With the grilling and summer seasons now in high gear, burgers are all but a mandatory requirement for outdoor barbecuing. So what are some of the best ways to avoid patty pitfalls? Here are our top five suggestions for perfecting your next grill:
I. Begin With Raw Quality
Start out with the right type of ground beef. There are burgers made from beef trimmings and burgers made from whole muscle cuts – the significant differences being in price, taste and quality.
Burgers Made from Trim
Most burgers you see in supermarkets and fast food restaurant chains are made from beef trimmings ground up with added fat. These are the cheapest burgers you can buy because they’re made from by-products.
Typical examples of by-products include: Rose Meat – the muscle just under the animal’s skin that it shakes to swat away flies; Baader Material – the last traces of skeletal muscle meat and sinew that are scraped from animal bones with a Baade after the primal cuts have been carved off manually and Whizard Trim – extracted from the neck bones and much of the leftover trimmings and fat of a beef carcass.
These types of burger are usually marketed with some kind of lean/fat ratio like, “75/25” or “80/20” (lots of dairy cows end up as this type of ground beef after their milking days are over). Ground beef and burgers made from grinding beef trimmings and fat together are fine but lack the rich depth of flavor and consistency that burgers made from ground whole muscle cuts deliver.
Burgers Made from Whole Muscle Cuts
“Premium” or “Gourmet” burgers are made from grinding whole muscle cuts. Ground chuck is one of the most popular varieties seen on the market today. Whole beef chucks are ground without adding fat or beef trimmings which produces a rich beefy tasting burger.
Whole muscle cuts take burger art to the next level in a variety of ways. For example, at Buedel Fine Meats, we produce burgers from whole muscle cuts of USDA Prime Angus beef, USDA Choice Angus beef, a blend of both Prime and Choice Angus beef, and blends of whole muscle Brisket/Short Rib/Chuck. This unique combination brings together the buttery flavor of the brisket with the richness of the short rib and the traditional beefy flavor of the chuck producing a juicy burger that bursts with layers of decadent flavor.
II. Find Your Grind: Fine, Medium or Coarse
The “bite” of the burger or “mouth feel” are terms that professional chefs and restaurateurs use when taste testing burgers. In addition to the type of meat used, the texture of the grind is extremely important. You can choose between fine, medium and coarse ground beef for adjusting the bite of the burger.
Fine grinds give a smoother mouth feel and bite because the beef grind is smaller and most of the natural sinew or gristle is undetectable. Coarse grinds have a rougher chunkier type of bite and mouth feel because the beef grind is larger and has more natural sinew. Medium grinds, as you would expect, are right in the middle having a rougher type of bite with less of the chunkiness you get with coarse grinds.
Buedel recommends fine grinds, which are used by most of the hottest burger places; fine grinds provide a great eating experience for customers. Finer grinds are the best choice for backyard barbecuing because they tend to cook more evenly; they are also the best choice for homemade meatballs and meatloaf. Fine grinds are the most popular and versatile grind.
III. Choose Between Hand Made and Formed Patties
Burgers can be formed by hand or by a patty machine. There are benefits to both methods.Burgers formed by hand from bulk ground beef can easily be formed to any desired size. They can be loose packed or tightly packed depending upon your tastes. Hand formed burgers are great for back yard grilling because they’re easy to make and guests can pick the size they like.
Large volume burger operators, such as restaurants and caterers, use formed patties to provide uniform portions, ensure maximum cost control and save the labor of hand prepared patties. Formed patties also come in numerous sizes, shapes and thicknesses. Buedel offers Burger Balls, which are portion controlled ground beef balls that can be hand smashed to give the appearance of a hand formed burger with all the benefits of portion control.
IV. Cook to Perfection
Cooking is by far the most important part of burger art. Burgers can be baked, fried, grilled or broiled. We polled the Buedel staff for some of their tried and true burger tips and suggestions:
When grilling burgers, I make an indentation in the middle of the burger before grilling to stop the burger from puffing up, so they grill more evenly. For toppings, I like to borrow from the best seller at Scotty’s Brewhouse, bacon, peanut butter, jalapeño and cheddar burger. Sounds strange, but it is amazingly delicious! Scott Dowden (20 year meat professional)
I have found when grilling beef, (especially burgers), turning the meat only once is the most important tip. I stay away from pepper as a seasoning because pepper tends to leave a “burnt” like finish and texture to the meat. I only use kosher salt on the beef after I turn it, lightly sprinkling the salt on top of the cooked side. Peter Heflin (aka “Pete the Butcher”)
6-8 ounce whole muscle chuck makes the perfect hearty backyard burger. Season with salt, pepper and a hint of granulated garlic, or use a dry rub for a spicier flavor. Always keep burgers refrigerated until ready to grill and always cook them on high heat. Never EVER “squeeze” them down when cooking or you will lose the precious juices – that’s where much of the flavor hides! Russ Kramer (Buedel Corporate Chef)
Don’t over handle the meat. Season well, but refrain from adding onions, mushrooms or breadcrumbs into the mixture (because that makes it more like meat loaf). Make the patties uniform in size and weight and don’t salt the meat until they are on the grill. James Melnychuk (Chef Sales Rep)
For maximum food safety, the USDA recommends cooking to 160 degrees for all ground meat. Use a meat thermometer and probe the center of the burger for a temperature reading. If you are making cheeseburgers, put the cheese on at the very end of cooking and close the lid just long enough to melt the cheese. Remove the burgers from the grill and let them stand 3-5 minutes before serving – use that time to toast your hamburger buns on the grill. Tim Vlcek (Principal & Executive V.P. of Production & Food Safety)
V. Explore Creative Toppings
According to Burger Trends, consumers still favorite traditional burger toppers such as, tomato, onions, lettuce and pickles, but “interest in non-traditional flavors are growing”.
This year, crunchy, smoky and spicy are big in/on burgers – that and even fried eggs. Unique flavor combinations and cuisines such as, Greek infused burgers with cucumber sauce, goat cheese and spinach, example current flavor trends. There is no limit to the varieties of seasonings and toppings being used today.
Develop the art of your burger with quality raw meats, best grinds and forms. Cook with care and serve with your own twist on unique and traditional spices, condiments and toppings. Visit our gourmet burger page for more information. Enjoy!