To get a reputation as a grill master one has to master the basics first, such as barbecuing the hamburger.
Here are tips on how to choose the right ingredients and how to best maintain the flavor of the meat.
Chef David Eisel of Bob Evans Farms shows us how to grill a burger to perfection and gives us his mouth-watering recipe for Backyard Burgers.
The Best Ground Beef for Hamburgers
What To Buy
The perfect blend in ground beef for burgers is 80/20, which means it is 80% lean and 20% fat. Yes, you need that much fat for your burgers to be nice and juicy.
The best ground beef for hamburgers is ground chuck because it is at the 80/20. If you can find freshly ground chuck, you’re going to have amazing burgers!
The emphasis is on fresh. Ask at your butcher or grocery store if it was freshly ground the same day. Some places will grind it for you right there while you wait.
Ask for the Store Trim. These are the pieces of meat remaining after steaks, roasts, and other cuts are removed. They are usually the 80/20 blend. On the shelf it will look pink with visible marbling of white fat, wrapped in a shallow styrofoam tray with the plastic pulled tight across it, touching the meat to keep the air from aging it.
What Not To Buy
Since we have established that ground chuck and store trim is at the preferred 80/20 blend, let’s talk about the blends that you don’t want. Ground round is 85/15. Ground sirloin sounds like it’s top of the line, but it is a 90/10 blend and produces the driest patties.
Don’t buy the tubes of ground beef (called Chubs). The texture and the mixture is questionable, and it was definitely made in a factory days before you see it.
Don’t buy ground beef in the deep styrofoam trays with the plastic not touching the meat (called a Gas Flush Tray because they pump oxygen or nitrogen plus carbon dioxide in the container). This ground meat will appear red from the gases. It, too, has come from some factory far away. Ditto for the pre-formed beef patty in the same type of tray.
If the sign says it’s “ground in-store” ask about it. This could mean that it came pre-packaged in a bulk Chub from the factory and just ground in the store. Still not truly fresh.
It’s pretty obvious that frozen burgers are not fresh. They may be convenient, but not the awesome burger that you want to serve, right?
How to Store Ground Beef
It is important to keep ground beef cold. Fats cook best when they are their coldest.
Put the ground beef in the coldest part of your refrigerator. According to Science Focus, this would depend on your fridge. “Cold air sinks, so it collects at the bottom so in a refrigerator-freezer, the bottom shelves will be coldest. But in a fridge with an ice-making compartment at the top, it will be the top. Frost-free fridges circulate the air and have much more even temperature distribution. Of course, the coldest part is the back of the fridge. The biggest source of heat in a fridge is the warm air that rushes in every time you open the door.”
You should use the ground beef within 2 days or freeze it. (The point is to use the freshest beef, but life happens. Wrap it in plastic wrap or foil and put it in an airtight container or resealable bag. It can stay in the freezer for up to six months.)
Chef Eisel’s Bonus Tip:
For additional flavor add Bob Evans Original Sausage Roll to your burger mixture. The flavor-enhancing effects of the sausage will add a nice layer of flavor and creativity to your classic burger recipe.
Or . . . make patties with 25% ground pork for juicy, tasty burgers.
How to Shape Burger Patties
Be Gentle with the Beef
The more you work with the ground beef, the tougher your burger will be.
- the fats need to stay cold as long as possible to have a juicy burger – they warm when you work the meat with your hands
- if you knead the patties, the proteins cross-link creating heavy hard-to-cook burgers
- if you pack them too tightly they will be dense and not flavorful and juicy
Tenderly shape the ground beef into a ball and flatten with your thumbs in the center, creating an indentation in the top. (The indent helps the patty expand lengthwise as the meat tightens during cooking, rather than width-wise. Now you’ll end up with a nice patty shape instead of a bulging burger.)
Beef patties should be 3/4″ to 1″ thick.
Know When to Season
Now that you’ve carefully chosen the best ground chuck and tenderly coaxed it into indented patties, don’t salt them too soon or over-season so you can’t taste the meaty flavor.
Salt the beef patties just before you grill them. Salt will cause the proteins to cross-link, making your burgers dense and rubbery. You can use kosher or table salt liberally at that point.
Of course you need freshly ground pepper from peppercorns.
And just a note about the egg, bread crumbs, etc. This is a meaty, juicy burger – not a meatloaf. The purpose of a perfect burger is to excite the inner carnivore. This can’t happen when there’s too much seasoning or too much handling of the ground beef when mixing.
Now to Grill
- Preheat the grill about 15 minutes for perfect searing temperature
- While waiting, get everything you need grillside – formed burgers, seasonings, utensils & platters
- Place burgers on grill when it is 500 °F
- Once burgers are on the grill, stay with the barbecue – they need your constant attention
- If there is a flare up, move patties away from the flames
- For the juiciest burgers, don’t keep flipping; once or twice per side is best
- Use an instant-read thermometer and cook the patties until the internal temperature is at least 165°F (especially if using his Backyard Burger recipe with sausage)
- If you grill the bun, it will help keep the burger juices from making the bread soggy
Chef Eisel shares his Backyard Burger recipe made with Bob Evans Original Sausage Roll for a fun twist.
Chef Eisel’s backyard burger recipe featuring Bob Evan’s sausage in the mix!