When Stacy Morris began working at Merv's 22 years ago, she knew burgers were an important item on the menu. That's evidenced by the sign out front that reads: "Best burgers in Tennessee."
When she bought the Mountain Creek Road business in 1995, she continued the tradition. Merv's prepares more than 40 pounds of ground beef each day for grilling.
What makes them so good? For starters, the meat's fresh, never frozen.
"And we roll every patty out by hand," said Ginger Wyly, who makes them on a daily basis.
The Merv's way of making burgers is good advice when the grills come out this weekend for July 4th celebrations. Burgers are the No. 1 item for cooking over the coals, according to the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.
"It's such a quick, easy, versatile beef item that's easy to make, easy to serve, and most people love them," said Laura Upton, director of retail for the Tennessee Beef Council.
Some cooks swear by certain spices, but Ms. Morris likes to keep things simple at Merv's.
"We don't add any seasonings to the meat," she said. "People don't believe it because the burgers have such a good flavor, but it's true. There's nothing added.
"And keep the patties kind of thick," she advised. "Don't press on them while you're grilling them, either, because you'll press all the juice out and lose the flavor of the beef."
The finishing touches are lettuce chopped and tomatoes sliced "just so," Ms. Morris said. It should be "totally even to make the burger perfect and beautiful."
Here are some recipes to get your juices flowing at home.
Red, White and Blue Burgers
2 pounds ground beef sirloin
1 red onion, diced
1/2-1 package dry ranch salad dressing mix
4 ounces crumbled blue cheese
Heat an outdoor grill to medium-high heat, and lightly oil the grate. Lightly mix together the ground sirloin, onion, ranch salad dressing mix and blue cheese in a bowl. Form into 6 patties. Grill the burgers for about 5 minutes per side on the prepared grill, until well done. Serve on prepared buns.
Cola gives the burgers a sweet, smoky flavor.
1 egg yolk
3 fluid ounces Coca Cola, divided
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup French salad dressing
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 pound ground beef
In a medium bowl, mix together the egg yolk, half of the Coca-Cola, bread crumbs, half of the French dressing and Parmesan cheese. Crumble in the ground beef, and mix well. Form into 4 balls and pat into 3/4 inch patties. Pour the remaining cola and dressing into a small bowl, and mix well. Grill or fry the burgers for about 3 minutes per side. Brush with the dressing and cola, then cook for another 3-4 minutes each side, basting occasionally. Serve with burger buns and cheese slices.