Grilling Tips for Burgers and Steaks
By Monica Stockbridge, Frontière Natural Meats.
Keep summer grilling season going strong with our grilling tips.
There’s something about cooking food on an outdoor grill that just screams summer. For many of us, grilling is steeped in tradition. Cooking over a hot flame might stir memories of family members grilling on the patio during summer evenings or holiday weekends. The aroma of charcoal and smoke wafts its way into memories of hot summer sun, cold sodas and crickets chirping at night. And there’s just nothing like the taste of smoke and a hint of char, whether on a hand-formed burger patty, a perfectly cooked steak, or a zucchini plucked fresh from the garden.
Apart from the sentimental aspects of cooking in the open air, there are some practical aspects of grilling, too:
Reduce the heat in your house. In the heat of summer, the last thing you want to do is turn on the oven and heat up your home. Grilling outside is a great way to keep the heat in the outdoors and help keep your house at a cool temp.
Limit the smoke factor. Cooking outside also means any smoke (intentional or not) wafts into the open air and not your kitchen. This is especially handy for items like bacon or other high-fat meats that have a tendency to drip and smoke. After all, even the most seasoned chefs sometimes set off the smoke alarm.
Take advantage of the high heat potential. Outdoor grills are designed to get hot — really hot. This is perfect for quickly searing meats and can be safer and less messy than firing up the burners on your kitchen stove.
Of course, we can’t forget the fun factor! Grilling means getting outside in the fresh air and creating something delicious for friends or family. It blends effort and leisure and reminds us of the very human experience of cooking over an open flame. Grilling celebrates the seasonal bounty and flavors of summer, bringing out the best of the summer harvest, from crisp romaine to ripe peaches. Indeed, grilling outside can be a true joy.
At Frontière Natural Meats, we’re big fans of cooking on the grill. And just because it’s after Labor Day doesn’t mean we have to stop grilling. In this blog, we’ll outline some of our favorite tips for cooking meat on the grill, whether you’re hosting a late-summer barbecue or simply preparing an everyday dinner at home.
Choose your meat
Some types or cuts of meats are perfect for grilling, while some aren’t. If you’re unsure, go with your gut. If beef chuck roast and London broil make you think slow cooker or pot roast, you’re right. Thicker cuts and heavy roasts are typically better for slow and low cooking in a Crock Pot or pressure cooker.
If your mind went to burgers, brats, and steaks, you’re on to something! We tend to go for steaks that are thick enough not to burn to a crisp, and with a balanced fat-to-meat ratio to keep them from drying out too quickly. Steaks such as beef ribeye and beef tenderloin are two favorites.
Of course, we love a good grilled burger! While some argue for cooking patties a la plancha (aka on a hot cooktop), grilling burgers is a summer tradition and, when done right, results in juicy, meaty perfection. On an outdoor grill, you can even use a grill topper or a grill mat to help retain moisture and render the fat for a caramelized crust. As for meat, we recommend choosing organic ground beef and natural grass-fed ground beef for a great beef burger.
Prepare the grill
Whether you use a gas grill, a charcoal grill or an electric grill, you’ll want to make sure the grill is on a level surface and that you have plenty of space to work. Assemble your tools (tongs, grilling mitts, metal spatula, grill brush, and meat thermometer) so you have them nearby before you get started.
Start your grill accordingly and begin building the heat, whether through lighting charcoal briquettes, igniting the gas or plugging in an electric grill. As the grill heats up, scrape the cooking rack with a wire grill brush to loosen and remove any leftover particles, then oil the rack with a high-heat cooking oil such as vegetable oil, safflower oil or grapeseed oil.
Note: We like the technique of grasping a kitchen rag or a wad of paper towels with a long pair of metal grill tongs, dipping the cloth into a shallow container of oil, and then rubbing the grates up and down. Avoid using a pressurized—and highly flammable—spray can, as the fire in the grill could catch the stream of oil and ignite the entire can in your hand. Yikes!
Heat the grill for burgers and steaks
One of the most important elements of cooking on the grill is choosing direct or indirect heat. Here’s a breakdown of each:
Direct heat cooking involves turning all the burners on, or spreading the hot charcoals evenly, then placing food directly over the heat. This is a good method for items like steaks, burgers, chops and veggies, and is perfect for the quick, high-heat searing.
Indirect heat cooking involves cooking food slightly away from the heat source as opposed to directly over the flame. On a charcoal grill, push the briquettes to the edges, place a drip pan in the middle, and cook the meat over the pan. On a gas grill, you’d light only one or two burners, and place the meat over the unheated one. This method is best for larger cuts of meat, whole chickens, or fish fillets that need more time at a lower temp.
As the grill heats, keep the lid closed to capture the heat inside. Use medium heat, or about 300 degrees Fahrenheit. A quick way to test this is to hold your hand about six inches above the heat source. If you can keep your palm there for four to five seconds, it’s probably between 300-375 degrees. If you can only hold your hand there for two or three seconds, it’s considered “high heat” (375 degrees or higher).
Most recipes will indicate what level of heat to use. When cooking steaks, plan to heat the grill to high to quickly sear each side and achieve those desirable grill marks, then reduce the heat to medium to cook the meat through. For burgers, it’s usually best to cook over medium heat to help form a nice crust without avoid overcooking.
Check for doneness
Keep in mind that “doneness” is different from food safety, and can be quite subjective! When cooking any meat, using meat thermometer is the best way to ensure that your food is safe to eat.
Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the food, avoiding the bone or heat surface. The USDA recommends cooking beef steaks to 145 degrees Fahrenheit, while burgers should reach 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
Finally, when grilling burgers, resist the temptation to press down on the patty as it cooks. Burgers usually only take a few minutes over medium heat, and, according to America’s Test Kitchen, flattening them with a spatula will only force the juices out and result in a dry burger.
Overall, a perfectly grilled steak or burger can be a thing of beauty. But like anything worth doing, it takes practice to get it just right. Whether you’re a seasoned chef or just getting to know your grill, don’t be afraid to practice, experiment, and have fun with it!
Ready to grill? Check out our recipe for Blended Burgers with Frontière Natural Meats Organic Ground Beef.
About Frontière Natural Meats
Frontière Natural Meats is a family-operated business dedicated to an all-natural, hormone-free farming process. Our animals are free-range and raised under strict guidelines in accordance with USDA requirements. We hold our values to the same high standards you set for yourself when it comes to guaranteeing healthy, savory nutrition for your loved ones.
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