Sunday, July 17, 2011

want a cool tip for grilling hamburgers?

i am not a grilling expert.  growing up, my dad was the barbecue master...the very traditional
mom-does-all-the-cooking-except-for-dad-at-the-grill kind of childhood.  then, as an adult, we lived in san francisco for 15 years, and the cold & foggy summers did not lead to many outdoor cookouts.  it wasn't until we moved to napa that i started experimenting with bbq. and by bbq, i mean grilling over coals....not using a gas grill.  i wanted "authenticity"...not ease of use.

my initial attempts were not pretty.  i struggled to get the coals lit...to get them to stay hot...and to figure out how long to cook the food.  many of the first few dinners resulted in charred outsides...and rare (ok, raw!) exteriors.  i did not have any "experts" around, so i learned by watching cooking shows, reading everything i could and experimenting, experimenting, experimenting....

the two best things i learned were #1...to use real hardwood charcoal...not the more common briquettes.  hardwood burns hotter and cleaner, lights more easily and contains no impurities or chemicals.  the brand i use is from whole foods and their hardwood comes from waste wood reclaimed from the lumber industry...so no trees were cut down for this product...reuse, repurpose, reimagine. tip #2...use a chimney starter.  a chimney starter is an amazing tool which enables you to light the charcoal without any of that horrible smelling lighter fluid.  you add newspaper to the bottom chamber, fill the top with the hardwood charcoal, light the paper and 15 minutes later...viola!  your charcoals are hot and you are ready to spread them out and begin grilling.   i love this device.

ok...experienced grillers are probably thinking "ah...duh!  nothing new here"  and they would be absolutely correct....these are truly the basics of grilling.  but, since these tips helped me...i am hoping they will also be of use for other newbies.   please feel free to share your favorite grilling ideas in the comments section of this post.  i could use the help!

now...for that hamburger tip i promised.  my hamburger patties always started out looking beautiful...carefully crafted, handled as little as possible, made from freshly ground grass fed beef....but as soon as i grilled them they puffed up...almost like a meatball!?   i knew better than to smash them down with the spatula (never do that, you lose all the juices)...so i was a bit at a loss.  then i read about the "thumbprint" tip.   what a cool trick!  after you form your patties, use your thumb to form an indention in the center of each one.  exactly as if you are making thumbprint cookies.  then grill as normal.  the indention somehow keeps air from forming in the center so no more puffy burgers.  how cool is that?

happy summer grilling everyone!

best,
diane

diane padoven
founder/president
napa farmhouse 1885™
"live a green life of style™ "

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4 comments:

Curtis said...

Great tips. Fire up the coals!

Alex said...

I love the thumb print tip. We learn something new everyday! I use lean meat, so to add flavor and moisture, I cook a little bit of diced onions and garlic in olive oil (microwave for 2 minutes: 1 minute, stop, stir, another minute, then I let it cool down and add to the meat. It comes out great.

napa farmhouse 1885 said...

thanks curtis!

napa farmhouse 1885 said...

thanks for the tip alex...the garlic/onion sounds delcious...and microwaving vs sautéing is a nice time saver!