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June 6, 2014

BBQ MY WAY: The perfect grilled burger

As the grilling season kicks into full swing, I thought it would be a good idea to once again discuss the grilled hamburger and cheeseburger.

Why? Almost anyone who owns a grill will attempt to make grilled burgers and sadly to report, in many of those cases the end result is an oblong shaped meatball, burned on the outside and sometimes under cooked on the inside.

Also, we grilled burgers last night and they were freaking awesome, so I’m in the mood to share. So, let’s cover some basics that will definitely help you create the perfect burger.

Meat: I’m going to keep this very basic and focus only on beef, although other ground meats can be mixed with ground beef to create different flavors. If your beef is too lean, say less than 10 percent fat content, you will need to add a little oil to compensate.

The best ground beef for burgers has 15 percent to 20 percent fat. This is typically ground chuck. Any more fat than that and you will have serious patty shrinkage and a flaming inferno while grilling.

Patties: Personally, I don’t typically add ingredients to the beef. I shape the patties out of a ball of beef somewhere between the size of a tennis ball and a baseball. Once flattened to about an inch or so thick, I further flatten the middle of the patty to half an inch thick or so. Doing this prevents the dreaded meatball look when you are done grilling.

Flatten the patties on wax paper and sprinkle both sides with kosher or sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Sometimes I hit both sides with granulated garlic as well.

Grilling: I like a really hot grill for burgers, whether gas or charcoal. Make sure the grill grate is nice and clean. Place patties directly over heat source, and resist the urge to play with it, and for the love of all grilling gods, DO NOT EVER push down on the burger with your spatula.

If you are using charcoal, and it starts flaming, place the lid on the grill. With gas, you’ll have to move it to the part of the grill that doesn’t have the fire turned on. You know you are ready to turn when the juices start percolating to the top of the patty. That’s usually four to five minutes.

Flip the burger and let cook for another two to three minutes. Move the patties to an area on the grill with no heat. Place your favorite cheese on the cooked burgers. (Ever tried blue cheese? Liz’s favorite.) Place the lid on the grill for a minute or two and let cheese melt. This should result in a medium to medium well burger.

Buns: We never use regular buns anymore. Our favorite “bun” to use is the whole wheat English muffin. I came across that idea at the Bristol restaurant in Louisville. We also toast the muffins up a bit on the grill. Great texture and a bit healthier too. Or, even lighter are the whole wheat sandwich thins which we toast up as well.

Condiments: The usual and is awesome. Crisp, cool lettuce, sliced tomatoes, pickles, you get the picture. But you can get really creative as well. Grilled pineapple with barbecue sauce, fried green tomatoes, a huge portobello mushroom that’s grilled along with steak sauce ... get creative. There are also tons of competitions you can enter to present your creative version of the perfect burger. Some pay big bucks. What’s your favorite burger? Drop us an email and let us know.

— Dave Lobeck is an Edward Jones Financial Advisor in Jeffersonville by day and a BBQ enthusiast on nights and weekends. He is also a Kansas City Barbecue Society judge. Liz is his wife. You can contact Dave with your BBQ or grilling questions at or at

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