|Smell that flame-grilled deliciousness!|
Photo courtesy simplebbqrecipes.com
July is here and that means grilling season is in FULL swing! At my house grilling season is 12 months long but we all know summer is the BEST time to enjoy the weather, have a cold drink with friends and family and fire up the grill.
What better to toss on the Traeger than some juicy burgers? You can never go wrong with a hunk of ground beef! Or can you?
Making sure your meat is at the proper temperature is important for ALL cuts and species, but it is especially crucial when cooking hamburger because of the surface area exposed to potential bacteria. If pathogens are present when the meat is ground, it will cover more surface and mixed throughout the meat.
Bacteria is not exclusive to ground beef, of course. They are everywhere in our environment; any food can harbor bacteria. In animal products, pathogenic (illness-causing) bacteria, such as Salmonella, Shiga-toxin producing Escherichia coli (STECs), Campylobacter jejuni, Listeria monocytogenes, and Staphylococcus aureus, can be present. These harmful bacteria cannot be seen or smelled.
Not to worry, though, because properly cooking the meat will kill the bacteria. However, it is still important to keep cold meat cold and hot meat hot. The “Danger Zone” or temperature range where bacteria multiply the most rapidly is between 40 and 140 °F. This means you should store ground beef at or below 40 °F and then cook it to a safe internal temperature of 160 °F to destroy any harmful bacteria. Even if you think it’s okay to eyeball it, it’s not. You can’t read temperatures or see bacteria by looking at your burger, so just don’t risk it. Anyone else have Danger Zone stuck in your head now?
|Always use a meat thermometer|
photo courtesy wikihow.com
In the U.S., beef you find in the store (and what you get from the meat locker if you get your own cattle butchered) is treated in a USDA-inspected plant to reduce bacteria. Methods like organic acid washes, water washes, steam pasteurization, steam vacuuming, and other antimicrobials are used so we can be confident that we are buying the safest product out there.
Now, if you’re looking for new grilling tips to try here are some of my GO TO tricks to get great burgers every time.
- Crack an egg in the ground beef before forming your patties. It helps the meat stick together when they’re cooking so you don’t have to fuss with crumbly burgers.
- Want your burger to still be juicy, not dry, at 160°? Me too.
- Don’t over-handle the meat while preparing it. It could make it tougher
- Try waiting until your patties are formed to salt or season the meat. Not only do you avoid over-handling the meat, it prevents the salt from dissolving muscle proteins and turning your burgers from moist and tender to sausage-like and springy. (This will also help create an awesome carmelized crust on the patty, which is great!)
- Unless you just can’t live without them, don’t add junk like onions, herbs, eggs, breadcrumbs, etc. to your ground meat. It FORCES your to over-handle the mix. With the right seasoning, you won’t need that extra stuff anyway! But again, this is totally up to you.
- You know how burgers shrink when they cook? Poke your finger in the center of them making an indention. This will help it hold its shape.
- Don’t squish the burgers with a spatula while they’re cooking. It will squeeze out the bit of fat that make them thick and juicy.
|The perfect patty|
Photo courtesy: Landolakes.com
P.S. If you’re looking for a new grill to try out your new tricks on, my favorite grills are Traeger. They use wood pellets so they rock if you’re not in love with the taste (or smell) of charcoal.
Happy summer grilling!