published Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

Side Orders: Burgers king on holiday weekend

The Signal Mountain Lions Club' grills burgers for its community barbecue.
The Signal Mountain Lions Club' grills burgers for its community barbecue.
Photo by Staff File Photo.

Millions of folks will light up their grills this Memorial Day weekend and, interestingly enough but no surprise, hamburgers will be on a majority of menus.

According to data from Freshlook Marketing Solutions, about 105 million pounds of beef are sold at grocery stores in the week leading up to Memorial Day, and more than half of those sales, around 53 million pounds, are for ground beef.

So how do you make the perfect burger? Dave Zino, executive chef for National Cattlemen's Beef Association, says first and foremost you want to choose ground beef that is 80 percent lean with a 20 percent fat content, which is most likely the highest-fat option you'll find in grocery stores these days. Why not the leanest cuts? Fat equals flavor, and it will naturally drip away into the coals while the burgers are cooking, he says.

Here some more advice from Zino:

• If you use a leaner ground beef, "add a little love to the meat with an egg white and some bread crumbs. It will keep the patty juicy and moist while ensuring that it doesn't fall apart on the grill."

• Lightly shape ground beef into 3/4-inch thick patties. Do not overmix the meat.

• Recipes' grilling times are based on beef going directly from the refrigerator to the grill. There is no need to bring ground beef to room temperature. Shape burgers in advance, cover and refrigerate until the grill is ready.

• Grilling over medium heat ensures even cooking and flavorful, juicy meat. If burgers are grilled over heat that is too high, the exterior can become overcooked or charred before the interior reaches the desired doneness.

• Use spatulas to flip your burgers, resisting the temptation to press down on them ... it only releases the juices and creates flare-ups.

• The best way to determine doneness of burgers is to use meat thermometer, inserted horizontally from the side to penetrate the center of the meat. Allow 10 to 15 seconds for the thermometer to register the internal temperature. Cook burgers to at least 160 degrees. The color of cooked ground beef is not a reliable indicator of doneness.

Now that you're ready to grill, here's a new recipe from beefitswhatsfordinner.com.

Maple-Bacon Beer Burgers

1 pound ground beef

1/4 cup beer

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

4 whole wheat hamburger buns, split

4 slices cheddar cheese

4 extra-thick slices maplewood smoked bacon, cut in half, cooked crisp

Combine ground beef, beer and Worcestershire sauce in medium bowl, mixing lightly but thoroughly. Shape into four 1/2-inch thick patties.

Place patties on grid over medium, ash-covered coals. Grill, covered, 8 to 10 minutes (over medium heat on preheated gas grill, 7 to 9 minutes) until instant-read thermometer inserted horizontally into center registers 160 degrees, turning occasionally. About 2 minutes before burgers are done, place buns, cut-side down, on grid. Grill until lightly toasted. During last minute of grilling, top each burger with cheese and bacon and serve on buns. Makes 4 burgers.

New on the market

All grillers know that, if you grill meat with a lot of fat in it, the fat drips onto the coals and can cause flare-ups, which can be hazardous. An easy fix is to spray the grill down with water, but that can be messy, too, saturating your meat and putting out the coals.

A new item, just in time for grilling season, is Flare Down, an all-natural, food-safe spray that quickly and safely neutralizes grease flare-ups. It puts the fire out without ruining the flavor of the food or soaking it with toxic chemicals and is available at Lowe's with a suggested retail price of $5.99. Pretty clever.

Contact Anne Braly at abraly@timesfreepress.com.

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