7 tricks to making a mind-blowing tailgate burger
One of the best parts of tailgating is settling down in the shade with a plate piled high with pasta salad, chips and your favorite burger. That can be a classic cheeseburger with all the fixings or a plain turkey burger.
So, with football season about to kick off, it’s time to boost your burger-grilling game.
Keep these seven tricks in mind when you prepare for UGA’s opener against Appalachian State.
1. The right ingredients
If you’re grilling a beef patty, buy ground chuck that’s 20 percent fat. Anything less than that, and the burger could be too dry. Anything more, and it’ll be too soft. Turkey burgers are usually healthier and leaner, but they can become dry and crumbly when they’re cooked. Ask the butcher at your meat counter to grind some dark meat, which is a little fattier, or look for the highest fat-to-meat ratio they sell. There are several types of pre-made veggie burgers you can buy, but you can also try a Portobello mushroom as a meat patty substitute.
2. The right shape
Roll the ground meat into balls and flatten them until they’re three-quarters to 1-inch thick and are slightly smaller than your buns. If you’re going for consistency, try using a jar lid that’s about the right shape and size as a press. To add filling to your burger — like for a bacon, double cheese and onion-stuffed burger — make thinner patties, top one with the filling and then cover with another patty, pinching the sides closed so there’s no spill. Beef burgers will swell when cooked, so make a thumbprint on the top of each patty to keep them from ballooning too much.
3. The right temperature
Heat your grill to at least 400 degrees and keep the patties in the fridge until it’s time to cook them. To prevent food-borne illness, the United States Department of Agriculture recommends that meats should be cooked to certain temperatures. For beef burgers, make sure patties reach 145 degrees and then let them rest for three minutes. For turkey burgers, make sure they reach 165 degrees. This is especially important if you’re cooking for kids, the elderly, pregnant women or those with a compromised immune system.
4. The right technique
Whatever it takes, make sure you don’t push down or smash juicy burgers if they start swelling in the middle. Pressing on them with a spatula will squeeze out some of the fat. Not only will that make your burger less tasty, but the juice might result in a spurt of flame when it hits the coals. So be careful. If you’ve made a thumbprint on the top of the patties, they shouldn’t balloon too much.
5. The right flip
Cook beef burgers for 4 to 6 minutes on each side and turkey burgers for 3 to 5 minutes. And remember this: You should flip a burger only once. You’ll know it’s time to turn the patty when it stops sticking to the grill. Once you’ve flipped it, add any toppings that need to be heated through, like cheese. Close the lid so the cheese melts evenly.
6. The right bun and toppings
The right bun and toppings can make or break your burger. Complement the theme of your burger by getting creative with the right bun. Try using an English muffin or Texas toast. Just make sure that the bun is slightly wider than the patty to ensure the best bun-to-burger ratio. Have all of your toppings prepped and on-hand so you can slide them on and serve everything hot. Try being creative here, too. Ketchup, mustard, lettuce and tomato are all-time classics, but try mixing it up with something like coleslaw or feta cheese.
7. The right sides
Round out your burger with delicious sides. They’re a big part of tailgating tradition, after all. Try spicing up potato salad by using a recipe that includes onions, tomatoes and green chilies. Or whip up buffalo ranch chicken pasta salad for those folks who don’t want a burger. You can also go for a tailgate take on hors d’oeuvres by preparing baked beans with brown sugar in tortilla chip cups.