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Smokehouse Burgers in the Backyard

By • Oct 19th, 2009 • Category: Burger Blog

There are few things I enjoy more than firing up my backyard grill and cooking outdoors.  It’s even better when I’m trying out a new recipe I’m particularly excited about.  If the recipe in question is for a twist on the classic cheeseburger, I’m positively giddy.  With good reason, since my grated cheeseburgers and Jucy Lucy burgers were both unequivocal smash hits.

So it was with similar off-the-charts enthusiasm that I found a recipe for Smokehouse Burgers.  The goal: a big, beefy burger infused with hardwood smoke, like it came from your favorite BBQ joint.  To ensure tang and twang, the recipe called for adding BBQ sauce directly to the ground beef mixture instead of using it afterward as a topping.  And to mimic a true smokehouse’s dry rub technique, a mix of seasonings would be sprinkled over each burger before it hit the grill.

smokehouseburgeringreds

The ingredients were simple, like they are for all the best burgers.  Enough beef to make thick half-pound patties.  This recipe specified 85 percent lean beef.  Personally, I think the 80/20 blend provides better juiciness without being greasy, but since I knew I would be adding BBQ sauce, I went with the recommended leaner beef to guard against excessive mushiness.  I added my favorite sauce to the beef, 1 tablespoon per pound.

smokehouseburgerdusting

Next, the dry rub.  Nothing magical here- salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder- dusted over the burgers on both sides.  I used the ratios laid out by the recipe, but was a little worried once I finished.  I guessed that the rub would provide that signature smokehouse “char,” but now I honestly felt like there was too much, maybe enough to be distracting to the finished burgers later.  We’d have to wait and see.

smokehouseburgersoversmoke

I built a hot fire and spread the coals over the right half of my grill, leaving a cooler zone to the left.  Soaked hickory wood chunks were piled on top of the glowing coals at the far end only.  Once the smoke started rolling, the burgers were positioned directly over the charcoal, but not the wood itself.  This would sear the burgers without letting too much smoke permeate the meat and leave the burgs tasting, according to the recipe, “like the inside of a chimney.”

smokehouseburgersindirect

After 4 minutes per side, I had a nice bit of crust on the burgers, and moved them to the cooler side of the grill.  They sat here for another 8 minutes or so, letting the grill’s internal heat cook the interior of the burgers instead of blasting them directly over the still-raging charcoal.

smokehouseburgerschar

They looked excellent.  A nice pinkish hue to the beef that comes only from smoking, with those beautiful char marks.  The smoky smell was heavenly.  I topped the burgers with some Colby cheese and let it get good and melty under some foil for a minute while the meat rested.

smokehouseburgerCU

The verdict?  Meh. I was shocked.  I expected to flip for this cheeseburger. While I did find the outer coating distracting and wondered if the amount of rub should be reduced, I also felt the amount of BBQ sauce should be increased.  It was there, for sure, but only a subtle aftertaste, not the juicy BBQ burst I had been hoping for.  American cheese might have helped, as the Colby was a creamy upgrade from straight cheddar, but still a somewhat dry cheese.  My wife loved her Smokehouse burger.  My 6-year-old daughter, cheeseburger connoisseur, plowed through an entire half-pounder.  I was left wondering how to tweak the recipe for more of a saucy explosion next time.

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