Monday, June 20, 2016

Cloudy with a Chance of Cheeseburgers

Sunday was perfect weather for barbecuing, just enough cloud cover to cool the temperatures down a bit. We use an old barbecue - no fancy gas grill for us. We start with using a "chimney" which is often made from scrap in the basement or garage, open on both ends with small holes or vents to light off the newspaper.
Where scrapple comes from - explains the chewiness

Then stuff the bottom with newspaper, turn it over place it on the bottom grill grate and fill, Some lump charcoal will go next to the chimney the newspaper within is then lighted through a little vent made in the chimney.  If you're going to be cooking for a while (for a crowd, or a large tenderloin) consider using a mixture of lump charcoal and briquettes, the lump charcoal being placed on the grill, unlit, next to the chimney, then mixed with the briquettes when they're going strong.  Why does this work? The briquettes burn steadily for a long time and the lump charcoal burns very hot and adds flavor.

The chimney is so much better than the aroma of lighter fluid on the back of your tongue as you sip your pre-barbecue beer.

Once the charcoal catches fire, wait about 20 minutes for the flames to die down and the briquettes to be glowing hot and ashed over. Dump the briquettes onto the unlit lump charcoal and arrange them with your tongs or your HOTR Universal Pot Handle Tool ™
Put on the top grate and wait 10 minutes for the lump charcoal to catch fire before cooking (this set up should last about 45 minutes). If you're just doing a few burgers use the chimney and forget the lump charcoal.
First fry up some bacon (we had leftovers from breakfast). Amish bacon from Beef Mart in Valporaiso is pretty hard to beat, it cooks up thick with a deep red color and a wonderful smokey taste.
Be prepared for an audience as you put things together.

We'll start with the burger:

Note: Use ground chuck, not sirloin, you want a little fat in these., a mixture of 80/20 making for the juiciest burgers that won't fall apart.

Spread a pound of beef out flat in a pan.  Sprinkle with:

Several shakes of Worcestershire sauce
A teaspoon of Lipton onion soup mix or DIY Soup Mix*
Some cracked black pepper
1/4 teaspoon Penzey's roasted garlic (powdered).

Grab 5-6 ounces of meat, squeezing gently to distribute the spices and and lightly toss from hand to hand, forming a ball
Gently pat into patties that are as wide as the buns. (Yes we had two small sesame ones and a leftover homemade one) and 3/4 to one inch thick, handling the meat as little as possible.  Make sure the edges are round and put an indentation in the middle with your thumb (this keeps them from shrinking as much).
There were burgers here a minute ago - I can still smell them!

Cook over medium-high direct heat (food is directly over hot coals) 5 minutes, then flip and cook 3 minutes more for medium. A hint that it's ready to flip is that the burger will release from the grate without sticking. Whatever you do, resist the urge to flatten or squish your burgers with a spatula as they cook, you might as well pick them up and squeeze out the juice.  With the dent in them they're much less likely to puff up, but still, don't do it.

Partner usually cooks them six minutes near the coals, flipping once, then a minute and a half on indirect heat, covered.  Only flip once as as the meat cooks, the heat pushes the juices away from the heat source and you don't want to disrupt those juices any more than necessary.
There is a friendly debate on which heat and timing makes for the more juicy burger. I won the debate, not because my burger is better, but because I have red hair :-)

The last minute or so, lightly brush  your burger buns with olive oil and place on the grill to toast.

Served on sesame seed buns with white cheddar goat cheese, romaine, bacon slices and "secret sauce" (double sauce if serving more than 3-4 burgers)

No Longer Secret Sauce

1/4 cup mayo
3 Tablespoons tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon honey
3/4 teaspoon honey vinegar or sherry vinegar
1/4 tsp Sciracha (add a couple more drops to taste if you like it hotter)
1/4 teaspoon crushed garlic
salt and cracked black pepper

Blend in food processor or blender until smooth.

Serve with Sour Cream/Cheddar Macaroni Salad

1 box of macaroni (8 oz.)
1/4 cup finely diced red pepper
2 tablespoons finely diced green pepper OR celery
1 cup mayo
3/4 cup sour cream
1 Tablespoon white sugar
3 Tablespoons white vinegar
1/4 cup milk
1 and 1/4 cup finely cubed or shredded cheddar.

Cook macaroni until still firm to the bite, drain and allow to cool. Mix dressing ingredients and add to cooled pasta just before serving.

 Partner said it was the best burger all year and I have to agree.

*DIY Soup Mix  (no MSG)

3/4 cup dried onion
1/3 cup Penzey's beef soup base or bouillon powder
1/4 tsp celery seed
1 tsp parsley flakes
1 tsp turmeric,
1/4  tsp pepper. 

Store in air tight container and use 4 Tablespoons for most recipes that call for a  whole package of soup mix.  


  1. I'm drooling....

    I swear, every time you post a reciepe I gain 5 lbs!

  2. I will have to send you more bacon.

    1. Your bacon gifts are the best!!!

  3. Mmmmm!

    You'll want fat in these.
    uh, DUH!
    To me, a grilled burger made from 97/3 is a tasteless hockey puck!
    Of course, this is just my opinion.
    (Want to grill here, but lately it's been, well, toasty (123 on a friend's patio Sunday!)
    Don't need even a grill!
    I'll start when it gets below 110.


    1. You've been in my thoughts with the temperatures out there. Stay safe!

  4. You wouldn't think I'd be hungry, but it's been two hours since breakfast. And with pics & a narrative like this, who could help it? :)


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