Over the Memorial holiday weekend will sell stacks of pork steaks and brats. Yet, outselling them both will be ground beef to satify the craving for the All-American grilled hamburger.
Thanks to its cooking ease and versatility, the hamburger remains the most popular item on the backyard grill. It's venerated each year on National Hamburger Day, which was on Memorial Day this year, the offical opening of the summer grilling season.
“There’s nothing better than a good burger,” said River City Casino's Chef John Johnson. He recently created his salute to the Cardinals with the Big Red Burg for Burger Brothers.
It's a half-pound cheddar cheeseburger built on a red brioche bun and skewered with three toasted raviolis. “It’s an over the top burger - but that’s what I like about burgers. They’re fun,” Chef Johnson said.
When asked what the secret was to grilling the perfect burger, Chef Johnson said, "Don’t play with it. That can cause it to crack and dry it. I only turn my burgers four times to get the crosshatch grill marks on it.”
Another burger tip, Chef Johnson revealed, was to place a little piece of softened butter in the burger’s center to keep it from drying out. This is especially helpful if the lean to fat ratio is extremely lean.
When making burgers the lean to fat ratio is a hotly debated subject. What’s best? Most chefs recommend a 75–80 percent lean meat but the choice for home cooks depends on personal needs, which includes dietary restrictions, flavor preferences and cost.
To decide what's best, begin knowing the differences between ground beef and hamburger.
“The difference between hamburger and ground beef is that hamburger may have beef fat added to it while no additional fat may be added to ground beef to create the fat-to-lean ratio,” said David Zino, the Beef-Check-Off’s Executive Chef.
According to Zino, a piece of fat that is added beef during grinding would be called hamburger.
To determine the type of meat for your needs, read the label and check the lean-to-fat ratios. Also, don’t forget to ask for help form your in-store expert, the meat cutter.
Beef Check-Off Chef Zino recommends selecting ground beef with a bright cherry-red color and firm to the touch. Examine the packaging. It should be cold with no holes or tears. It should not hold excessive liquid. And be sure to purchase the meat before the sell-by date.
Refrigerate or freeze as soon as possible after purchase. During summer months consider keeping a cooler in the car to transfer meat to for the ride home. Car temps can rise quickly and this extra step can help keep your meats fresh and safe.
Store ground beef in the refrigerator (35-40 degrees Fahrenheit) for 1-2 days or the freezer (zero degrees Fahrenheit or colder) for 3-4 months. Freeze beef in its original transparent wrap up to two weeks.
For longer storage, wrap in heavy-duty aluminum foil or place in plastic freezer bags and remove the air. Cooked ground beef, such as leftover grilled burgers, can be stored in the refrigerator 3-4 days or in the freezer for 2-4 months.
Promoting the Beef Check-off’s Safe and Savory campaign, cook ground beef to an internal temperature of 160 degrees. Don’t go by color, which can be unreliable. To test burger doneness, insert an instant-read thermometer horizontally from the side into the center for patties.