How do I cook a burger? Well that sounds an easy thing to answer doesn't it? Grill it, fry it or simply turn it into a vastly reduced piece of circular blackened charcoal that once resembled meat. This skill is best done on the barbecue. As German barbeque enthusiast and writer Johan Wolfgang 'pass me the mustard' Goethe once said. 'Flames licking the meat on the barbecue doth not a good juicy burger make'. This is a broad approximation of his advice taken from Old German circa 1811. He was a Meisterburger at the time. This was clearly an honour bestowed on him due to his cooking prowess on das Barbecue.
So, as summer approaches, (stifles laugh) here is some simplistic advice on cooking burgers on a charcoal barbecue. We all know that men love to feel in charge of the barbecue and lots of people have one of those self assembly ranges that come cheap and wobbly from stores like Wilkinson.
First of all do not lose your temper and pour petrol on any reluctant ambers but slowly build the 'fire' with levels of thin dry wood or kindling and tightly wrapped newspaper plus the essential paraffin soaked white cubes of flame inducement. Add a few more larger pieces of dry wood and put the rest aside for when the flames start to rise after being set alight with long safety matches. Sage advice following from one who has suffered. Don't mess with the regular diddy size matches - go for the long 'uns - or fingers will undoubtedly get burnt. Plus, hang fire on the bbq briquettes for now. I know you are as keen as a nervous pyromaniac but be patient - big boy.
Once the wood is burning nicely carefully add a few briquettes then some more. Watch out for those rogue flames! Find something like a bit of strong cardboard to fan the flames from a safe distance away. A sense of smug Neanderthal satisfaction should come over the wafting person as things seem to be progressing much better than last summer when the shed burnt down plus the neighbour's newly creosoted panelled fence and everyone went home smoky but hungry. Yes we know the firemen enjoyed the salad but that was offered out of sobbing gratitude not communal generosity.
Right, do not cook anything until all the flames have died down which may take up to thirty minutes. Grab a cool beer at this stage. There are hundreds of them in the bath and more in the fridge. Drink responsibly.
What you should be seeing now is glowing coals with a grey-white dusting on them. Carefully place the grid on the barbecue and put on your first burger. As it starts to cook fat will drip into the coals and spark off fatty flames. There will also be wisps of grey smoke and hissing sounds. At this stage it is very exciting and appeals to the would-be Michelin starred restaurant owner in us. “Look at me! In charge of food!” we cry. If you get too much hissing check to see if the cat is attempting to nick the cooking burger from the barbecue.
Use meat tongues to turn the burgers over not your bare hands nor a soil encrusted trowel retrieved in haste from the shed. Try not to pierce or prod the cooking burgers as the meat juices will escape and the burger will end up tough and dry. Always cook burgers until any meat juices run clear with no pink areas present in the centre. If you are posh enough to have a digital thermometer the internal temperatures should be; Beef and veal : 80º C, lamb: 75-80ºC.
As properly cooked burger after properly cooked burger are easily prised from the saintéd barbecue, wolfed down and admired by all and sundry do not become over confident and start trying to cook whole chickens. Nor such you delve naively into the specialist master butcher world of hog roasts. Leave those to the professionals. Sausages are a good next step and maybe kebabs or even chops. Fish is a whole new kettle of fish. For a beginner barbecuing steak can be an expensive mistake. There is a joke in the last sentence.
Note: a few chilled beers or glasses of wine can make the overall bbq experience a good one – falling over pissed as a fart next to or on top of a hot bbq – not good unless you have a fetish for the nurses in the local hospital severe burns unit.
Away from the glamour of the outdoor barbecue I have some grilling and frying advice for those luscious burgers you are now aching to cook.
Always ensure that the burgers are cooked under a pre-heated moderate grill. If the grill appears not to be functioning but the oven space is heating up you have turned the dial the wrong way. Use tongs to turn the burgers unless you like raw and singed finger tips as part of the eating experience.
To prevent burgers from sticking always use a non-stick frying or griddle pan. The clue is in the term 'non-stick'. If using cooking oil lightly brush both sides of your burgers rather than heating the oil in the pan. This too is a healthier way of eating and boarders on the erotic. Should food porn passions ignite between you and your loved one in the kitchen whilst cooking your burgers please do turn off any hot appliances before retiring upstairs or down to the garden shed. Love making venue up to your discretion.
Enjoy your burgers!