Last updated: July 15. 2014 3:20PM - 1064 Views
By Lucie R. Willsie Lifestyles Reporter



Carmen Long, extension agent, family and consumer education, North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Surry County Center, strongly advocates testing the interior temperature of beef and other meats to make sure the food is safe to eat.
Carmen Long, extension agent, family and consumer education, North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Surry County Center, strongly advocates testing the interior temperature of beef and other meats to make sure the food is safe to eat.
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Some folks can never get enough of the traditional American dish — the burger.


And since this is prime grilling season, this is the time to perfect your grilling and burger-making techniques — plus the time to try out some new and interesting burger recipes.


With that end in mind, Carmen Long, extension agent, family and consumer education at the North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Surry County Center, has some more burger cooking and safety tips to make your next cookout a success.


Long’s first suggestion for buying meat and poultry is to buy your cold foods at the grocery the very last thing before checking out. And, when ready to use the meat at home, thaw the meat in the refrigerator or in sealed packages placed in cold water, but keep the meat refrigerated until ready to use it immediately on the grill.


Another important piece of advice that can’t be emphasized too much is in order to avoid contamination or illness, don’t use the same platter and utensils for raw and cooked meat and poultry, Long said. When cooking, make sure to use a food thermometer to be sure the meat has reached the proper internal temperature. Even after finishing cooking the meat, keep it hot until served — around 140 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer.


Refrigerate any leftovers immediately in shallow containers, but throw out any food that has been left to sit out for more than two hours — or for one hour if the temperature is more than 90 degrees Fahrenheit.


When it comes to cooking the meat, Long also has some additional advice.


For example, don’t just sprinkle seasoning on top of a burger patty. Instead, mix the spices and herbs right into the burger patty. But be gentle when mixing. Overmixing can make the burgers dry, Long said.


Also, fire the grill up to medium heat. When at medium heat, which usually takes about 30 minutes or so for the charcoal to reach that state (or 160 degrees Fahrenheit), the coals will be ash covered, she said.


It then takes about 11 to 13 minutes for a 1/2-inch burger patty to cook through. One piece of advice heard around the griller is that the burgers are done when they are not pink on the inside or if no pink juices come out.


“But you really can’t tell by just looking,” Long said. “You really need a thermometer.”


One way to determine whether or not the grill is up to medium heat, according to Long, is simple, but needs to be done carefully. Place a hand about an inch or so over the grid or grate and hold it there for about 4 seconds, as long as it is comfortable to you. If you hand gets too warm before counting 1001 Mississippi, 1002 Mississippi, 1003 Mississippi, 1004 Mississippi — or roughly the 4 seconds just mentioned, the cooking temperature is too hot and you will need to let the coals cool down a little before cooking the burgers. If, however, you can comfortably hold your hand over the grid or grate for more than 4 seconds, the coals are still a little too cool and will need to heat up before they are at the proper temperature to grill the burgers. This proceed is an option if folks don’t have a commercial thermometer to use on the burgers to make sure the burgers are cooked at the optimal 160 degrees Fahrenheit.


Additional cooking advice includes only flipping each burger once. Flipping more will make the burger drier, Long explained.


Also, use a spatula — not a fork or a tong — to flip the burgers. Using a spatula will help prevent puncturing the burgers and causing the juices to come out and, again, drying out the burgers.


“Use a gentle touch in shaping the patties,” Long advised. “Treat the burgers gently.”


Only put the cheese on the burgers about 1 minute before the burgers are done so they will soften but not overmelt.


Long also recommends, when using a gas grill, “make sure to read the manual, because each grill is different” in order to use it correctly. Not all gas grills work the same.


There also is no need to close the cover of the grill, Long advised.


But do wash hands in warm, soapy water after handling meats and also handling other foods, especially fruits and vegetables. And wash surfaces used as well.


“Work with the fruits and vegetables first and the meats second,” Long said. Also, put the fruits and vegetables away while working with the meat. “This way there is not as great a risk of contamination.”


If you want to experiment with different toppings, try something even if it sounds a bit unusual, such as hummus. Or maybe even try some goat cheese or corn salsa for variety. Instead of just pickles, ketchup, lettuce and tomatoes, try some jalapeños, or maybe grilled pineapple slices, or even kimchi instead of some hot slaw.


RECIPES


RANCH BURGERS


SUBMITTED BY CARMEN LONG


Total Recipe Time: 35 to 40 minutes


Makes 4 servings


INGREDIENTS


1 pound of ground beef (93-percent lean or leaner)


1/4 cup of soft bread crumbs


1 egg white


1 teaspoon of seasoned salt


1 medium red onion, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch thick slices


1 Tablespoon of vegetable oil, divided


4 whole wheat hamburger buns, split, toasted


Romaine lettuce


Tomato slices


1/4 cup reduced-fat creamy ranch dressing


DIRECTIONS


Combine the ground beef, bread crumbs, egg white and seasoned salt in medium bowl, mixing lightly but thoroughly. Lightly shape into four 1/2-inch thick patties. Brush the onion slices with 1/2 Tablespoon oil. Place the patties and onion slices on the grid or cooking grate being used over medium, ash-covered coals. Grill patties, covered, 8 to 10 minutes (over medium heat on preheated gas grill 7 to 9 minutes), until instant-read thermometer inserted horizontally into center registers 160 degrees Fahrenheit, turning occasionally. Grill the onions, 11 to 13 minutes or until tender, brushing with remaining 1/2 Tablespoon of oil and turning occasionally. Line bottom of each bun with lettuce. Place tomatoes and burgers on lettuce. Spoon the dressing over burgers; top with onions. Close sandwiches.


CAESAR BEEF BURGERS


SUBMITTED BY CARMEN LONG


Total Recipe Time: 30 minutes


Makes 4 servings


INGREDIENTS


1 pound of ground beef


3 cloves of garlic, minced


1 teaspoon of salt


½ teaspoon of pepper


4 Romaine lettuce leaves


8 slices of sourdough bread, toasted


1/4 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese


DIRECTIONS


Combine the ground beef, minced garlic, salt and pepper in large bowl, mixing lightly but thoroughly. Lightly shape into four 1/2-inch thick patties, shaping to fit bread slices. Place the patties on the grid or cooking grate being used over medium ash-covered coals. Grill, covered, 8 to 10 minutes (over medium heat on preheated gas grill 7 to 9 minutes) until instant-read thermometer inserted horizontally into center registers 160 degrees Fahrenheit, turning occasionally. Place one lettuce leaf on four of the bread slices, top each with burger. Sprinkle evenly with the Parmesan cheese; cover with remaining bread slices.


MINI BURGER BUFFET


SUBMITTED BY CARMEN LONG


Total Recipe Time: 35 to 40 minutes


Makes 12 burgers


INGREDIENTS


1-1/2 pounds of ground beef


1 large clove of garlic, minced


1/2 teaspoon of salt


1/4 teaspoon of pepper


Additional Flavor Variation Suggestions


Smoky BBQ Cheddar, Buffalo Style or Taco


(See ingredients and directions below.)


DIRECTIONS


Combine all ingredients in medium bowl, adding whatever desired “Flavor Variation” (see below) ingredients and mixing together lightly but thoroughly. Lightly shape into twelve 1/2-inch thick mini patties. Place the patties on the grid or cooking grate over medium, ash-covered coals. Grill, covered, 8 to 10 minutes (over medium heat on preheated gas grill, covered, 9 to 11 minutes) until instant-read thermometer inserted horizontally into center registers 160 degrees Fahrenheit, turning occasionally.


Serve mini burgers as directed in desired “Flavor Variation” below.


Smoky BBQ Cheddar: Add 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese to Basic Mini Burger mixture. Halfway through grilling, baste patties with 1/4 cup hickory barbecue sauce. Place burgers on bottoms of 12 split small dinner rolls. Top evenly with 24 sweet or dill pickle slices and 3/4 cup prepared coleslaw. Close sandwiches. Serve with additional barbecue sauce, as desired.


Buffalo Style: Add 1/4 teaspoon of ground red pepper and 1/2 cup of crumbled blue cheese to Basic Mini Burger mixture. While patties are grilling, combine 3 Tablespoons of melted butter and 1/4 cup of hot pepper sauce. Set aside. Place burgers on bottoms of 12 split small dinner rolls. Top evenly with thinly sliced celery, shredded carrots, as desired, and some of the hot sauce mixture. Close sandwiches. Serve with blue cheese dressing, as desired, and remaining hot sauce mixture.


Taco: Add 1 package (1.25 ounces) of taco seasoning mix to Basic Mini Burger mixture. While patties are grilling, combine 1/2 cup of dairy sour cream and 2 teaspoons of fresh lime juice. Set aside. Cut burgers in half and place both halves in each of 12 taco shells. Top evenly with shredded lettuce, chopped tomato, shredded cheddar cheese or Mexican cheese blend, salsa and sour cream mixture, as desired.


CHEESY JALAPEÑO PEPPER-STUFFED BURGERS


SUBMITTED BY CARMEN LONG


Total Recipe Time: 30 minutes


Makes 4 servings


INGREDIENTS


1 pound of ground beef


1/4 cup of prepared thick-and-chunky salsa


4 frozen cream cheese or cheddar cheese-stuffed jalapeño peppers


1/4 cup of prepared salsa con queso


1/4 cup of chopped fresh plum tomato


2 Tablespoons of sliced pitted ripe olives


Prepared thick-and-chunky salsa


DIRECTIONS


Combine the ground beef and 1/4 cup salsa in large bowl, mixing lightly but thoroughly. Lightly shape into four thin patties. Place one stuffed pepper in center of each patty; wrap the beef around the pepper to enclose, sealing seams and forming ball. Flatten balls into patties about 4 to 5 inches across and 1 inch thick. Place patties on the grid or cooking grate over medium, ash-covered coals. Grill, covered, 15 to 16 minutes, until instant-read thermometer inserted horizontally into center registers 160 degrees Fahrenheit, turning occasionally. Spread 1 Tablespoon of salsa con queso evenly over top of each burger. Sprinkle evenly with tomato and olives. Serve with salsa, as desired.


SWEET HAWAIIAN MINI BURGERS


SUBMITTED BY CARMEN LONG


Total Recipe Time: 35 to 40 minutes


Makes 4 servings


INGREDIENTS


Burgers


1 pound of ground beef


1 Tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce


4 canned pineapple slices, drained


12 Hawaiian sweet or small whole wheat dinner rolls, split


Lettuce


Sauce


1/4 cup of barbecue sauce


1/4 cup of pineapple preserves


1 Tablespoon of packed brown sugar


DIRECTIONS


Combine the ground beef and Worcestershire sauce in medium bowl, mixing lightly but thoroughly. Lightly shape into twelve 1/2-inch thick mini patties. Set aside. Combine sauce ingredients in small saucepan; bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. Place the patties on the grid or cooking grate over medium, ash-covered coals. Grill, covered, 8 to 10 minutes (over medium heat on preheated gas grill, covered, 9 to 11 minutes) until instant-read thermometer inserted horizontally into center registers 160 degrees Fahrenheit, turning occasionally. Meanwhile, brush the pineapple slices with sauce and place on grid around patties. Grill the pineapple 4 minutes, turning once and brushing with additional sauce. Remove pineapple, keep warm. Brush burgers with remaining sauce after turning. Cut each pineapple slice into thirds. Line bottom of each roll with lettuce, top with burger, then with pineapple piece. Close sandwiches.


CLASSIC BEEF CHEESEBURGERS


SUBMITTED BY CARMEN LONG


Total Recipe Time: 25 to 30 minutes


Makes 4 servings


INGREDIENTS


1 pound of ground beef


1-1/2 teaspoons of steak seasoning blend


4 hamburger buns, split


4 slices of cheese (such as cheddar, American, Swiss, etc.)


4 lettuce leaves


4 tomato slices


Toppings (such as ketchup, mustard, onion slices, pickles)


DIRECTIONS


Combine the ground beef and steak seasoning in large bowl, mixing lightly but thoroughly. Lightly shape into four 1/2-inch thick patties. Place the patties on the grid or cooking grate over medium, ash-covered coals. Grill, covered, 8 to 10 minutes (over medium heat on preheated gas grill, 7 to 9 minutes) until instant-read thermometer inserted horizontally into center registers 160 degrees Fahrenheit, turning occasionally. About 2 minutes before burgers are done, place buns, cut sides down, on grid. Grill until lightly toasted. During last minute of grilling, top each burger with cheese slice. Line the bottom of each bun with lettuce leaf; top with tomato slice, burger, and toppings, as desired. Close sandwiches.


Lucie R. Willsie can be reached at 336-719-1930 or on Twitter at LucieR.Willsie.


 
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