Hamburgers on the grill are foundational to every summer holiday. But too often one is like another is like another. Here’s how to make your burgers stand out from the crowd and make you the grill master in demand.
One key to grilling the best burgers is starting with the best ingredients. In the case of hamburgers, that means spending the extra and getting ground chuck with 15-20 percent fat content. The flavor is richer than regular ground beef, but the most important is the fat content. Anything more and you’ll burgers will shrink up too much as they cook. Anything less and they will become dry by the time you get them to the temp you want (or need) them to be. And since this recipe adds delicious wood smoke flavor, remember it’s the fat that grabs the smoke during the relative short cook.
We’ll be relying on the smoke for a good bit of flavor, so don’t go crazy with a lot of seasoning. However, the best burgers h the ground chuck in a bowl. Season with salt (or garlic salt) and fresh ground black pepper as you gently and briefly mix the meat.
Do not overwork the meat. Just get it mixed and then gently make patties about ¾-inch thick. Lay them out on a sheet of waxed paper or plastic wrap on a plate. Put a thumb divot in the center of each patty to prevent them from balling up. You can refrigerate, but get them out with enough time to come to room temperature before grilling.
- 1 lb. ground chuck 15-20 percent fat (makes 4 burgers)
- salt to taste (garlic salt if you like)
- fresh ground black pepper to taste
- Kelly Craig Smoke Sack or BBQ Drop, Soak & Smoke – wood of your choice
- Heat the grill. On a gas grill, bring temp to about 450F. On a charcoal grill, pour glowing coals to create high heat and low heat cooking zones.
- With meat in bowl, season lightly, but throughout, mixing only gently.
- Make patties by shaping them gently. Don’t over handle the meat.
- Select a Smoke Sack or BBQ Drop, Soak & Smoke puck (try pecan, hickory, or mesquite if you’re looking for suggestions)
- Place the sack or foil packet of wood chips onto the heat source.
- Close grill lid and allow smoke to build.
- Place burgers on grill over high heat and close lid for two minutes. Do not move or press the patties. Allow dark grill marks to develop.
- Open grill and flip burgers once.
- Close lid and cook for two more minutes over high heat area.
- Open grill and move to indirect or low heat area. Again, do not press down or over-handle the patties.
- Close lid and allow to cook for another 2-3 minutes for medium rare, 3-4 minutes for medium rare, or 5-6 minutes for well done.
- TIP: It’s best to use a remote reading meat thermometer to assess doneness. Carefully insert the probe into the center of one burger when you move it to lower heat to finish cooking. Medium rare is 125°-130° F. Medium is 135°-140° F. Medium-well is 145°-160° F. Well-done is 160° F and up.