Food blogs featuring grilling are overwhelmed with “higher” topics like Brisket, Tri Tip, Rib Eye, Lamb Lollipops and more. But I’d argue there is nothing that blends the appeal to the senses with the ease of grilling than the lowly burger. Sure – pick the right blend of fat to meat, choose the right grind… but then…ah! The beef is your palette to build your masterpiece from.
Grilled burger takes spices well! Whether you like a little citrus- maybe some lime zest. Or maybe you like to spice it up and add some Cayenne pepper flakes, or better yet; stuff that burger with Jalapeno and sharp cheddar! While we’re stuffing, how about some Crimini mushrooms and Feta or Gorgonzola cheese?
Ground beef with an 80/20 mix is the best for grilled burgers—this means a mix 80 percent lean beef and 20 percent fat. The 80/20 ground beef you would buy in the supermarket is usually ground chuck, which is great for burgers. My personal choice is 85/15, but another great one for even more savory flavor is to buy 7% lean beef and add ground pork or sausage. This reduces the amount of gristle that is ground in with your beef, so while you won’t lose flavor, you’ll have an easier “chew”.
When choosing what to add to the ground meat of your choice, the choices are limitless. Beef takes spices, rubs, sauces and more beautifully, and the ground beef with hold all the ingredients together while evenly distributing the flavor to each bite full. So add your favorites! Here are some ideas that go well together remembering that we are talking about stuffing the patties:
- Kosher or sea salt
- Fresh ground pepper
- Red pepper flakes
- Lime or lemon zest
- Diced onion (unless you want to offer it as an add-on later… no additional charge)
- Nepitella (my favorite Italian spice for red meat or pasta)
Here is are a few things to avoid when adding spices and other ingredients to your ground beef before making patties:
- Try not to include too many ingredients
- Especially avoid too much liquid (like mustard, bbq sauce, worcestershire, etc.), a little goes a long way and a wet patty will fall apart on the grill.
- If you are adding onions or diced peppers, etc. make the pieces fairly small (1/8” squares) so that there is plenty of beef to encompass them.
When choosing your stuffing ingredients, stay to one or two. I like to do one cheese and one other ingredient. Jalapeno is a favorite, and it pairs great with cheddar cheese (sharp is a great bite that offers a little more acidity against the savory beef). The other “go to” for me is mushrooms with Feta cheese or Gorgonzola (blue). For both of these, it’s best if you go with fresh ingredients and chop them to diced proportions. Small pieces and overall a total of about 1/4 cup of stuffing ingredients.
Patties made for layering, or stuffing need to be a little thinner than you’d make for a non-stuffed burger. Since you’ll be putting two patties together to form the stuffed burger. The size around ideally is large enough that it just sticks out past the size of the bun, but allows you to “crimp” the edges so that all the stuffing ingredients stay inside. Once you have two patties ready for stuffing, use a table spoon or even the bottom of a 1/4 cup measuring cup to make just a slightly indented space in the center of the patty- both top and bottom. This give a nice little pocket for your stuffing ingredients.Place your stuffing on the indentation- it’s ok to let it flow outside the indentation a bit. Then place the 2nd patty on top and gently crimp the edges all the way around while shaping to keep the rounded patty. You can squeeze it together a bit to keep it from spreading out while you crimp.
Bring the Heat
Grill on your favorite grill. Burgers are great no matter the grill you choose. My favorite is the Traeger grill so the patties can smoke (Hickory) for an hour on low before raising the temperature to finish off. A medium rare burger is ready to go when the internal temperature reaches around 155 degrees (some say a little lower than that, but with commercial ground beef it’s safer to go a little longer).
Beef loves flame! So a Weber charcoal grill is my go-to for burgers. There is nothing like the ability to use indirect heat for most of the cooking, then bring the beef to the center for that final flame broiled caramelized finish! Note: and you can add a smoker box inside your Weber grill or gas grill if you want a wood-fired smoked flavor as well.
Let’s not forget the bun. If you want to top off those fabulous burgers you just created with a vehicle for transporting it to waiting mouths in style, don’t forget the bun. DON’T serve a cold bun with that gourmet creation! Grab your favorite bun and before you turn off the grill, coat top and bottom inside the buns with butter, sprinkle on just a hint of sea salt and lime zest. Grill them a few minutes to get the grill marks and melt the butter. Voila! Your mouth will thank you. You just leveled-up!
For those Fancy Backyard Chefs
OK. So you want to impress. I get it. Here is a secret for beef burgers that will melt away in your mouth and you’ll have uncle bill wondering how you did it… and I’m not supposed to be telling you this. So, you didn’t hear it from me.Before you start prepping your beef- get two sticks of salted butter still slightly chilled but soft enough to form in your hands. Mix the butter with one of the herbs you are using for your burger meat- I like to use lime zest, oregano and truffle zest or black truffle. Mix it in with the butter thoroughly and then form it into a log that, when cold, you can slice “pats” out of that are pre-seasoned. Wrap the formed and flavored butter log with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to harden.Once you take your beef patties off the grill- while they are still smoking hot, place them on a plate or cutting board and slice a pat of your fancy butter to place on top of each patty. Then form a foil tent over each one so that the butter and spices can melt into the meat under the tent. You’ll be able to plate and serve in 5 minutes. Get ready for the compliments. You’re welcome.
However you grill and add spices and flavor – have fun! Try different ways of doing it. One of the best things about burger is that it’s forgiving too! So experiment and enjoy your beef adventure.