Jalapeno Popper Stuffed Burger

Originally we wrote this up as eight secrets. We’ve discovered a few more. Remember these secrets for your next patio party and you’ll have great burgers.

1. Start with the right meat. Buy your meat from a butcher you trust. Avoid the lean and extra lean burger which is great for casseroles but too lean for burgers—you need the fat for flavor and juice. Your meat should be fresh. Ask the butcher when it was ground and avoid meat that was not ground in the last few hours.

2. Don’t handle the meat unnecessarily. Too much handling makes for tough burgers. Break a section of meat off and form the burgers with as little handling as possible. If you are mixing seasonings into the meat, toss the meat gently with your fingers to disperse the seasonings.

3. Make the burgers the right size. Remember, they shrink while cooking. Three-quarters of an inch thick on the edges and slightly thinner in the middle is just about right for most of us. A hamburger press like our Burger Buddy is a nice way to form burgers without handling them too much. Make the burger thicker than necessary and then gently press the center to form a concave patty.

4. Start out with a clean, well-oiled grill. Burnt food particles will taint your burger and make it stick.

5. Cook at the right temperature. You want your grill or pan to be at medium high, hot enough to sear the meat and seal in the juices.

6. Avoid the urge to press. Yes, you see others pressing their burgers with the spatula but doing so forces the juices from the meat. Again, it’s the juices that make your burgers moist and flavorful.

7. Turn ‘em once. Years ago, I worked a grill in Alaska. The chef taught me to never turn the steaks more than once—doing so lets the juices run out and dries out the steak. The same goes for a burger.

8. Avoid the urge to overcook. A well-charcoaled burger is going to be tough and dry. That same chef taught me to tell how done a steak was by poking it with my finger. (The meat becomes firmer as it cooks.) You can do the same with burgers (and chicken). After the first cookout, you’ll be pro. No more over-cooked burgers or burgers torn apart to see how red they are in the middle.

9. Season your meat before cooking. You’ll find that your burger will taste much better if every morsel is seasoned, not just the outside. Add 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper to every pound of burger and knead it in gently.

10. Cook your burgers on medium high heat. You want to sear the burgers, make a bit of a crust, and seal in the juices. Too high and you’ll burn the outside before the burger is done; too low and too much of the juice will drip out.

11. Try mixing grated cheese into the meat for cheeseburgers. You’ll get a burst of cheese in every bite, the cheese won’t drip down into the grill, and it takes less cheese to make a cheesy burger.

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