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May 15, 2013

Key to a great burger? Less is more!

When the weather turns warm, I find myself craving the smell and taste of a great homemade burger off the grill.

So what makes a great burger? There are a few simple rules. But if you remember just one of them, it should be that less really is more. Which is to say, the less you add to your ground beef, the less you handle the meat when mixing it, and the less you flip it while grilling, the better burger you get in the end.

The foundation of my backyard burger is a 50-50 combination of sirloin and chuck. I love mixing the leaner and cleaner ground sirloin with the rich beefiness of ground chuck. A patty that is 100 percent sirloin is too lean, and 100 percent chuck is too fatty.

If I am close to a good butcher, I also love to make a custom grind. You can ask the butcher to grind the odd pieces of brisket, short rib, skirt and hanger steak, and add it to a lean and clean base of sirloin for a top-notch burger. The key is a mix of lean and fatty meat, freshly ground.

Beyond the meat itself, you don’t want to add too many other ingredients, particularly wet ones. You don’t want to compete with the flavor of the beef, or leave it too watery. I limit myself to a sprinkle of salt and pepper, plus just a bit of dry mustard and Worcestershire sauce. The last two amp the savory flavors of the burger without competing with it.

Once the meat is seasoned, I lightly mix everything together and divide it into equal portions. I generally use 2 pounds of meat to make six burgers. This step can be done up to a day in advance. If prepping in ahead, refrigerate the patties and make sure they are well-covered to minimize the oxidation (discoloration) of the meat.

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