BY KAMRON PERRY
The perfect burger isn’t about a concoction so much as quality ingredients and proper handling. These simple details will make a huge difference in creating the best burger you’ve ever had.
Meat: High-quality meat is a must. Coarsely ground beef with 15 to 20 percent fat will give you a great texture and flavor. I use a wonderful grass fed beef from Freshfields Farm that is ground coarsely and always very fresh.
Do not overly handle the meat, as this will dramatically affect the texture. Make sure the meat is cold when forming the patties. Wetting your hands prevents sticking. Quickly and gently shape the patties to the desired size and poke a deep divot in the center. This will prevent the burgers from swelling too much in the middle during cooking. Add salt and pepper to the finished patty. Chill in the refrigerator until it’s time to grill. Smoke penetrates meat mostly before it seals from cooking. The longer the uncooked top of the patty remains cool, the more smoke can be absorbed.
Buns: Do not use mass-produced hamburger buns. Your grocery store bakery has much better and fresher buns that are usually even cheaper. I use a plain Kaiser Roll from Winn Dixie that holds up wonderfully to both the grill and the juicy burger. French hamburger buns or any kind of hearty roll will work well.
Lightly baste the inside and outside of the bun with butter or a good olive oil. Place face down on the grill for 2 to 3 minutes. This will depend on how hot the grill is, so periodically check the side facing the heat. No need to flip these; they are done when the bottom looks good.
Cheese: If you use cheese, again, quality matters. Processed singles may melt faster, but they are not going to give the same real cheese flavor. Start by taking the slices out of the refrigerator at least an hour before placing on the burger. To ensure a good melt, use metal bowl, domed lid or some other food- and heat-safe device to place over the burgers once the cheese is added so the heat is trapped around the cheese.
The Grill and The Cooking: Charcoal will give you more flavor and a nice sear. I set up the coals off to one side for the indirect and direct heat control, and I get the unit temperature to medium high. Be sure to clean and oil the grill well to prevent the delicate patties from sticking. Add a handful of wood chips directly to the coals (any wood is good) right before adding the patties.
Place the patties directly over the heat and put the lid on the grill for 3 to 5 minutes. Flip and repeat for the same amount of time. Then move the patties off the direct heat towards the middle and start checking the temperature until you reach the *ideal burger doneness for your taste. Some swear you should only flip once, but others say this truly doesn’t matter after you get the initial sear on each side. At least while learning your grill temperatures and preferences, it can be useful to flip several times.
*There is a vast range in what is considered the correct temperatures for rare, medium rare, medium, and well done. Do your research and add an extra patty as a test guide the first time you start out. Use your thermometer and get the internal temperature to at least 115°F (this is the bottom of the rare scale that I have seen) before testing.