a few uses and are useless. We prefer to sturdy stainless scrubby pad on the Grill Wizard BBQ Brush. It's tough --- and replaceable. 3. SLICK DOWN: Grab a wad of paper towels with a pair of long-handled tongs and dip them in a bowl of vegetable oil. When the towels have absorbed the oil, run them over the cleaned grill grate. 4. BUILD UP SEASONING: The oil will burn off at first. Continue to dip the towels into oil and slick down the grate; it will become "nonstick." When the grate turns black and glossy, your grill is good to go.


TEMPERATURE GUIDE --- Many of us depend on thermometers when we're grilling expensive steaks, but when we grill (cheap) burgers, we think we needn't bother. Wrong. For consistently delicious burgers cooked to just the right degree of doneness, don't guess. Take the temperature in the center of each burger with an instant-read thermometer. MEDIUM-RARE: 125 to 130°, 2 to 3 minutes per side MEDIUM BURGER: 135 to 140°, 3 to 4 minutes per side MEDIUM-WELL BURGER: 145 to 160°, 4 to 5 minutes per side WELL-DONE BURGER: 160° and up, 5 minutes and up per side


WELL-DONE BURGERS DONE WELL --- There's no way around it: Burgers cooked medium-well to well done are less juicy that those cooked less --- even if you follow our lesson to the letter. But some folks love well-done burgers, or are worried about food safety and don't want to risk eating rare ground meat. We've found they can have their burgers and eat them too, if they add a panade to their meat mixture. A paste made from bread and milk, a panade adds moisture to meatballs and meatloaf. (And what's a burger but a meatball by another name!) For 1 1/2 pounds of ground beef, combine 1 slice of hearty white sandwich bread, torn in pieces, with 2 Tbsp milk. Let it sit about 5 minutes, until the bread is soaked, then mash to a paste with a fork; you'll have about 1/4 cup. Gently mix the panade into the meat before forming burgers.

Nothing says summer in America like hot, juicy backyard burgers. Unfortunately, backyard grillers all too often turn out shrunken, domed, dry burgers --- sorry specimens that no amount of ketchup can save. Avoid burger heartbreak by mastering this lesson.


Source: Cook's Country - Aug/Sept 2009