If you want to impress the neighbors, make your own hamburger buns. If you want to impress your neighbors and your mother-in-law, make hamburger buns on the grill. It does take some time and some attention, but it’s not as hard as you might think.
There are some compelling reasons to bake your own buns on the grill. They’re better. A good burger on a freshly baked homemade bun is out of this world. Plus, it’s fun to watch the neighbors turn their noses upwind when the smell of fresh baked bread wafts over the fence. And in the summertime, you don’t have to heat up the kitchen to bake.
You can bake nearly anything with a covered grill. (If your grill doesn’t have a cover, improvise with a large inverted pot.) The heat rises and circulates in the covered area just as it does in your oven. The heat source can be charcoal, gas, or even wood. We prefer gas because it is easier to control and does not impart a smoked taste to the bread.
The challenge to baking bread on the grill is manipulating the heat. Your grill will tend to be hotter than the oven and hottest near the flames. In our grill, there is an elevated shelf for baking potatoes and corn that is perfect for baking bread. If your grill doesn’t have an elevated shelf, set an old pot on the grill to make an elevated platform. But just so you know how hot the temperature is, borrow the kitchen thermometer and set it on the shelf. You should be able to adjust the heat until the thermometer is reading 350 to 375 degrees. After a few batches you’ll have it perfect and we bet that the first batch off the grill will be just fine.
You can use a bread mix, a roll mix, or your favorite recipe. (Roll mixes are usually richer and slightly sweeter than bread mixes.) Mix according to package or recipe directions. (You can use your bread machine on the dough setting.) After the dough has risen, form the dough into balls as you would for dinner rolls stretching the dough around the ball and tucking it into the bottom. A 2 1/2 inch ball is about right, four ounces on your kitchen scale. Place the balls on a greased baking sheet. (The dusting that you can see on the pan in the picture is cornmeal.) Use your knuckles to press the balls flat for hamburger buns. (The dough may tend to sp[ring back and you may have to press the buns two or three times.) Cover the buns with plastic wrap and move them back to the kitchen to rise until doubled and light.
If you like, just before baking, brush the buns with an egg white wash (one egg white plus one tablespoon of water) and then sprinkle them with sesame seeds.
Bake the buns just as you would in the kitchen oven. If you have your temperature down to range, it should take 15 to 20 minutes. An occasional peek to see how your bread is doing as it nears completion is okay.
You should have great hamburger buns but here are a few more hints to help you along the way:
- Bake the buns before the burgers. The bread can cool while you cook the rest of the burgers and burning grease from the burgers in the bottom of the grill makes the temperature harder to control and the soot can stain the bread.
- Grills tend to not circulate the hot air as well as ovens. To keep the bottom of the bread from burning, consider double pans—one baking sheet placed on top of the other. The second pan will tend to insulate the bottom of the bread to keep it from burning.
- If your bread is baking faster on one side than the other, turn the pan 180 degrees part way through the baking time.
- The tendency is to burn the bottom of the bread. Place the bread as far away from the flames as you can even if it means elevating the bread.
There you have it—better buns than you can buy. You’ll be the envy of the neighborhood and earn a little respect from your mother-in-law.