Though statistics suggest more hot dogs than hamburgers will be consumed by Americans on the Fourth of July, chances are still pretty good burgers will factor prominently in your holiday festivities this weekend.
So what’s the best way to cook a burger?
Depends on whom you ask. There are those who swear by the charcoal grill. Others, like Livingston Parish Assessor Jeff Taylor, believe nothing beats the griddle. Whether you’re a fan of grilled burgers or fried, here are a few tips to ensure your holiday hamburgers are flawless.
On the grill
There’s no question that a perfectly prepared burger over a charcoal flame is a crowd-pleaser.
But grilled burgers can be tricky, primarily because they lose some of their juiciness when the fat drips down through the open grates.
To ensure the best flavor and juiciness for grilled burgers, use hardwood lump charcoal, which heats up quicker than briquettes, burns hotter to ensure a good sear and contains no binders or fillers.
Use natural hardwood smoking chips and planks to infuse your meat with magnificent flavors. (This is particularly helpful if you’re using a gas grill.) Fruit and nut tree woods, like apple, cherry, maple, pecan, oak and hickory are traditional favorites.
Use a lean ground beef - but not too lean. The 96 percent lean beef is the best heart-healthy option but it doesn’t make the best burgers. You’ll have better success with a mix that has a slightly higher fat content.
Lightly shape your ground beef into ??inch patties, using a gentle touch and season to taste. Do not overmix. This will result in a firm, compact texture. Place patties on grid over medium ash-covered coals or over medium heat on a gas grill. On a charcoal pit, grill uncovered for 13 to 15 minutes. On a gas grill, grill covered for 13 to 14 minutes.
Flip occasionally with a spatula but do not press. Pressing causes the loss of juices and results in a dry burger.
Burgers are done when an instant-read thermometer inserted horizontally in the center reads 160 degrees.
On the griddle
The great thing about frying burgers on a griddle or in a heavy, cast-iron skillet is that they cook in their own fat. This doesn’t do your arteries any good, but it does wonders for the flavor and juiciness of the burger.
Especially if you cook them the way Taylor does, which is on a griddle seasoned first with sliced onions and green bell peppers. Here’s what he suggests:
•Slice onion and bell pepper and saut? for several minutes on a preheated griddle until they’re tender and slightly browned. Remove them from heat and set aside.
•Use a ground beef with a relatively high fat content - like the 80/20 blend.
“There’s nothing good for you about the way I do my burgers,” he said. “But everybody always loves them.”
•Heat griddle to about 350 degrees and form patties between ?-inch and ??inch thick. Season to taste with Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning.
Cook patties on heated grill for about three minutes then flip.
Total cooking time will depend, and Taylor goes by temperature to gauge readiness. A medium burger will be 150 degrees, medium-rare between 140 and 145 degrees.
Add cheese, if desired, to patties while they’re still cooking and cover with top bun. Make room on the griddle for bottom bun and place it facedown to soak up the grease and debris from the cooking patties.
Assemble burgers and top with saut?ed onions and peppers.