The last time I did burgers on the grill, my wife casually exclaimed, “It’s so hard to order a burger out at a restaurant now. I have gotten so spoiled by your burgers!”.
Those were the words I have yearned to hear my whole life…my creation on the grill was better than the stuff restaurants make a living selling. For a guy, let’s face it, that is validation. The process that I so love—lighting the grill, watching the coals turn their ashy white as the blazing heat engulfs them, pouring that first icy beer into a frosted mug, forming the patties, etc.—is also worth it to those who must share the spoils of the grill, not just to me.
So I thought I would share what I proudly produce for my family and friends alike. Try these burger out for yourself, and wait with anticipation as your buddy takes his first bite, slowly closes his eyes, and slumps in his chair, as if to say, “I have now partaken of grill paradise. I can die a happy man.” When this happens (and it will happen), just shrug it off casually and tell him it’s just what you do.
Let me preface this recipe by saying that every burger purist or aficionado will tell you something different. Some will say high heat, some medium high. Some will say loose patties, some will say pack it tight. THIS IS JUST WHAT I PREFER, AND WILL DO UNTIL I GO TO THE GRAVE. With that said, here it is, the Ultimate Grilled Burger!
This recipe is for 2 burgers for adults with appetites. Adjust accordingly, based on how many people you want to show off in front of.
1 lb. Ground Sirloin or Chuck (something with at least 20% fat…trust me here)
Sesame seed buns
A good, soy-based marinade with a smoky flavor (I use Moore’s Marinade Original)
McCormick Grill Mates Spicy Montreal Steak Seasoning (any grocery has this)
1 large sweet onion (Vidalia or yellow is best)
Your favorite toppings and condiments (I’ll give you my combination at the end)
- Take the meat out of the fridge and let it rest for a few minutes, while you are preparing the grill. The colder the beef, the harder it is to form. 20 minutes or so on the counter will do you a big favor. Don’t season or marinate until just a few minutes before you put them on the grill. Since ground beef is porous and easily absorbs a marinade, pouring anything on them too early means you will take the marinade, not the meat.
- Light a grill and prepare for high heat. The hotter the better. I am, and will always be, a charcoal guy. But the burgers are great on gas grills, as well. If you are using charcoal, when the coals are all white hot, spread into a single layer on one half of the grill. Leave the other half without any coals, so you will have a refuge for your patties if the flames are too high or the grill grate catches fire.
- Prepare your onions: Cut two 1/2 in slices across the center of the onion, right where it is the fattest. Being careful to keep the slices together and not separating into onion rings, place them on a plate. Rub a little olive oil on each slice, making sure to lightly coat each side. Sprinkle on a little kosher salt and black pepper.
- Prepare your patties: Separate the beef into two equal parts. Grab one and start working it into a ball. I like to form it a bit, then just toss it back and forth from hand to hand, like a baseball. When that ball is pretty formed and no longer falling apart, begin to lightly mash it down into a patty. You don’t want it too thick, as it will thicken on the grill as it cooks. Also, hold it in one hand and put your other hand on top of it, loosely. Using the thumb of the hand holding the patty, work that thumb around the patty, closing up any cracks in the patty. Having an edge with no cracks means all those glorious juices will have no escape, and will stay IN THE BURGER!
- Season: As mentioned above, I have 2 very specific products I use every time. But feel free to experiment here. I will just warn you not to over-season. Keep it simple. Don’t try 9 bottles at once, or 6 different flavors all combined. The point of this is to have burgers that are so damn good that you don’t have to hide them behind a bunch of sauces. If you are doing it my way, pour a little of the marinade over each patty. Don’t douse it…a little will go a long way. Just enough to coat each patty on both sides. Then, liberally shake the steak seasoning onto both sides of each patty. Don’t be afraid of it, it’s actually not very spicy at all.
- Transport: Take everything on out to the grill together: the patties, the onions, and the buns. This way you won’t be doing the Grill/Kitchen 500, constantly running back and forth. You want to focus on the grill and the cold beer you are enjoying while at the grill.
- Cook ’em:
- Carefully place the patties directly over the hot coals. This is the hottest place on the grill, which is what we are going for.
- Leave them there for 1.5 to 2 minutes (that’s minutes, not hours), without touching them. The grill may flame up, but don’t touch them, whatever you do. If you try to move them before they are ready, the meat will stick to the grill and tear. The patties will let you know when they are ready to be turned, by allowing a spatula to easily lift them.
- When that happens, flip them over. If they are somewhat blackened when you flip them, jackpot. The steak seasoning, mixed with the high heat, will create a nice subtle crisp outer layer that locks in all the juices and enhances the flavor.
- So once you’ve flipped, leave the burgers over the high heat for another 1.5 to 2 minutes to get the same effect on the other side of the patty. Once it lets the spatula under it easily, move it over where it is close to the coals, but not directly over the hottest heat. It should be somewhere near the middle of a charcoal grill, or just next to the section you’ve been cooking on if you are using charcoal. Keep it close to that heat, just not directly on it.
- Your burgers have now cooked for 3 to 4 minutes total, so now we just want to leave them on long enough to cook them through without drying them out. I prefer mine medium, so I leave them on the grill for an additional 6 minutes. Another minute or so will yield medium-well. Whatever you do, don’t open them or puncture them to look. This releases all the juices and destroys all that extra work you did when you made the patties.
- After you have moved the burgers from the high heat to where they will cook for the remaining time, place the onion slices on the grill, over high heat. The onions will only cook for short time, and may require more than one flip, which is totally fine. I like mine to be at the point where they have some grill marks and have softened to where they are getting a bit flimsy. At this point, they are sweet, and compliment the burger without overpowering it. Take them off and let them sit until you’re ready to assemble your burgers for eating.
- After the final 6-7 minutes for the burgers, take them off and let them rest for 10 minutes before you eat them. This redistributes the juices through the patty and makes sure it doesn’t all run out all over your chin and fingers with your first bite.
- Open a couple of sesame seed buns and place them, open side down, on the grill for about 20 seconds or so. Grilling the bun just a bit gives it better texture, and also will keep it from getting too soggy while eating your burger.
- If you want cheese on your burger, before you add condiments and toppings, place thin slices of cheese (colby is great, so is cheddar, so is american) on the burger and put it back on the grill. Cover the grill and leave just until the cheese has melted, about a minute. Do yourself a favor and use real cheese, not pre-packaged singles.
Now that they have been cooked to perfection and have rested a bit, it’s time to pile on the toppings. I like shredded romaine lettuce (my wife prefers just a couple of full leaves of lettuce), a medium slice of tomato, the slice of grilled onion, dill pickle chips, mustard, ketchup, and a thin spread of mayo.
Try these out, and let us know what you think by adding a comment or a question! Enjoy!