Grilling Tips for Labor Day

Taking the labor out of Labor Day

For years, I made what I thought were pretty good hamburgers. 

Huge round patties of ground beef combined with an egg, chopped onion, bell pepper and an assortment of spices. 

I liked to mix the meat and other ingredients with my bare hands, and then pound and shape the patties nice and tight before putting them over a medium hot fire and occasionally mashing them with a spatula for the excitement of a flair up.  

Wrong, wrong, wrong. 

I was making little meatloaf flavored hockey pucks. 

Fortunately, I have learned the error of my ways and since you are reading this, you too will now have the know how to produce juicy burgers that taste the way a hamburger lovingly cooked on a backyard barbeque grill ought to. 

I started at Shield’s Meat Market in the Emory Village where I bought a pound of fresh ground beef.  They offer choice ground chuck with a 90/10 fat ratio. (I also picked up the fixins for my Labor Saving Potato Salad.  See the bonus recipe printed  below.)

1 pound ground beef

2 tablespoons coarse ground sea salt

2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper

1 tomato.

1 onion

4 English muffins

4 pats of butter (room temperature)

A few squirts of fancy mustard

A few globs of good quality ketchup


Remove the beef from the fridge about an hour before you start.  This will take out some of the chill making your grill timing more accurate. 

If necessary – and you know it is - scrub the grill top with a wad of aluminum foil to scrape up any leftover gunk from your last cookout.  Wipe the cleaned grates with a paper towel moistened with cooking oil. Now, fire up the grill to its highest setting and lower the lid to capture as much heat as you can.  (If you are using a charcoal grill, allow another half hour or so to get the coals ready.) 

Slice the tomato and onion and set both aside.  Split the English muffins, and spread each half with a ½ pat of butter.  Set aside.

With very clean hands, gently break off a hunk of meat and ever so carefully, pat it into a round patty about an inch or so thick.  Be as delicate as possible.  You want the meat to just barely hold together.  When you are finished, you should have 4 hefty burgers. 

Sprinkle the top of each meat patty with ½ tablespoon of sea salt and ½ teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper. (I know this sounds like a lot of seasoning, but trust me, the salt will seal in the juices and create a flavor-packed crust.) 

Place the burgers -- seasoned side down -- over the hottest part of the grill.  Sprinkle the remaining salt and pepper on the now top side of the meat…watch the fire for flair ups.  After 3 minutes, gently turn the burgers, taking care not to let the crusty part stick to the grill.  Continue to cook the meat for at least another 3 minutes.  If you like rare burgers, take them off now.  Otherwise, move the burgers to a part of the grill away from the fire and let them continue to cook.  Figure about 2 to 3 more minutes for medium and 4 to 5 more for well done.

Loosely cover the burgers with aluminum foil and allow them to rest while you grill the onion slices and English muffins.  You’ll need about 4 minutes for the onions and 2 to 3 minutes for the muffins. 

Assemble the burgers by stacking the beef between two pieces of grilled muffin.  Add a slice of onion and fresh tomato.  Pass the fancy mustard and ketchup.

Bonus Recipe!  Labor Saving Potato Salad

Go to your nearest or dearest market and purchase at least 3 different types of potato chips.  For example, green onion, salt and vinegar, and barbeque flavored.  When you get home, locate a large decorative bowl.  Open the chips and pour into the bowl.  Gently toss and serve.  (If you are truly daring, you might even be so bold as to introduce a corn chip to this mix.)  


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