Make the Best Damn Burger

Labor Day approaches. The barbecue your significant other planned is coming at you faster than your brother-in-law when you say the words “Double IPA.” And you need to find a way to impress 10 more-than-buzzed visitors.

Marty’s bringing the home-rubbed chicken thighs. Kim’s covering the lamb lollipops. Ashley’s holding it down with her famous soy-grazed tofu with fried okra. But there’s just that one missing piece of the puzzle, the perfect companion to a plastic plate and a handful of Cape Cod potato chips… The burger.

How do you fulfill this need? By purchasing Trader Joe’s Thai Sweet Chili Veggie Burgers, and cooking them in a PAN like it’s a Tuesday night and you stayed at work too long to make a proper meal? Fuck no! You’re making BEEF burgers, because as long as you’re still making up excuses to skip off work early every Friday, it’s still SUMMERTIME.

First, get some beef. Ground chuck from any grocery store is fine, shoot for 80% lean, 20% fat to have the proper drip factor (read: flavor) when you’re pounding these babies a few hours from now. About four pounds for eight people works, but just figure half a pound per burger. Grab a couple of sweet onions (yellow or Vidalias will serve you well), some plain breadcrumbs, and a head of garlic, while you’re at it.

Take the beef out of the package, and this is important: don’t mess with it too much. Ground meat sticks to ground meat when you squeeze and futz with it, and the more this happens, the denser and dryer your burger will be.

Put your beef in a large mixing bowl. Next, you’ll want to take an onion (about one for every four pounds of beef) and chop it up really small. Think pinky nail-sized. Toss it in with the beef. I like to throw the chopped onion in a pan with a bit of oil and cook it before I mix it in with the beef, because the sweetness of the cooked onions pairs well with the sauces we’re about to add with the burger.

Now, you’re going to toss in a half cup of breadcrumbs, a couple of eggs, and a few tablespoons of soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce. Finally, smash two or three cloves of garlic with the side of your knife, chop them up, and add those, too.

Wet your hands, and prepare to get dirty. Gently mash the meat mixture together with your hands, and, once thoroughly mixed, start pulling out fistfuls of meat and loosely forming patties. Once you’ve got these patties down, liberally salt them. This seals the all-important juices in side.

Fire up your grill. Whether it’s propane, or you’re using a $20 Wal-Mart charcoal grill, you’re going to want to get it hot on one side. Either peg the propane at high on one side and medium-low on the other, or stack the charcoal up on one half of the pit. Once your grill thermometer is reading, oh, 450 or 500 degrees, put those raw burgers on the cooler side of the grill.

Have a meat thermometer handy. Flip them once or twice, as needed, but do not, under any circumstances, smash down your burger with your spatula. I know you’re trying to impress all of the COOL NEW BARBECUE friends you’ve made since your Labor Day barbecue with the FLAMES that sprout when you press those burgers down. And you’re right, OOOOOOO FIRE. But when you do this, you’re losing precious flavor.

Cook on the cool side of the grill until your burger reads about 120 degrees (for medium rare, about 5–10 degrees higher for medium) on your trusty meat thermometer.

Transfer them over to the HOT part of the grill, and cook for about 30 seconds to get that nice, brown crust on the outside of your burger. Flip it, and toss some cheese on top. I like a nice aged cheddar, but if you prefer American, Gouda, or even a BLEU cheese, you wouldn’t be wrong. Roast in that hot section for another 30 seconds, before transferring them to a plate.

Let them rest for about ten minutes before serving. Put them on a potato roll, and top however you like. I go for a bit of ketchup, sriracha, and some avocado slices, but I wouldn’t fault you if you wanted some bacon, bibb lettuce, mustard, relish or dill pickles, tomatoes, or red onions.

And now, hey! Look at YOU, you big burger maker, you just made the best damn burgers your guests will ever eat!