‘Tis the season for grilling out! Summer is here, and with it comes warmer weather, sunny days, pool parties, and of course, family BBQs. There’s just something about smelling burgers on the grill that signals the perfect summer day, don’t you agree? Grilling out may seem simple enough, once you’ve mastered lighting the grill, that is, but there are actually quite a few ways it could all go wrong. You might not even know you’re making one of these mistakes, but I promise you’ll taste the difference if you follow these tips below! Go ahead and read this list to take your grilling game to the next level!
Defrosting at Room Temp
Growing up, when my mom asked me to set out meat to thaw, it meant I was supposed to set it out on the counter for a few hours. If this is also your go-to method of defrosting meat, you may want to change your ways!
The USDA says that the safest way to defrost meat is to move it from the freezer to the fridge and let it thaw for at least 24 hours. This takes a little bit of planning, but it will ensure that no part of the beef reached a temperature where bacteria can grow.
Using the Wrong Type of Meat
These days, there are dozens of options for everything in the grocery store. Milk, eggs, and yes, beef. You might think all ground beef is created equal, but you’d be wrong! Ground beef is a universal term that simply refers to any cut of beef that is ground. It makes sense when you think about it, but for some reason, we tend to think of ground beef only using the cheapest kind of beef.
So, make sure to do your research on which type of beef will meet your burger goals! A general rule of thumb for whatever kind of beef you end up with is to have 20-30% fat. This will keep your burgers tender and juicy while they go through the grilling process.
Handling the Meat Wrong
If you make your own patties when grilling hamburgers, there’s one common mistake that can ruin a good burger! A lot of people tend to work with the meat too much when mixing in seasonings. When you’re seasoning the meat, try to handle it as little as possible. Over-handling results in tough, chewy burgers.
Another mistake people make is flattening the burgers. You actually want the patties to resemble more of a spherical, meatball shape, only flattening it slightly. This gives the lean meat and the fat space to melt and air out, resulting in tender, juicy burgers.
Adding Cheese at the Wrong Time
Who doesn’t love a delicious cheeseburger? It’s easy enough. Just toss on a slice of cheese near the end of the grilling time, and you’re good to go, right? Not so much. Most cheeses you’d use on a burger have a low melting point. If you put the cheese on too early, you’ll likely end up with cheese dripping off the sides of your burger and getting your grill dirty.
Instead, put the cheese on right after you take the burgers off the grill. They will still be plenty hot enough to melt the cheese. Alternatively, Southern Living suggests putting the slice of cheese on the bottom bun before placing your burger on top. Your cheese will still melt, plus, you’ll have the top to place your other preferred toppings like lettuce or tomato. It’s a win-win!
Checking the Meat Wrong
How do you check to see if your burgers are done? By cutting into one of them and seeing if it’s pink in the middle, right? Wrong. My father checked his burgers this way, and my husband also does it this way, but no more! By cutting into the patty, you’re letting out all of those delicious juices that make burgers tender and flavorful. Plus, the color test only works for beef, not so much for ground pork or turkey burgers.
Instead, invest in a meat thermometer. They aren’t expensive, and they will ensure your meat is done without compromising on flavor. The USDA considers beef properly cooked when it reaches an internal temperature of 160.