An expat’s guide to burgers

To me, nothing says summer like the smell of freshly cut grass and the enticing smell of a BBQ. As the sunshine is luring everyone outside after a long, harsh winter, eating al fresco is a welcoming treat. Why not celebrate summer with a burger or two? I’m going to share my secrets of making a juicy burger that’ll keep you firing up the grill all summer long.

Though they masquerade under the same name, English-style burgers can be classified as under-seasoned clumps of meat, devoid of texture, many times lacking that charred goodness on the outside. This leaves something to be desired as if done well, a burger can be a flavoursome marriage of savoury beef, grilled veggies, and whatever else you fancy.

When it comes to burgers, you don’t want to opt for super lean meat as this can lead to a dry burger. The health conscious needn’t fret, grilling is a healthy option as it allows the fat to drip down without sacrificing that lovely flavour! I’d recommend purchasing mince with 20% fat. Try not to go lower than that, but don’t go too far in the opposite direction either. Mince with more fat will shrink drastically, leaving you with a bite-sized rather than full-sized burger.

As the coals are reaching the optimum white hot temperature you should prepare your patties, prepping your lettuce, tomato, buns, and put your mince in a large mixing bowl to be seasoned.

Steak seasonings in your spice rack are a great option if want to experiment. Of course, don’t forget the classic freshly ground black pepper and salt combo. If you like a savoury burger like I do, a few drops of worcestershire sauce or a tiny dollop of Marmite works wonders.

If you mix chopped onion, mushroom or garlic in your patty it’s best to go small. Large pieces of veg or mushrooms can change the consistency of your patty, making it too crumbly. Crumbly patties will not hold their shape and will most likely end up amongst the coals.

The beauty of burgers is that you can experiment and see what works for you. If you’re unsure of how much is enough one trick I like to use it to actually smell the mince. If you can smell the seasonings, then you’ve put enough in.

For each patty, I’d recommend 1/4lb of mince for a thinner burger or a half pound if you think you can handle it.

Once you have sufficiently mixed your seasonings with the mince, form a ball in your palm, then slowly press it between your flat palms, until it is at least an inch thick. Remember, you want a patty not a meatball that won’t cook evenly. Also, take into consideration that the burger will shrink so make the patty just a bit bigger than the diameter of the bun if possible. Once your patties are formed a little extra seasoning like cracked pepper and salt on the outside ensures a nice little crust.

My favourite topping suggestions:

  • Grilled onion, mushrooms, red, orange, and yellow peppers
  • Cheddar, goats, or gouda cheese
  • Sliced tomato, romaine lettuce, and sliced avocado

When your grill is sufficiently hot, you’re ready to start! If you have other things on the menu, it’s wise to start cooking something fatty such as sausages or burgers as the fat that drips out of them will ensure that the grill keeps on sizzling. If you wish to grill onions or peppers you should put them on the grill when the burgers go on so they’ll be ready when you serve.

The next step is crucial: once your burgers are cooking resist the urge to smash them down. Correction, resist the urge to smash anything down on the grill, be they pork chops, chicken breasts or anything else. You will only succeed in losing those precious juices, ultimately ending up with a dry, chewy disaster. That won’t be fun for anyone.

Timing is everything with burgers. If you try to flip the burger too early it means that your burger will stick to the grill. Two or three minutes on each side should be sufficient. Allow just a couple of minutes extra if you want your burger well-done. Once you’ve flipped, don’t flip the burger over again. This would be a great time to put your cheese on.

Don’t think you’re limited to the outdoors, you can use these tips in the kitchen when the weather isn’t right for grilling out!

Go on, fire up the grill and burger off!

Christina is a freelance copywriter with experience in social media who received a B.A. in English at the University of Louisville in 2009 and settled in the United Kingdom in 2010.

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