Grill a better burger

Tasty burgers aren’t just made, they are created with love. Be the master of your grill this summer.

Story by Rhett Jerrum

It’s time to fire up the grill! Summer nights are finally here and your backyard is the place to be. Good burgers don’t just happen; there is a lot that goes into building the best burger, and this is the ultimate guide to becoming the grill master you’ve always wanted to be. With tips on the perfect chuck blend, how to safely clean your grill, must-have toppings, masterful techniques and more, you might be spending more time in the backyard than you do inside your house. Happy grilling!

From crusty to crystal

There is nothing more exciting for a grill master than a perfectly clean work station. There are two different processes for cleaning gas and charcoal grills. It is best to avoid wire brushes when cleaning your grill to avoid any wire breakage getting mixed in with your food. You would be surprised what can get the job done! These are a few to try:

1. Halve an onion on a barbecue fork. Use the cut side while the grill is still warm (be careful not burn your hands). The acidity from the onion breaks down grease for a less aggressive clean.

2. Balled up tin foil and tongs. You can even use the same foil that you used while grilling!

3. Nylon scouring pads.

4. A portable steamer. This can be used as a final step for any stubborn grease or food.

For gas grills

Between uses, be sure to clean the grill grates with any of the aforementioned tools. Afterwards, apply vegetable oil to the grill grates using a rag or folded up paper towels. This helps prevent rust and food buildup. Clean the inside of the hood with dish soap. Between seasons, a more in-depth clean is necessary. Start by heating your grill for 15 minutes on high heat. This is going to cook off any pesky food particles before you get into the nitty gritty. After 15 minutes, turn the grill and gas completely off (either on your propane tank or the gas line). Same as before, clean your grill grates with our suggested tools. This is going to produce a lot of steam, so be sure to not lean over the top of your grill during this process. For extremely greasy grills, add a few drops of dish soap to the water for a soapy mixture. Once your grill has cooled off, wipe the grate with a dampened cloth to remove any residue. Next you’re going to remove the burners and clean any blockages in the burner ports using a rag or toothbrush and avoid pushing any debris further into the port. Rinse the burner with water and run a hose through the inside of the valve. Take your soapy mixture and clean the inside of the grill while it’s empty, rinse it down with water, towel dry, and reinstall your burners. It is always recommended to protect your grill with a grill cover.

For charcoal grills

Charcoal gathers at the bottom of your grill after each use. As with a gas grill, clean your grill grates and then apply vegetable oil with a rag or paper towel. Once it has cooled off, remove the charcoal grate and brush out the ash that has gathered at the bottom. Clean with your soapy mixture, towel dry and put the charcoal grate back in place. Close the grill and clean the hood with either soap and water or grill cleaner. Between seasons, clean as you would between uses. Clean the outside of the lid and bowl with your soapy water mixture. And, as always, protect with a grill cover.

Local (burger) blend

What’s the secret to creating the crowd-pleaser burger? The right meat. To make the juiciest and most flavorful burger, choose ground beef that is 70 percent lean and 30 percent fat and made from chuck steak. For a healthier option, 80 percent lean and 20 percent fat is suggested. Bison is the healthiest alternative to beef and makes a delicious burger.

Fixer upper

The secret is in the sauce and the seasonings. Try mixing your meat with steak sauce, salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder and minced onion. For a burger with a kick, add cayenne or paprika. When mixing, be sure to avoid kneading the meat. When it’s time to dress your burger up, go with lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle to keep it classy. If you want a black-tie burger, add avocado or a fried egg for a flavor explosion and make your own signature sauce. Pair your classic burger with a sesame seed bun, your black-tie burger with a brioche bun and your lean bison burger with a lettuce wrap.

Medium rare: Cook patty on one side for three minutes, flip it and cook for another four minutes.

Medium: Cook patty on one side for three minutes, flip it and cook for another five minutes.

Medium well: Cook patty on one side for three minutes, flip it and cook for another six minutes.

Well done: Cook patty on one side for three minutes, flip it and cook for another seven minutes.

Let’s talk form

Before you start forming your patties, heat your grill to avoid any down time. Temperature is key; for a gas grill, put it on high heat. If using a charcoal grill, heat coals until they are glowing bright orange and ash over. Next you’re going to flatten each burger into a 3/4-inch patty. Make sure to add a dimple to the center of the meat using three fingers or your thumb. This will help cook your meat evenly and avoid bulging. Now your patties are ready for the grill. Brush each patty with melted butter or extra virgin olive oil and follow the guide below for the perfectly cooked burger, according to your preference and the temperature suggested above.

Get cheesy

To make it a cheeseburger, simply add your favorite cheese slice when you have one minute left on the grill for the perfect melty goodness. There is no right or wrong here, just don’t skimp on the cheese!

Pro tip: To add flavor to meat with less fat, add onion, steak sauce and herbs. It will make your burger moist and full of flavor.

LOCAL Life Test Kitchen – Classic burger sauce

If you’re a fan of that special sauce Mickey D’s slathers on its Big Macs, you’re sure to love this easy-to-make dressing.


1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup ketchup

2 teaspoons sweet pickle relish

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

2 teaspoons white vinegar

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions Whisk all ingredients together. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to a week.

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