As gourmet as grilling has become, the humble hamburger is still the No. 1 food to cook over the coals. This iconic American classic is ideal cabin fare because it shines equally as a no-fuss dinner for two, or as a yummy, hearty crowd-pleaser that’s special enough for weekend guests.
Best of all, it’s quick and easy to make (even with a limited cabin pantry), leaving plenty of time for fun. Here are seven tips to a better burger:
- What’s the best meat for burgers? Skip the fancy stuff and go for good ol’ fresh-ground chuck. Its 80-to-20% meat-to-fat ratio is much juicier than leaner ground round or sirloin. Bonus: It’s less expensive, too!
- Form patties ¾- to 1-inch thick and as wide as the bun. Handle the meat as little as possible. Then, use your thumb or the back of a spoon to make a dimple in the center of the patties – this will help burgers cook evenly and prevent puffing up in the center.
- Don’t play with your food! That means no pressing on the patties with a spatula – it releases all the juices that make a good burger so delicious. And, refrain from repeated flipping, too. Instead, flip only once after the first side has browned and releases easily, otherwise burgers will stick to the grid and dry out, and no one wants a crusty burger.
- Because USDA food safety guidelines recommend cooking burgers completely to an internal temperature of 160°F, they can get dry for some people’s tastes. Try incorporating ingredients like grated onion or carrot, chopped mushrooms, cooked and drained spinach, a crumbled slice of bread soaked in milk, or some Worcestershire sauce into the meat to add moisture and flavor.
- Where’s the beef? These days, burgers are almost as likely to be made of ground chicken, turkey, lamb, bison, sausage, venison, veggies or even the fish you caught in the lake! And it’s not just the protein that can be changed up. Try pita pockets, sandwich flats, English muffins, sourdough bread, Texas toast or even sturdy lettuce leaves in place of traditional buns. As for toppings, the sky’s the limit.
- Mini burgers, called sliders, are a fun alternative and especially easy for little hands to hold. Make them about half the size of a standard burger. If you can’t find slider buns, use a cookie or biscuit cutter to trim regular buns to size. (Save the trimmings, and you can make breadcrumbs or croutons!)
- For an inside-out surprise, tuck a wedge of cheddar or a spoonful of blue cheese or feta crumbles inside the burger, rather than on top. It will get nice and creamy and you don’t have to worry about overcooking the burger while waiting for a slice of cheese to melt on top.
Grilled Bison Burger with Caramelized Onions
Bison meat is making its way to menus across the country. It has a flavor similar to beef, yet it’s leaner and more appealing to those who are health conscious. When grilling bison, you will need to cook it over lower heat and reduce the amount of time it’s on the grill to keep the meat moist and tender (due to its low fat content). Makes 6 servings.
1½ pounds ground bison 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce Black pepper Salt 1 tablespoon chopped parsley 1 tablespoon olive oil 1 sliced onion ¼ cup water 6 burger buns 6 pieces green leaf lettuce 2 sliced tomatoes
-Chef Patrick Moore
- Combine ground bison, Worcestershire sauce, ¼ teaspoon of black pepper, ½ teaspoon of salt, and parsley. Mix thoroughly and form into six, 4-ounce patties.
- Heat a sauté pan over medium heat and add olive oil.
- Add sliced onion to pan and sauté for 2–3 minutes. Add 1/8 teaspoon of black pepper and ¼ teaspoon of salt, and continue to sauté until onions begin to brown.
- Add half the water to the pan to deglaze, continue to cook for 2–3 minutes to remove water. Onions will begin to caramelize.
- Add remaining water to deglaze once more. Cook another 3–4 minutes until onions become a deep brown color. Reserve for burger.
- Season grill with vegetable spray and then heat grill to medium heat.
- Spray each burger with vegetable spray. Place burgers on grill and cook for 1–2 minutes. Turn burgers a quarter turn and cook an additional 1–2 minutes.
- Flip burgers and cook for 2 minutes. Turn burger one more quarter turn and cook another 2 minutes.
- Place buns on grill and toast for 20–30 seconds or until golden brown.
- Serve bison burgers with caramelized onions, lettuce and sliced tomatoes.
CHEERS! Spiked Shake
Indulge in a childhood favorite – but with a grown-up twist. Milkshakes can be found at popular restaurants, bars and lounges. For instance, at Sugar Factory American Brasserie – a full-service restaurant with locations in New York City and Las Vegas, where nearly every edible and liquid item is coated with sugar – one of the most popular sweet sides is the Make A Wish shake. Combining vanilla ice cream with pieces of cake, plus other sweet notes, has been a huge hit. Below is an upgrade of the recipe for adults. This sugary sweet can be paired with a comfort-food meal such as a burger with fries. Or, offer it as a unique dessert. Makes 1 serving. 1 ounce chocolate vodka 1 ounce Godiva White Chocolate Liqueur ½ ounce Licor 43 1 scoop vanilla ice cream (soft-serve, if possible) Cupcake of your choice 1 tablespoon sprinkles 3 tablespoons Torani Cupcake Syrup Whipped cream
- Combine the first four ingredients in a blender along with desired amount of crumbles from cupcake. Stop blending once the ingredients are combined, but not liquefied.
- Pour in a glass, mixing in some of the sprinkles. Garnish with a swirl of cupcake syrup before topping with a dollop of whipped cream and more sprinkles.
Go whole-hog when choosing glassware and straws to serve shakes with, doing your best to emulate an old-fashioned ice-cream parlor. Plenty of party-supply stores stock pinstriped paper straws. Don’t shortchange your guests by pulling a drinking glass out of your cupboard. Instead, spring for ice-cream sundae glasses, perfect for a spiked shake. Make sure to freeze the empty glasses a few hours before you need them, so that the ice cream doesn’t quickly melt. -Kristine Hansen