Huge day over here on the goinghomemade blog:). We have our first ever guest blogger!!! Super stoked to introduce none other than my amazing hubs, grilling extraordinaire, Eric Statler. Since the weather has been nice ( well trying to be anyway) Eric has once again resumed his role as head griller in our family. The girls and I can’t get enough of his delicious BBQ!
Ok, folks, let’s get real. You know the saying, “to make any food better, just wrap it in bacon”? Well I say wrap it in bacon and throw it on the grill. And the bacon is optional. Be it a quick grilling, or a slow barbecue, it’s the food cooked over an open flame that makes the summer months what they are. And I suppose that I define summer a bit liberally since I’ve gone through three bags of charcoal and its not even Memorial Day. It’s not even May!
To usher in the 2013 grilling season, I decided to do a scientific study of what kind of hamburger meat makes the best hamburger. Now hamburgers are, to me, the enduring symbol of outdoor grilling. Sure, there are more luxurious or succulent meals to be had from the grill, like ribs, pulled pork shoulder, or brisket, but a hamburger is to grilling what cookies are to baking. Exceedingly common, supposedly easy, and quite delicious. Alright, let’s set up the grill.
I am a huge advocate for charcoal instead of gas. I know, I know, gas is easier and quicker to set up, and I’ll grant that it makes some sense for things that take less than ten minutes to cook, but even still, the taste that charcoal imparts on the meat cannot be replicated using gas. I use both lump charcoal and briquettes, and for this recipe I used the lump charcoal. It burns a bit hotter, which will produce a nice crust for the burgers. For the grill itself, I use a very basic kettle style Weber grill. Now I’ve heard and seen many ways to light the charcoal, and I prefer using a chimney starter and paraffin fire starters. I’ve used other types of fire starters, even newspaper, but the other fire starters were messy or did not light easily, and let’s be honest, nobody has or reads newspapers anymore.
Once the coals at the top of the chimney starter are getting a white layer of ash, I dump the coals out into an even pile in the middle of the grill. We want a very hot area in the middle for the meat.
Now replace the grill grate and, using grill tongs and a paper towel, oil the grill grate with vegetable oil. This prevents meat from sticking to the grill and imparts those stark grill marks that look so good.
On to the meat! This was the real purpose of the study; to find out which type of meat tastes best. The three most common meats are ground sirloin, ground round, and ground chuck. They are obviously from different parts of the cow, and have different fat contents. Sirloin is about 10% fat, round is 15% fat, and chuck is 20%. As an aside, I realized that the key to this experiment would be keeping track of which patty was which. Therefore, I put the sirloin at 12 o’clock, the round at 4 o’clock, and the chuck at 8 o’clock. I maintained that arrangement on the grill and through serving, so rest assured my findings are accurately describing the correct type of meat.
The world’s best burger would not be complete without the bun. I got kaiser buns from the bakery section of the grocery instead of a larger package of plain buns. I have found this next step to be the missing link between a good burger and a great burger: a toasted bun. Why this is missing is because it is very difficult to do well. A bun can go from toasted to burnt in a matter of seconds, and it takes true multitasking to work the burgers, the cheese, and the buns properly. But if you’re going to do something, do it right. Toast the hamburger buns.
To me, the real trick of getting a burger at its best is not overcooking it. I cooked these burgers for three to four minutes per side over a HOT fire. By then they’re well done, but not burnt to a crisp. The last step is toppings. Cheese: necessary. Let’s be honest, the difference between a cheeseburger and a plain hamburger is night and day. I do give a lot of liberty in cheese type, however. American is great at melting and giving you that gooey layer of a burger that we all love, and cheddar has great flavor that can stand up to a beefy grilled burger. After cheese comes lettuce, and if you can find it, you need to use Boston leaf lettuce. One leaf is the perfect size and shape for a burger, or any sandwich for that matter. Now let’s talk tomatoes. One needs to choose between a tomato or ketchup. NOT BOTH. I prefer a tomato, and that’s what I used for this recipe. After that, some yellow mustard, some mayonnaise, and you’re good to go. You may notice that I omitted bacon from this burger. This was a conscious decision in order for the bacon to not interfere with the taste of the beef. I mean, come on, you’d eat the world’s worst burger if it had bacon.
Note the perfectly toasted buns. Note the melty-ness of the cheese. Note the uniformity of the lettuce and tomatoes. Ugh. Delicious.
My findings were thus: by far the least pleasing burger was ground round. There was gristle, and not a lot of beefy flavor. Sirloin had the beefiest flavor, but once it was cooked well-done, it became a bit dry due the lower fat content. And chuck, well chuck was very juicy, but it came in second to sirloin in flavor. So. Here’s the deal. If you are comfortable with a medium-well burger, go for sirloin. For those requiring a well-done burger, use chuck. If you’re wanting to be a pioneer in the hamburger grilling world, perhaps you could use a combination of sirloin and chuck as a sort of best of both worlds solution. You could even grind the meat yourself from chuck and sirloin roasts! I’m getting a bit ahead of myself, but I think we’re on the right track.