10 Ways You’ve Been Cooking Backyard Burgers All Wrong
It’s that time of year — the sun is out (most of the time), the weather is warming up, and you finally have a reason to roll the grill that has been gathering dust since last year out into your backyard or onto your fire escape (tsk tsk).
Perhaps you are a natural, making your own marinades and twirling your tongs like a pro. Maybe you can get your grill fired up on the first try, sans any lighting aids, creating a perfectly balanced landscape of both hot spots and cool upon which to grill all afternoon.
But then again, maybe not. Do you wake up in the night, fearful of grills that cannot be mastered? Do you worry about burnt burgers that are dry and tough? Do you gaze upon the grill with suspicion, wishing you knew how to master it? Well never fear! Read on for 10 solutions to common burger grilling mistakes and become the backyard chef you have always dreamed of being.
You’re Mixing the Meat Too Aggressively
Some people behave as though the ground beef destined to be hamburgers has personally affronted them, called their mother names, and pushed their kid sister in the mud for no reason. That is not the way to treat ground beef! The less you handle your burger meat the better. If you manhandle it, the proteins in the meat get all worked up, which causes your burgers to be less tender.
You’re Mixing Seasonings in Too Soon
It is important to remember that you’re making hamburgers, not meatloaf. Seeing hamburgers fully loaded with onion, herbs, or even an egg or two is more common than it ought to be. Minimalism is the name of the game. To make your burgers optimally savory, try to refrain from seasoning the meat at all — that is until right before it goes on the grill.
You’re Tempering Your Burgers
If you’re looking for a perfectly medium-rare burger, then go against your well-meaning but misguided intuition. Remember you are not cooking steaks! The best way to cook an average sized burger patty is straight from the fridge. By cooking from cold, you allow the burger the chance to develop a lovely crust while avoiding overcooking the middle. However, if you prefer overcooked burgers, then by all means temper away!
You’re Not Seasoning Liberally
Salting the burgers before they are formed into patties causes the muscle proteins to dissolve which will result in a patty that has a completely different texture — more like a sausage than a burger. But if you wisely choose not to mix salt into the burger itself, make sure you season liberally with salt and pepper just before going to the grill. Use more salt than you think you need. There’s a reason restaurant food tastes so good, and it has a lot to do with salt and how they season things before cooking. Seasonings should be liberally and evenly applied. You will achieve a more even layer by sprinkling from a height of about 6 inches.
Your Grill Is Too Hot or Too Cold
You need to grill at the correct temperature. Too hot and your burgers will burn on the outside and remain raw on the inside. Too cold and they will stick to the grill, dry out, and develop an unappetizing grey color inside and out. The best approach to grill heat is to have a hot zone (with more coals) and a cooler zone (with fewer coals) for more indirect heat. Start your burger in the hot zone to achieve a perfect crust and then move them to the cooler zone if they are developing too much color too quickly.
You’re Flipping Them Before They’re Ready
While there are now many who dismiss the notion that burgers should be flipped only once during cooking, there’s no denying that flipping too early is a big no-no. Wait until the burger is ready to be flipped, has developed a crust, and is no longer sticking to the grill.
You’re Encouraging Flare-Ups
Sure it may impress your guests to see you casually cook burgers amid bursts of flame, but it isn’t doing your burgers any good. Encouraging flames is essentially encouraging an acrid charcoal flavor, which definitely won’t impress your friends once they bite into your burgers.
You’re Pressing the Life Out of Your Patties
Like those who cause flare-ups, some people like to look flashy when grilling in their garden. Moving things constantly from one spot to another, flipping, and — most disastrously — pressing down on burgers with a spatula. What a travesty! When patties are flattened like that, any potential juiciness literally goes down the drain, forcibly removed by way of spatula interference, left to sizzle into vapor on a hot coal. So please, do not press your patties.
You’re Letting Cooked Burgers Rest Before Serving