Among other things, the July 4th holiday for many conjures images of grilling. What follows is a list of five grilling tips from experts in our area. Happy Independence Day everyone!
- Be Patient – Don’t Keep Flipping
Jen Hansen makes a mean chili cheeseburger on a toasted bun at Seaside Concession adjacent to in Greenwich. Customers can order burgers from their boats (Channel 9, Seaside Snack). A patron doesn’t even need a resident beach pass to visit Hansen’s concession.
Asked for her best burger advice, Hansen speaks from 25 years of deli and concessions grilling experience. “Although I cook all day on a flat top, at home I prefer charcoal. Start with a nice hot grill. Season the meat with a touch of salt and pepper. Let the meat get a nice sear. Most importantly, be patient and resist the urge to keep flipping.”
- Clean the Grill and Season Burgers Well
Executive Chef Adam Truelove has been cooking for about 12 years, most recently at in New Canaan and in Port Chester, NY. According to Truelove, “For success at the grill, always start with a clean grilling surface. Any left over grilling bits will make your meat stick and look unappealing. Next, make sure your grill is fully pre-heated. Too hot and you’ll char the outside and leave the inside raw. Not hot enough and your meats will stick.”
He added, “When your grill temperature is perfect, put the meat on and remember to season generously with salt and pepper. Guests shouldn’t need to salt and pepper their burger. Don’t be afraid. Half the salt and pepper will fall through the grates when you put your burger on the grill.”
Also, according to Truelove, “It is important to take your grill size into consideration. If you overcrowd, it will lower the temperature of the grilling surface, again causing burgers to stick. Grill in smaller batches if necessary.”
- Add a Dimple?
The merits of adding a “dimple,” or small depression in the center of a burger patty before grilling are discussed in Cook's Illustrated:
Unlike cooking a burger in a skillet, a dimple may make sense when cooking on a hot grill, where the patty is exposed to direct heat on all sides. This causes the patty to shrink (the collagen in the meat contracts) or cinch as if by a tightening belt.
- Keep the Meat Cold Before Grilling
Here is a tip from Mike Baffa, owner of in Fairfield. Baffa offers up simple but potentially important advice to follow when preparing to grill. "Keep your ground beef as cold as possible and handle loosely, so as not to warm up the meat too much. Form into a ball and then use a plate or bowl to push down to form the hamburger patty."
- Fresh, Fresh Meat; Cook to Order; and Butter the Bun
Yolanda DeJesus, manager at the Merritt Canteen in Bridgeport, where burgers have been grilled to order since 1942, hinted at the success of her restaurant. “Cook to order. Never, ever let a burger sit,” she said, adding, “The bun is key. Butter the bun and put it on the grill so it’s away from any juice that might splatter from the meat and make it soggy.” Lastly, DeJesus said, “The meat has to be fresh, fresh, fresh.” She added, “You absolutely don’t need any seasoning.”
So, although it seems not everyone is in agreement on the need for salt and pepper, there is little else to argue about. Keep the meat fresh and cold until it’s time for grilling. Make sure the grill is clean and the right temperature and add a dimple if you like. If you can do all that and resist the urge to flip more than once, you’ll be in business. Happy grilling everyone and happy Fourth of July!