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Old 02-10-2014, 05:07 PM   #1
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Trouble Grilling Burgers (long post)

Hello fellow grillers and outdoor cooks. Today I am at my wits end. It’s been a tremendously long journey and I’m not sure I’ll ever reach my destination. Where am I going? See, I have been on this path of trying to do something so simple, yet nearly impossible. I cannot seem to grille a great burger. I can find truly great burgers everywhere I go but I can never recreate one on my own grill. I’m looking for that wonderful char grilled burger that just burst with flavor, like a juicy prime steak. My favorite burger joints have this flavor but I have no idea how they do it. I’ve been trying to do this for years and the best I can come up with is just “okay”. I’ve never made a bad burger but I’ve never made a great one. I’ve tried every trick in the book and still, I fail. My burgers just don’t have that wonderful backyard grilled flavor. I’ve spent big dollars at boutique butchers for prime meat (chuck, brisket, short rib, sirloin) but I stopped doing that because I can get the same results with Publix ground chuck for a lot less money. I bought a meat grinder to see if that would help but it didn’t.

So far, here’s where I’m at:
I’ve tried gas and charcoal, no difference.
Rare, to burnt to a crisp
Slow cooked 45 minutes to on and off a blazing hot grill in 4 minutes
Lid up, lid down
Fresh ground chuck, brisket, sirloin, short rib
I don’t smash the burgers on the grill
I don’t overwork the meat
I only flip once

Here’s what gets me so perturbed; I go over to a friend’s house for burger night and he’s throwing plain Publix ground chuck onto a cheap, $119 charbroil grille and the results were mind boggling. I had to find out what his secret was. What secret? He does absolutely nothing to the grille or the meat. Basically, it’s ground chuck on a grill, nothing else. What on earth is he doing so right that I’ve never been able to accomplish?

I’ve had a revelation lately about salt. Salt is key. I can greatly improve the grilled flavor using salt. Again, they’re good, just not great. I can tell that without salt, they’d be very bland. I’ve also discovered that the best burgers I’ve had have a very dark brown charred crust, which I think is the secret. I cannot get a good crust on my burgers. I’ve been told that burgers should be grilled with the lid up. This makes sense because lid down just cooks way too fast and leaves the exterior black and the center undercooked. If I turn the heat down, the center always get done before there’s a good char. I cannot seem to find a good middle ground. I like my burgers medium/well.

The other day, I decided to leave the lid up and just let the grill do its magic and slowly char the underside of the burger. I preheated the grill to melting hot, opened the lid and tossed on a couple of fresh ground chuck patties. Lots of smoke, lots of sizzle. 20 seconds later it just died. I checked the burgers after 10 minutes and they were basically raw wet meat on a cold sidewalk, nothing was happening. I decided that patients is a virtue and waited for the grill to char the burgers. Another ten minutes, nothing. I’m not going to give up. I let them sit there another 20 minutes. These things are still raw but I was getting impatient. I flipped them. Nothing. No sizzle. No smoke. No cooking. They we barely tan on the bottom. Before you ask, yes, all three burners are on high. My grill clearly does not cook with the lid up. I placed my hand a couple of millimeters above the grate and held it there for 7 seconds. Upset, I pulled the burgers off the grill and closed the lid. When the grill was hot again, I opened the lid and tossed the burgers back on and closed the lid. All three burners were still on high. 2 minutes on one side, 2 minutes on the other. A little burnt on the char and a little overdone in the middle but they were probably some of the best burgers I’ve done, although, nothing award winning.

I’ve checked my grill, a Weber S-310, and everything is working properly. Beautiful, full blue flame from all burners.
Sorry for the long winded post but this is important to me. What am I missing?
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Old 02-10-2014, 06:33 PM   #2
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Brevity . Seriously you might check out Ballistic BBQ - YouTube he does load of burgers and you might pick up some tips and zero in on the taste you are looking for. Good luck and welcome to The Forum.
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Old 02-10-2014, 07:12 PM   #3
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Had the same problem years ago.
All the info you need can be found here. Lots of great cooks on this channel (so to speak).
So, let's start with your chosen cooking apparatus and pick our way starting there.
Gas and charcoal. I see the name of your gasser. What charcoal grill did you experiment on?
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Old 02-10-2014, 07:14 PM   #4
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What's the fat content of your burgers? Really lean = really tasteless.

Fat is where it's at!
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Old 02-10-2014, 08:56 PM   #5
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Thanks for the replies. mostly, my biggest concern is the fact that some people can throw hamburger meat on a grille without even thinking about it and off comes this magnificent creation that has eluded me for as long as I can remember. I'm a classic American cheeseburger kind of guy. Backyard grilled with cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions and pickles. I always use 80/20 ground chuck but I've experimented with different grinds to no avail. My charcoal grilling has been on a Weber Kettle, although, that was years ago. My latest charcoal attempt was a few months ago at a public park, and dare I say, on a public grill. I followed all the rules, though, and could not duplicate the holy grail. It has become a quest for me, never to be conquered. It's sad, really, because I consider myself a burger connoisseur of the highest order. I have rules that I would never break under any circumstances. For example, I consider it a crime to put shredded lettuce on a burger.
Some of you may have seen my quest on other forums, maybe not. I'm so focused on this I'm becoming obsessed. It's so simple, yet I can't do it. Apparently, it's more difficult than I ever imagined.
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Old 02-11-2014, 06:05 AM   #6
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Depends on what you consider a "Perfect" burger....

Get a good meat thermometer and cook until you reach the temperature you find the "Perfect" burger to be cooked.

If you are hand packing your own burgers make sure they are the same thickness every time, that way you will get used to a time that the burgers were cooked to achieve your goals.

very rare 115-120F
rare 120-130F
Med Rare 130-135F
med 135-150F
med well 150-165F
well 165F+
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Old 02-11-2014, 06:55 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bosko View Post
Depends on what you consider a "Perfect" burger....

Get a good meat thermometer and cook until you reach the temperature you find the "Perfect" burger to be cooked.

If you are hand packing your own burgers make sure they are the same thickness every time, that way you will get used to a time that the burgers were cooked to achieve your goals.

very rare 115-120F
rare 120-130F
Med Rare 130-135F
med 135-150F
med well 150-165F
well 165F+
Thank you. That will be my next step. The problem is, my grill has no heat at the grate with the lid open. With the maillard reaction occurring at temps above 300 degrees, I'm guessing the temperature on my grill at full blast with the lid open is probably less that 250 degrees at the grate. It just will not cook with the lid open, period. So, I'm left with grilling burgers with the lid down. The grill easily shoots past 800 degrees with the lid down. When I cook burgers with the lid down, they get charred too fast around the edges and remain undercooked in the middle. When I turn the heat down the burgers get done before a good crust can appear, creating a serious lack of flavor. The last burgers I did, as mentioned in my first post had a nice dark brown char on them but they were also burnt around the edges. The flavor was good with a good backyard grilled flavor but they were over cooked and you could taste the burnt meat.
My next attempt will include setting the grill on high and lifting the lid every 30 seconds to stabilize the heat. This just seems all too ridiculous, though. Nobody I know does this to get a good burger. Nobody I know grinds their own meat. Nobody I know obsesses over getting it perfect. Nobody I know goes out on the internet and does hours upon hours of research to try and make a great burger. Nobody I know sits at a keyboard on internet forums looking for advice because they just can't get it right. Nobody I know frets over it day after day wondering how the next ones will turn out. Nobody I know goes over it in their head wondering what they're doing wrong because everybody else is able to do it without even thinking about it. They just do it, and their results are fantastic.
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Old 02-11-2014, 07:24 AM   #8
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try to cook in reverse, cook until medium rare at medium heat and then blast them on hi at the end to get crust

Or try this method
http://www.bbq-4-u.com/forum/f15/siz...ers-23091.html
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Old 02-11-2014, 08:51 AM   #9
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Quote:
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try to cook in reverse, cook until medium rare at medium heat and then blast them on hi at the end to get crust
Ah, the reverse sear. I will try that. Although, I don't think anybody I know does this. does anybody else have a gas grille that refuses to cook with the lid up?
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Old 02-11-2014, 09:02 AM   #10
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or get one of these

BARBECUE GRILL ACCESSORIES TOOLS LID OPEN PROP LIFTER HOLDER SUPPORT POSITIONER ADJUSTER PARTS | GAS GRILL WEBER Home Depot BBQ
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Old 02-11-2014, 01:31 PM   #11
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Ah, the reverse sear. I will try that. Although, I don't think anybody I know does this. does anybody else have a gas grille that refuses to cook with the lid up?
What is a gas grille?
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Old 02-11-2014, 02:46 PM   #12
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What is a gas grille?
It's either the front part of a gasoline powered truck, or one of them outdoor stoves. That's a guess, I really don't know.
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Old 02-11-2014, 02:54 PM   #13
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It's either the front part of a gasoline powered truck, or one of them outdoor stoves. That's a guess, I really don't know.
This is a Grille

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Old 02-11-2014, 03:00 PM   #14
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Seriously though, meowcat, it sounds like you have a POS cooker. Did I read right that the thing is 200 with the lid up, and 800 with it down? I don't get that. Maybe you are trolling and having a laugh at my expense. If not, get a weber kettle grill.
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Old 02-11-2014, 03:02 PM   #15
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This is a Grille

Daaaaaang!!!!
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Old 02-11-2014, 04:58 PM   #16
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What is a gas grille?
Doh!! My flub, sorry.
Quote:
Originally Posted by boozer View Post
Seriously though, meowcat, it sounds like you have a POS cooker. Did I read right that the thing is 200 with the lid up, and 800 with it down? I don't get that. Maybe you are trolling and having a laugh at my expense. If not, get a weber kettle grill.
I certainly hope I don't come off as a troll.
I'm guessing at the temp. with the lid up but since the maillard reaction occurs at 300 degrees or higher it's a safe bet that the temp. at the grate is not reaching 300 degrees. After 40 minutes on the grill with the lid up my 3/4" burger was not cooking at all. Ambient air temp was 82 degrees. I suppose I could have left it there for an hour or two but why? I don't know that anything is wrong with my grill. I assume everything is working normally. I bought it brand new and it's not that old. I would not hesitate to call it Fully seasoned.
My last grill I had for ten years but I couldn't get great burgers off of it, either.
I'm just trying to reach out to a community of outdoor cooks for some simple advice. I'm 50 and I've struggled with this for years. The reason I struggle is because I have such a passion for a truly awesome burger. What makes me struggle even more is the fact that it seems so simple that other people are doing it with absolute ease. When I asked my friend what he did to make his burgers so incredibly tasty, he didn't know what to say. I felt silly because he had no secret. Maybe he just got lucky that one time and just happened to have everything fall into place with perfect timing, I don't know.
In my quest I've been given dozens and dozens of ideas on processes, techniques, spices, add ins, smoke chips, flipping, temperatures, etc, None of which I've experienced any of my favorite burger joints doing. Listen , I just want to know how they do it with such simplicity and without any forethought whatsoever. Does anybody here have to work so darn hard to get just an okay burger?
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Old 02-11-2014, 09:03 PM   #17
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I haven't seen this method used by backyard grillers, but a common trick when serving large groups is to cook the burgers most of the way and then keep them warm in a container of coffee or au jus sauce. When someone orders a burger, you can throw it on the direct heat to finish it off and melt the cheese for your cheeseburger. You may be experiencing this if you go to a burger joint or order from a food booth. Good luck to you.
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Old 02-11-2014, 10:20 PM   #18
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Wtf is a mallard reaction? If we're talking duck burgers, then I am definitely interested in that. As far as regular beef burgers, I don't understand why anyone would have trouble grillin those. My 10 year old nephew often mans the grill at family bbqs. Jeez you put the burger on the grill for a few minutes, flip it, and a few minutes later you put cheese on it, and then you put it on a bun. Maybe with some condiments. This isn't theoretical physics, it's a damn cheeseburger! It would literally take a concentrated effort to f#$* it up.
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Old 02-12-2014, 01:01 AM   #19
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get a weber kettle grill.
Exactly.

If there is ONE thing that everyone on this forum agrees on, it's the fact that Weber makes EXCELLENT grills.
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Old 02-12-2014, 02:24 AM   #20
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Quote:
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Wtf is a mallard reaction? If we're talking duck burgers, then I am definitely interested in that. As far as regular beef burgers, I don't understand why anyone would have trouble grillin those. My 10 year old nephew often mans the grill at family bbqs. Jeez you put the burger on the grill for a few minutes, flip it, and a few minutes later you put cheese on it, and then you put it on a bun. Maybe with some condiments. This isn't theoretical physics, it's a damn cheeseburger! It would literally take a concentrated effort to f#$* it up.
The Maillard reaction is the when the meat turns brown and tasty. OP, as far as gas grills and the lid up or down, I have heard it explained this way, "Cooking on a gas grill with the lid up is like cooking with the oven door open." As for meat, 80% lean chuck gives very good flavor. Be sure it is chuck not just 80% lean. And if you ever go to a Red Robin restaurant and a bottle of their seasonings "accidentally" falls into your pocket, put that on after you flip the burger. Close the lid on your gas grill is essential!
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