Toward the end of summer, when late afternoon light starts to get low and sultry and the arrival of fall becomes imminent, I crave burgers. Big juicy ones, eaten not in a restaurant or drive-thru but in my own back yard, in flip-flops, with friends and drinks and something sweet and frozen for dessert. Call it the last hurrah before September schedules really kick in.
Since I rarely make burgers at home, I consulted my friend Ron, international barbecue champion (yes, that’s a thing – I wonder how one trains for such a title?) and self-proclaimed barbecue evangelist. He’s also a dad. This is his recipe, the one he makes at home for his teenagers when he’s not teaching barbecue boot camp or on the road with his barbecue team (yes, also a thing).
The biggest thing to remember when making a burger from scratch is to not overhandle the meat, which can make it tough. Mix gently with your hands, just until the ingredients are combined – or simply pat plain old good-quality ground beef into patties without adding anything at all. Regardless of the ingredients you use, as you shape it into patties you can make them a little concave in the middle if you like to prevent them from ending up baseball-shaped.
(Whitecap let me use their photo – thanks! When I made these they were unbelievably delicious, but quickly devoured – and our ketchup and mustard weren’t so eloquently placed…)
Classic Dadburger Deluxe
from Barbecue Secrets by Rockin’ Ronnie Shewchuk (Whitecap)
6 lb (2.7 kg) ground beef (or combine equal amounts ground beef and ground pork)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 head roasted garlic, cloves squeezed out and mashed with a fork
1 Tbsp. sesame oil (preferably the kind that says “toasted” on the label)
2 Tbsp. dark soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce or a combination
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cayenne (optional – or more, if you like more heat)
lots of freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup cold water
12—16 cheese slices (optional)
12—16 hamburger buns
Line a baking sheet with waxed paper.
Gently combine the burger ingredients in a large bowl with your hands, taking care not to overwork the meat. Wet your hands in cold water before you form the mixture into chunks the size of tennis balls. Flatten them into patties, placing them on the baking sheet. Each patty will be about 1/2 lb before cooking. Place them in the freezer for 1 hour to firm them up.
Preheat your grill for medium direct heat. Take the burgers out of the freezer and grill them for 6 minutes per side, or until they are springy to the touch, glazing them on both sides with barbecue sauce. Top each patty with a slice of cheese for the last couple of minutes of cooking. Serve the burgers on buns with your favorite condiments.
Makes 12—16 patties, depending on how big you like them.
Photo credit: Barbecue Secrets by Ron Shewchuk (Whitecap)