By Melissa C. Gillespie
Labor Day means it’s time to fire up the grill. Chances are good that you’ll be grilling up some hamburgers – it’s practically mandatory on any American grill. To guide along the path to burger perfection, Chef Matt O’Neil, owner of The Blue Ox in Lynn, serves up his tips for grilling the ultimate hamburger this Labor Day weekend.
Cut of beef
The type of meat used is very important. Chef O’Neil says there’s no better option than using high-quality chuck beef. Chuck beef offers a great fat to meat ratio, something you want in order to keep your burgers juicy and delicious. You can blend cuts like sirloin or short rib into the mix to increase flavors and textures, but having a majority of the blend be chuck is important (80% of his burger is ground prime chuck). It keeps to tradition, is packed with flavor, and has the consistency to hold up to high heat on a grill, retain moisture, and keep its shape.
Ratio of fat to beef
One of the biggest mistakes people make is going too lean on their beef mixture. Without fat, burgers become dry and dense, something nobody wants to eat. For optimum flavor and consistency, Chef O’Neil recommends using ground beef that’s 80% lean and 20% fat. Remember – a portion of the fat is going to cook out while you’re grilling so you need to make sure there’s enough in there to keep the patty tender and juicy. He recommends a range of not lower than 75% lean or higher than 85% – you want to be somewhere in the middle.
Buying frozen burger patties from supermarkets and big box stores might seem convenient, but fresh is best. Whether you’re grilling for two, or groups of twenty, it’s worth putting in the effort to make your own burgers. He recommends you do your research to find a reputable and trustworthy butcher in your neighborhood that carries high quality properly aged meat, or at the very least, asking your supermarket butcher to grind your beef to order. When ordering, make your butcher aware of the cut(s) of beef that you want, their intended use, and your ideal meat to fat ratio.
Whether you’ve made your own burger patties or opt for the pre-made kind, seasoning is a must. If making the patties, season with plenty of salt and pepper as you go so the flavors are incorporated into the meat. Additionally, try adding an egg yolk or two to help bind the mixture, which also adds a richer flavor. Adding ingredients like finely chopped shallots or diced sweet onion are also a great option. Incorporating other ingredients into a burger mixture really depends on your flavor profile. Be creative, but don’t go overboard, you’ll end up masking the natural flavors.