BBQ Tip #24: Tips for a blissful barbecue

Grail Note:  Here's a pretty nice article, by Jeff Houck, in the Tampa Tribune with some simple tips to help you achieve grilling success on the 4th of July.

By JEFF HOUCK | The Tampa Tribune Published: July 01, 2012
The pressure is on. Only a few days remain until the grillers of our independent nation step up to the grate to make holiday grub. Even the most casual backyard cook wants to shine on the High Holy Day of Grilling. Toward that goal, we asked Steve Wilson and Tom Setzer of the Tampa-based online grilling and barbecue magazine GrillingCompanion.com for their advice on how to cook perfect meats (and one vegetable) on the grill. Why ask them? For starters, their site is top-ranked on Google for the phrase, "How to grill a hamburger." And they built their own Grill-It! app for smartphones and tablets to help cooks reach their maximum charcoal and propane potential. "Want to know a secret?" Wilson says. "Very few things in cooking and especially grilling are an exact science. It is all about a starting point, knowing certain ingredients and how they go together to create a nice backdrop to add more flavor."* GRILLING THE PERFECT HAMBURGER

Like many other grilling recipes, details and technique are important to achieve burger grilling deliciousness:

  • Choose the right meat. Ground chuck or ground sirloin with about 20 percent fat works best.
  • Use high heat and cook them fast. Like most thin meat products, it’s best to apply high and direct heat to your hamburger and cook it as fast as possible. Leave the lid open, crank up the heat and don’t cook them too long or they will dry out.
  • Be gentle. Most people pack the patties tight and then flatten them too much. A loosely packed patty makes for a juicy hamburger! If you pack your hamburger patties too tight, you run the risk of drying out the meat and making them tough.
  • Don’t “squish.” Don’t ever flatten or squish your burgers with a spatula while they are grilling. You might as well pick it up with your hands and squeeze out all of the juices.
  • Flip only once. To achieve a juicy burger, you only want to flip the burgers once so you don’t disrupt those juices any more than necessary.
  • Don’t skimp on buns. Why would you go through all of this trouble to learn how to make a better burger and then serve them between some bad buns? Go with French hamburger buns from the grocery store bakery.

1. Get the grill going. Light the grill and set it up for direct grilling over high heat.

2. Divide your ground beef. Separate into equal portions, based on how many patties you are going to make. You want to end up with about a tennis ball-sized portion of ground beef. Gently form each divided portion of ground beef into a tennis ball-like shape. Don’t overdue it, don’t squeeze it, just get it into shape. Once you have your ground beef balls, gently flatten each to make your patty.

3. Make a dent. Now here is a secret. You probably have experienced the “bloat” phenomenon mentioned above that makes most inexperienced grill masters try to flatten that patty during grilling. To lessen the bloat, simply use your thumb and create an indentation in the middle of the patty before you put it on the grill. It doesn’t have to be too dramatic, just a little notch.

4. Season simply. Gently rub a little kosher salt, some fresh ground black pepper and perhaps a little garlic powder into your patties.

5. Slide them onto the hottest part of the grill. The goal is to sear the outside of the hamburger to form a crust while keeping the insides nice and juicy. After about 5 or 6 minutes, you should start seeing juices starting to collect on the top of your burger. This is a sign that the meat is cooking through in the middle, which pushes the juices to the top.

6 Flip the burgers over. Grill for 1 to 2 minutes shorter than the time it took to start seeing the juices (about 3 to 4 minutes should do the trick for medium, it depends on the grill). It is imperative that you cook the meat thoroughly. The USDA recommends 160 degrees for all ground meat. Use an instant-read thermometer and check the USDA’s latest recommendations. If you are making cheeseburgers, now is the time to slap the cheese on and close the lid just long enough to melt the cheese.

Remove the burgers from the grill and let them sit for about 5 minutes while you toast a few buns on the grill.

More great grilling tips…

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