Watching burgers sizzle over hot coals as they become succulent, juicy masterpieces is the very essence of summer. As savory aromas fill the air, you know you’ll be completely hooked with the first mouth-watering bite.
Start with the bun—soft or firm, toasted or not. Add a skillfully shaped, juicy burger, then load up on your favorite toppings. Go with beefsteak tomatoes, caramelized onions, dill pickles, ketchup and mustard. Or maybe gooey melted cheese, crisp cool lettuce and a tangy-sweet sauce. You’re the conductor: Orchestrate a symphony of tastes. Take a bite and it all comes together in harmony. It sings. Even the juices running down your chin won’t stop you from taking another quick bite before reaching for napkins.
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If you’re striving to make meals more healthful or looking for ways to change the routine, try turkey or salmon burgers. “Salmon burgers are a delicious way to get your omega-3 fatty acids,” says Karen Hanson, Hy-Vee registered dietitian in Manhattan, Kansas. For the best texture, pulse the salmon lightly in a food processor. Eggs and bread crumbs hold the meat together. Grilling times for burgers made from ground salmon are different than beef and turkey. All need to reach an internal temperature of 160°F, but salmon is grilled for only about 8 minutes, while beef and turkey are on the grill for 14 to 18 minutes. Salmon burgers should be slightly crispy outside and slightly pink inside so they’re nicely moist and flaky.
Burgers made from mild, low-fat ground turkey can have the same flavor richness as beef when combined with robust seasonings such as Jamaican jerk and cilantro. Adding chopped fruit to the turkey mixture helps keep the burgers moist while grilling. “You can lighten up a burger by substituting two egg whites and ¼ cup water for every whole egg called for in a recipe,” says Karen.
Meatless burgers are a super way to incorporate wholesome grains into your diet. Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah), an iron-rich grain packed with fiber and other nutrients, combined with veggies, beans and potatoes, is an excellent choice (view recipe). “It contains more protein than most other plant foods and it’s one of the best high-protein meat alternatives,” says Karen.
Breads and Spreads
Nothing pairs better with succulent burgers than flavorful, hearty-textured Baking Stone Breads, baked at Hy-Vee. Fresh-baked breads, perhaps flavored with olives, cheese, chile peppers or herbs, add a pleasing dimension and hold up well to a burger’s juices. Toast buns or bread slices to bring out flavors and add a little crunch. Spread butter or brush on olive oil, then place over direct heat on the grill for about 2 minutes or until nicely browned.
Finish off your burgers with simple sauces and tasty toppings in our featured recipe section. There’s almost no limit to what you can use; each condiment creates a pleasing contrast in taste and texture to the meat and the bun. To keep calories in check, use low-fat ingredients in the condiments and cut back on the amount used.
For traditional beef burgers, start with the most flavorful ground cuts of meat. Ground chuck is perfect. So are ground round and ground sirloin. For the most succulent, juicy burgers, purchase ground beef that contains at least 20 percent fat. This “lean to fat” ratio is often represented on the beef label as 80/20 (80 percent lean; 20 percent fat). Or blend some ground pork into the ground beef mixture. The extra fat will add juiciness and a rich, meaty flavor that satisfies the taste buds.
If you are adding additional ingredients to the meat, gently mix them in until they are evenly dispersed. Blend in herbs and spices, Worcestershire sauce or other savory ingredients to create a signature burger.
To shape a standard patty, form a portion of meat into a ball—about tennis-ball size. Flatten the ball into a burger of even thickness. A few simple pats—that’s it. Overworking and applying excess pressure to the patty will make the meat tough. Make an indentation in the center of the patty with your thumb. The indentation helps it hold its shape—rather than swelling—as it shrinks during cooking.
Grill burgers over direct heat until they are no longer pink, turning once. For even doneness, use medium heat and cook for 14 to 18 minutes. (To determine if your grill is hot enough, place your hand, palm side down, 5 inches above the grate and count how many seconds you can comfortably hold it there. For medium heat of 300° to 350°F, you should count 5 to 6 seconds.)
When turning, avoid pressing burgers with your spatula; it prematurely releases their tasty juices. To be sure your burgers are perfectly done, insert an instant-read thermometer into the centers. When they are done, the thermometer should register 160°F. Let the burgers rest about 5 minutes before serving.