Monday, July 06, 2009

The Very Best Burgers On The Grill

Everything I grilled and BBQ’d last weekend went far beyond my expectations and those of my guests. What stood out most were the humble burgers.

Burgers on the grill can be tricky. I have experimented with every suggestion that has come along from mixing spices and vegetables in the meat to grinding my own cuts to using butcher shop "gourmet" patties formed from steak tips to adding bacon, andouille sausage or even extra pork fat. Results were mixed.

Through trial and error I found it best to leave the lid off and grill them over open hot coals since covering the grill was guaranteed to overcook them. I would flip them only after juice oozed out the top of the raw side. After flipping I would wait for the ooze again and remove them from the heat and quickly serve and eat. This is grilling, not BBQing and burgers must be closely watched and coddled. The results were always a guess.

There were times when the meat was dry and hard to swallow, other times the center was raw. About 50% of the time they came out perfect. That’s a ratio that’s unacceptable to me even if the meat is cheap. My goal is 100% outstanding meals each and every time. My guess would be I am at about 90% there, not bad but not good enough.

Being a subscriber to Cook’s Illustrated I remembered a past issue with a recipe for well-done burgers. Of course it was dismissed by me even if Cook’s published it. Well-done? HA! From the bible of outstanding homemade cuisine? Well-done meat?

Undercooked ground beef can be dangerous, I know. Been taking my chances for years without incident. But due to my inquisitive food nature this well-done burger recipe deserved a shot

The Cook’s article by Matthew Card claims, “the reason a medium-well to well-done burger becomes dry and tough is because collagen, a protein in muscle fiber, seizes when heated beyond 130 degrees, squeezes the meat tissue, causing it to expel it’s juices.”

With pork and fowl brining is the best way to keep meat moist and tender, brining beef does not work the same. What to do to avoid eating a hockey puck on a bun? Card had the solution. Add bread and milk. Yep, bread and milk. Sounds like meatloaf.

But wait, there’s more! Here’s what to do for outstanding, beefy-flavored burgers that turn out delicious. I know, I overcooked them according to directions and they were by far the best burgers I ever made.

Take a slice of plain white bread and cut into ½” squares discarding the crust. add 2T milk, ¾ t salt, ¾ t pepper, one clove chopped garlic and 2 t Worcestershire sauce. Mash all ingredients with a fork.

Take 1 ½ lb. ground beef (I used 85% lean ground round) and break it up into small pieces over bread mush and mix together. Form patties (I prefer ½ lb. monster patties).

Pile coals on one side of the grill leaving a section of no coals, the cool side. Grill over hot coals for about 4 minutes, flip and wait 4 minutes more. While the onions grilled and the buns toasted I placed the patties over the cool side of the grill for another three minutes.

My daughter, who is more of a food perfectionist than I am, said these were very juicy and beefy flavored. She gave me four stars.

I suggest you give this method a try. It’s simple and doesn’t take a lot of prep. There is no way you would know the bread/milk/spice mixture was added.

Beef. The original red meat.

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