I thought I knew how to make the perfect burger. Now I know better.
I still stand by most of my principles — making your own blend of ground meat, a combination of ground sirloin and ground chuck; working and mixing the meat as little as possible — but I recently discovered a far better way to cook the burgers. I discovered it while attempting to grill tiny samples of a variety of ground beefs (I was searching for just the right blend and didn't want to make lots of full-size patties).
As I pondered how I was going to grill tiny patties without them falling through the grates, I considered a cast-iron grill platter, a thick, flat sheet of cast iron. Bingo! We could grill the bite-sized burgers on the sizzle platter!
I placed the platter on the grill grate and started grilling the bites. They were all delicious. But the most exciting part was the rich, brown crust they all developed. The platter turned the gas grill into a flat grill, while the heat of the cast-iron surface deeply caramelized everything it touched. Because the lid was down and there were other foods on the grill, the burgers still got that smoky outdoor grilled flavor, but with a griddle-style crust.
It was the perfect cooking mashup of grill and griddle for my all-American cheeseburger topped with melted American cheese. Since that evening, it is the only way that I grill burgers — of any size!
The recipe below is my favorite burger these days. I traded in my aged cheddar cheese for old-fashioned American, which melts better and adds a layer of soft gooeyness on top of the crunchy caramelized crust of the burger. To me, this is the best condiment and I don't need anything else except maybe pickles, which I layer on the bottom bun so that the cheese and the top bun stick together and become one.
Of course, you can add any of your favorite condiments and toppings, but try this minimalist burger at least once. When you use the best quality beef and grill the burgers using the cast-iron sizzle platter, you hardly need anything besides the cheese and a soft potato bun to make it summer's best burger.
Elizabeth Karmel is a barbecue and Southern foods expert. She is the chef and pitmaster at online retailer CarolinaCueToGo.com and author of three books, including Taming the Flame.
GRILLED GRIDDLED CHEESEBURGER
Start to finish: 20 minutes
1 pound ground beef chuck
1 pound ground beef sirloin
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (optional)
1 teaspoon Coleman's Mustard powder (optional)
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
6 slices American cheese
6 potato burger buns
Dill pickle chips
Being careful not to overwork the meat, in a large bowl mix together the chuck and sirloin with the Worcestershire sauce, mustard powder and generous pinches each of salt and pepper. Gently shape the meat into 6 burgers, each about 3/4 inch thick. Brush each patty on all sides with olive oil. Use your thumbs to make an indent at the center of each burger.
Heat the grill to medium. Place a flat cast-iron griddle on the grates at the center of the grill.
When the grill and griddle are hot, place the burgers on the griddle and cook, covered, until the meat is no longer pink, 8 to 10 minutes, turning once halfway through grilling time.
Top each burger with American cheese about 2 minutes before you remove them from the grill. You want the cheese to be soft but not too melted.
Let the burgers rest 2 to 3 minutes and serve on a potato bun with pickle chips.