May is National Burger Month; are you ready to put your burger where your mouth is?
We’ve scoured the smartest sources to bring you the tips, tricks and top-notch theories that can help you build your best burger ever — and impress your guests with your guru-level grub.
Backyard grilling and BBQs tops our list of “fun things to do as a family.” What isn’t fun about a build-your-own burger bar, where everybody gets to design their personal best burger? Get ready to fire up the grill and impress your guests with your gourmet grill skills.
Related: 12 Tips For Safe Grilling
Buy from a Butcher
The best burgers are made with the best meat. Make sure you have a say in the meat selection by visiting a butcher, choosing your favorite cuts of beef, pork and/or lamb and asking your butcher to grind it for you (unless you have your own meat grinder, in which case, you are the burger boss). Ideally, you’re looking for 20-30% fat content for the juiciest, tastiest burgers.
The proof is in the patty, so here’s how we avoid meatloaf textures and meatball shapes for a perfect patty, every time.
Let’s start with texture. Meat changes as it’s handled: the proteins begin to break down, which can destroy the texture. So don’t manhandle the meat. You don’t need breadcrumbs or diced onions to make a great burger, but if you want more than meat in your patties, add these things while you grind. Otherwise, leave the meat be.
First, wash your hands with very cold water. It’ll help the fat stay in the meat and off your hands. Then, quickly form the patties. Don’t season until just before the meat meets the flame.
Time to get those patties in shape. To avoid meatballs on burger buns, shape your patties so they’re just a little wider than the bun, and press a simple dimple into the center of the patty. These steps help account for the slight shrinkage and natural ballooning during grilling.
Fire Up The Grill
Get it hot hot hot—the grill should be so hot that your hand can’t stand to hover a couple inches over the grate for more than 2 seconds. Then, season your patties with kosher salt and fresh cracked black peppercorns and place on the grill.
There is a lot of debate around the long-standing belief that burgers should only be flipped once. Turns out, flipping more often can actually result in more evenly cooked burgers and can cut down on grill time by a whopping one-third. If you do subscribe to the “one flip only” system, let the patties cook more than halfway through before committing to the flip.
Flavor hack: swipe your patties with Dijon while grilling—the mustard will cook off, but this will make for burgers with deliciously deeper flavor.
When the patties are done, make sure to rest them on a rack to redistribute the juices for better texture and greater flavor.
Bring on the Buns
A variety of bun choices will put your outdoor burger bar on the map. But give every bun a good toasting—on both sides—so it can hold up to the juicy meat and tasty toppings.
Top It Off
Here’s where everyone gets a chance to shine. The best part of a build-your-own burger bar is that everyone has the chance to build their best burger that reflects their personal tastes. Obviously, you’ll need to provide a wide variety of toppings, but here’s a hint for how to stack.
Start with a fat layer—cheese, mayo, a spicy aioli or all of the above—between the bottom bun and the patty. This will prevent the juicier components from soaking the bun into a soggy mess. All the other fixings can go on top of the burger, but this is a great hack for burgers that really stand up.
Munch On Your Burger
While these tips can help your burgers stack up to the best, the beauty of National Burger Month isn’t just the impressive food—it’s also the family fun. Hopefully, you’ve picked up some simple tricks that can make it easier than ever to let everybody express themselves at your backyard burger bar.
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