The sun’s out – let’s get those Burger Buns out too! Summer calls for expertly grilled burgers with toppings piled high. To help you celebrate the 4th of July, we’re sharing our tried-and-true techniques for cooking burgers on a charcoal grill and caramelizing onions. By learning these two essential skills, you’ll be a grillmaster in no time!
1. How to cook beef burgers on a charcoal grill.
Warm weather is here, and we find ourselves thinking about burgers. One minute, we’re daydreaming about wearing shorts in dappled sunlight, and the next, we’re buying briquettes. If you’re unsure where to go from there, we can help you start the season like an old pro. Here, we’ll focus on charcoal grilling rather than gas for one simple reason; we love the taste of a smoky burger!
- Start with a clean grill, scrubbed of the remnants of prior cookouts. A good wire brush is a go-to, but crumpled foil works well. Once the crispy bits are gone, rub the grate with a tightly rolled cloth that’s been dampened with vegetable oil. Repeat the motion until the surface gleams.
- Next, prepare your workstation. Stock a nearby table with tongs, 12-16-inches long, to be sure you’ll keep that baby-soft arm hair (careful, flare-ups happen). You’ll need a mitt for grabbing hot stuff, a large fire-proof spatula, and a kitchen towel for drips. The books are full of tales about how to tell your burger is done by touching it, but you’d be wise to get a thermometer too. That’s half the battle, but it’s the next half that results in a juicy burger.
- Time to build a fire under your grate! By the way, a steel chimney starter goes with a charcoal grill like ketchup goes with mustard. You need ‘em both. Crumple newspaper to place under your chimney before filling it with charcoal briquettes. Light the paper, and once the coals are glowing, pour them over half of the grill base. Leave the other half clear so that when you place the grate, there’s a cooler side for controlling the rate of cooking.
- Place prepared beef patties (about 1/3 lb. each with 20% fat) on the grate over the hot coals. The direct heat allows the burger to cook through before the outside burns. Cooking too fast? Move your burgers to the cooler side. You’ll find managing this takes some finesse, but by the end of day 1, you’ll be a grill master!
- Cook your burgers on the first side for 3 minutes before flipping. Cook the other side for about as long, 3-4 minutes for medium-rare results. The internal temperature should be 145-160 degrees.
- Remove your burgers from the heat and allow them to rest while you toast your buns. Want cheese? Lay it on. Now, you’re in business.
See? No one needs to know what you did last summer. This season, you’re grilling burgers. That much is obvious! What’s more, you’ve mastered the art of cooking over a live fire. That has to feel great, and we know how good it tastes!
2. How to caramelize onions.
Onions are naturally sweet, but we don’t always think of that because of the spicy bite associated with them in their raw form. When gently cooked, their natural sugar is brought to the surface where it can be celebrated and savored. Caramelized onions can add immense flavor and texture to recipes, casual or refined. That said, we have every intention of barbecuing all summer, so we probably won’t be acting refined, wearing long pants, or even leaving our backyards.
Our caramelized onions are made to top juicy, grilled burgers and create satisfying layers of rich, concentrated flavor. While a burger is a wonderful thing on its own, we’ve learned that cooking regular onions using a simple, slow technique will yield excellent results. Now, there’s no turning back!
When it comes to caramelization, patience is a virtue. All that richness comes from slowly releasing the water from sliced onions, softening the texture, and extracting the sugars to be browned until sweet, nutty flavors are accentuated. How is all of that possible with a humble onion? We’re pretty sure it’s science, but the point is, it’s delicious.
- The process begins with slicing the onions into thin, long strips. First, level the top of the onion. Cutting vertically (across the rings), halve the onion lengthwise. Peel the outer skin away and place the onion cut side down. Working horizontally (with the rings), take thin slices. Watch those fingers! You’ll need them to eat that burger later.
- Place a heavy skillet over medium heat and add butter, olive oil, or a combination. A little trial and error may be necessary here, keeping in mind that butter has great flavor, but it burns more easily than oil. Add sliced onions to the skillet to be cooked slowly until they’re deep brown.
- Once the onions have softened, reduce the temperature, and gently move the onions around as needed to avoid sticking. The time in the skillet can be 20 minutes to an hour, depending on your volume. The thing to watch is the rate at which the water is evaporating. If it goes too fast, your onions will burn before they can caramelize. If it goes too slow, your onions will braise, affecting the texture.
- After your onions have successfully caramelized, the last step is to season them. Salt and pepper are obvious choices here, but you could add fresh herbs. Or, for fits and giggles, try a splash of white wine vinegar. Now, about that burger…
Got all that? Listen, no pressure.
If you’re smiling with burger juices dripping down to your elbows, you know you’re doing something right. For more grilling practice and support from Canyon Bakehouse Burger Buns, download our gluten-free guidebook, “Sun’s Out, Buns Out” here!