Sizzling burgers on the grill. It’s the sound many of us will hear this holiday weekend.
Memorial Day is the second most popular time of the year to grill, and it marks the unofficial start of the grilling season.
Burgers are the most popular food to grill, according to the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association’s website www.hpba.org.
Here’s the thing about burgers: They are typically easy, mostly affordable, and most folks enjoy them. What makes burgers great, in my mind, is that they are the sum of all their parts: the beef, the condiments and the toppings. All should complement one another in between the equally important and carefully selected bun.
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Most sources say a burger needs fat. The recommended mix is 80/20; that means it’s 80 percent lean meat and 20 percent fat and is typically ground chuck. You can go a smidgen leaner with an 85/15 blend, which is typically ground round. Ground sirloin is usually labeled 90/10.
One of the burger trends at restaurants in recent years is using a mix of grinds from beef brisket to short rib along with the chuck, round or sirloin. That’s fine if you can grind your own, because those beef blends make awesome burgers. But not many of us have that option.
To ensure great burgers, follow these steps.
▪ Once you choose the meat, season it just before shaping and grilling. Handle the meat as little as possible when mixing and shaping. Use about 6 ounces (weigh it) of meat and shape into patties that are at least 3/4 inch thick and 3 1/2 inches in diameter.
▪ To avoid burgers that puff up like tennis balls, use your thumb to make an indentation in the center. Never forget to do this. Your guests will be impressed.
▪ Use a two-step method to grill the burgers” Sear first, then cook on low. I have a side searing burner on my grill with one setting: flaming hot. I give the burgers a good sear first so they form a crust on both sides. Then I move the burgers to the grill set on low heat. Doing them this way means they slowly cook and all the juices will stay inside.
▪ While many cook or order burgers rare or medium-rare, the United States Department of Agriculture says ground beef burgers need to reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees before consumption.
BURGERS WITH GRILLED SHIITAKE MUSHROOMS AND SWISS CHEESE
Makes: 4 burgers
Preparation time: 30 minutes / Total time: 1 hour
24 ounces ground chuck (80/20 blend) or favorite ground beef
3 tablespoons tamari or reduced-sodium soy sauce
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Kosher salt to taste
8 ounces medium-large shiitake mushrooms, wiped clean, stems removed
2 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons buttermilk, optional
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon minced chives or green onions
2-3 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon sugar
4 slices Swiss or favorite cheese
4 large favorite hamburger buns, grilled or toasted if desired
Preheat the grill for indirect heat.
Place the meat in a large bowl and gently mix in the tamari. Loosely shape into 6-ounce, 3/4-inch patties. Using your thumb, make a depression in the center of the patty. Place on a lightly oiled platter and brush the top (the dimpled side) with a small amount of oil. Sprinkle the patties with salt and pepper.
Place the mushrooms on a separate plate, drizzle with some oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Grill the burgers first over high heat, dimple side up, about 2-3 minutes to get a nice crust. Turn over and cook another 2 minutes. Move the burgers to a cooler part of the grill away from direct heat. Continue cooking until desired degree of doneness – about 8 to 10 minutes for medium-rare, depending on the size of the burger. Add cheese the last 2 minutes so it melts.
While the burgers cook, place the shiitake mushrooms over direct heat and grill on both sides until tender. Remove from the grill and set aside the eight largest mushrooms to serve on top of the burgers. Slice the remaining grilled shiitakes and place in a bowl. Stir in the sour cream, mayonnaise, buttermilk if using, cider vinegar, chives, Dijon and sugar.
Place a dollop of the mushroom topping on the bottom bun. Top with some arugula and then a burger. Add two whole mushrooms. Spread toasted side of the top bun with mushroom topping and place on burger. Serve.
Adapted from “Master of the Grill” by the editors of America’s Test Kitchen (America’s Test Kitchen, $29.95).