Two hundred and thirty-eight years ago a brave group of men gathered to sign one of the world’s most significant documents, launching a chapter of history that is still being written today. This week we will honor this momentous occasion as we believe the Founding Fathers would have wanted: by taking the day off, hitting the beach, and lighting off as many fireworks as we can possibly get our hands on. But one of the main ways we’ll celebrate our country’s independence is by grilling the most American of all foods: the mighty hamburger.
Ever notice how a burger tastes better at a restaurant than it does at home? Deceptively simple, the success of the hamburger is all in the details. Here’s a few tips we’ve picked up along the way to grilling the perfect patty:
- The beef: Head straight to the butcher counter. Get 80% lean chuck; this shoulder meat has good flavor and texture when freshly ground. Skip the prepackaged hamburger meat or ground beef; there’s no telling what cuts are in there, but you can be sure it’s the excess trimmings, not the good stuff.
- The shape: Take a good handful and form a ball, then flatten until it’s about ¾” thick. Pack it too tight and your burger will be too tough; you want air pockets in there to hold the juices. The key is to make your burgers a uniform size so over time you can learn exactly how long it takes to cook your burger to perfection.
- The grill: You literally cannot make your grill hot enough. If you’re cooking with gas, turn it to high. If you’re using charcoal, invest in a chimney starter. Once your heat has been on a while, hold your hand over the grill; you should only be able to hold it there for a couple of seconds. That’s burger temperature.
- The prep: Some burgers mix in all sorts of ingredients, like onions, eggs, breadcrumbs and seasonings. Others use nothing but salt and pepper. Your burger, your call. For a simple but tasty burger, try salting just the exterior of the meat instead of mixing it in.
- The cook time: Toss the patties on the grill and let them go until you see blood droplets on the raw side, which should be about three minutes. Flip them over, and keep a careful eye; grill about two more minutes for medium rare and three for medium. Don’t press the burgers down on the grill or you’ll lose the tasty juice.
- The condiments: For a crispy bun, toast it in a little butter in a pan instead of putting it on the grill. For cheese, go American instead of Cheddar; it is Fourth of July, after all. Pickles, tomato, lettuce and onion all add crispness, but put everything in between the meat and the lettuce to keep the bread from getting soggy.
Got a tip? Side dish? Tasty beverage recommendation? Hit us up with your grill master tips and photos from the long weekend on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.