Griddle Burgers: Memorial Day Cook-InBy Todd • Jun 3rd, 2010 • Category: Burger Blog
Ah, Memorial Day. The unofficial start of summer. Few things are more universally American around the last Monday in May than to take a dip in a newly-opened swimming pool, flip on a car race, and fire up the grill for the first big cookout of the season.
Unless, of course, you’re staring down the barrel of a three-day weekend of solid thunderstorms. My weather changed every 20 minutes like one of those Bible stories where someone royally pisses off God. There’d be gorgeous sunshine just long enough for me to think about lighting some charcoal… and before I could get the bag out of the garage, the sky would open up in a torrential downpour. Over and over for 3 days. Rinse and repeat.
But a holiday weekend without cheeseburgers is like… well, a holiday weekend without cheeseburgers. Pretty un-American and totally unacceptable. I thought about all the fantastic burgers I’ve eaten that were NOT prepared on an outdoor grill and decided to do a Memorial Day cook-in.
I prefer an 80/20 beef blend, but knew that today, there wouldn’t be any fat dripping between the grill grates, so I dropped down to an 85/15. I added kosher salt and black pepper, and started mixing. I wasn’t confident enough in my griddling skills to go with totally freeform clumps, like the venerable Miss Ann, but I also wasn’t about to take the time to carefully mold Steak ‘n Shake-esque hockey pucks. I opted for third-pound balls:
Once they hit the searing hot grill with that satisfying sizzle, I immediately started flattening them with my spatula:
For a lifelong outdoor griller who’s always lived by the NO SMASHING golden rule, this felt naughty. Liberating. Therapeutic. Cathartic, even. I showed those meat mounds no mercy, laying into them with everything I had, pressing them as thin as I could. The idea of true diner-style burgers was now thoroughly exciting. I flipped them and was met with a sexy veneer of even, deep brown char:
I draped cheese over the tops of 5, using up some Gouda I had in the fridge for one, going with Swiss for my wife, and sticking with tried-and-true American for the other three. My mouth was watering as the corners of the American cheese drooped and hit the griddle, melting into that perfect puddle of goo that clung to each patty. You simply can’t get that on a grill grate.
After downing two, I was reminded of how critical to the cheeseburger experience the cheese actually is. I tucked in to one the American burgs first, and it was amazing. It could have come off the griddle a minute or two earlier, and I could have easily stuck with my usual 80/20 blend, but it was unquestionably one of the 5 best burgers I’ve had so far this year. My 6-year-old burgermeister-in-training agreed, exclaiming, “Wow, this is even better than Steak ‘n Shake!”
It’s gotta be the cheese. The Gouda was serviceable, but paled in comparison. There is no substitute for the taste and texture of American cheese. It may not be trendy, and it’s easy to be tempted away from it when you open a menu and see some fancypants Camembert, Havarti, or Gruyere… but American is simply the ideal cheese for the ideal American food on a great American holiday.
I just might be doing a rain dance more often so I can bring the cookout in.