Burger school

Grill wisdom from local chef Jeramie Sabelman

Photo by Jeramie Sabelman

It was the wife’s birthday the other day, so I asked her that morning what she wanted for dinner. Burgers it was. As chef/owner of Japanese Blossoms and a former butcher who has been grilling burgers forever, I figured some people might be interested in how we do them at my house.

First, start with good beef. I use ony boneless beef chuck roast or tri-tip for burgers. (I never use preground beef that’s prepackaged and readily available.) Ask your butcher to grind it twice. Once, there will be too many big chunks of fat; three times, and the fat starts to melt when being ground and will stick to the grinder/hopper and not in your burger.

Next, flavor the beef in a bowl. Wear some gloves if you don’t like to be hands-on. Salt and pepper always, but get creative and find out what you like. I always add a little Montreal steak seasoning to mine as well as Worcestershire sauce, Beaver brand sweet hot mustard and finely diced onion. The onion will soften, sweeten slightly and also add moisture to your burger.

I use charcoal anytime I grill. I don’t own a gas grill and haven’t for quite a while, but they have their uses. If that’s what you like and use, great! Same type of cooking applies to both.

Get your grill hot! You want to sear/cauterize the outside to close off any openings where all that delicious beef fat and natural juice might escape. Treat your burger like a steak! I can’t stress this enough. You should flip it once, never squish it or cut into it. You will essentially break open that “shell” and allow all your juiciness and flavor out. If someone likes theirs completely well done and dead, put their burger on the grill 5-10 minutes before yours so they all finish together.

I cook mine over both direct and indirect heat. I first sear one side over the coals, then flip once when I see the edges just starting to cook. Then, I let it cook for a couple minutes to sear the other side before sliding it to the section of the grill with no coals.

Wait to add cheese and bun until the burgers are almost done. Exact timing depends on many factors; there is no right answer. The temperature of your grill and amount of time you sear both sides are your biggest contributors here. It’s trial-and-error until you get that down. For me, it’s six minutes.

Pop the top, add cheese and buns, cover again. Don’t burn your buns too much; I like a little bitterness that comes from char.

Also, if you haven’t already, start a garden. We are very fortunate to live where many different fruits and veggies can easily be grown for extremely cheap. I do it because it’s much healthier, tastes exponentially better than store-bought, and is all around better for the environment. (It’s also a great common ground for teaching the younger ones in your life.)

Grow mustard. It’s delicious and can be added to damn near everything you’d add lettuce or cabbage to. Fresh mustard leaves are phenomenal on a burger.

If you read through all this and thought, It’s just a burger, everyone knows how to cook a burger, great. Enjoy yours. If you’re newer to cooking or grilling or just want to hone your skills, then I hope you enjoyed this as much as I liked sharing it.