Beginner’s Guide to Grilling: Burgers

October 4, 2013 | By | Comments (4)
The goal of this assignment: Chef Tyler Florence’s Ultimate Burgers

The goal of this assignment: Chef Tyler Florence’s Ultimate Burgers (Photo: Thayer Allyson Gowdy)

I move fairly confidently around the kitchen. I can sauté, braise, chop, roast, bake, knead; you get the picture. But when it comes to grilling, I am completely lost. For years I have avoided it in fear of a disastrous ending: erupting flames, blackened meat, a ruined meal.

Recently, however, I was given the opportunity to document my novice adventures; I would be forced to confront the grill, and, for better or worse, share my results with readers (who will hopefully include more than my mother). Sunset’s Associate Food Editor (and resident grill master), Elaine Johnson instructed me to start with burgers, an assignment that I liked for two reasons: 1) Burgers are supposedly training wheels for grillers, so I figured I could fare moderately well; and 2) If I had to choose one grilled food to eat for the rest of my life, it would be burgers.

I decided to invite a few friends to my burger expedition, friends who would only slightly berate me if I went down in literal and figurative flames. But I knew I needed side dish cushion if the burgers proved inedible. So I combed the Sunset recipe archives and decided on the Golden Beet and Potato Salad, chef Suzanne Goin’s Fresh Goat Cheese and Radicchio Salad with Figs, and most importantly, a double batch of Basil Gimlets (After a few of those, I was sure that even the gravest of grilling sins would be forgiven).

When I began considering what type of flavored water I could serve, I realized I had stalled long enough; it was time to tackle chef Tyler Florence’s Ultimate Burgers. Thankfully, Elaine had directed me toward a two-minute online grilling tutorial given by chef Florence. I watched it 10 times…in a row. After that pivotal tenth time, I headed to the grocery store to purchase two pounds of ground chuck (Florence recommends using either ground chuck or brisket, cuts with at least 15% fat to ensure juiciness).  With meat (and buns, tomatoes, lettuce, and onions) in tow, I returned home.

I unwrapped the meat, placed it in a large mixing bowl, and seasoned it with salt and pepper. After gently hand-mixing to distribute the seasoning, I divided the meat into four, ½- inch-thick patties and placed them in the refrigerator to rest for 30 minutes (which helps maintain their shape while cooking). This was just enough time to fire up the gill to 450° (Florence instructs a grill temperature of 450° to 550°; I decided to start conservatively), and mix myself an obligatory basil gimlet.

The delicious (and necessary) basil gimlet

The delicious (and necessary) basil gimlet

After 30 minutes, I removed my patties from the refrigerator. I seasoned the meat with a bit more salt and pepper, oiled a thickly-folded paper towel, and headed outside.

The patties are seasoned with salt and pepper

The patties are seasoned with salt and pepper

I opened the steaming grill and with only-slightly-less-than-lightning speed, wiped the grates to prevent the burgers from sticking. A note to the potential griller: While Florence recommends a paper towel, make sure the paper towel is thick enough; otherwise you will end up with a medium-rare hand. Or play it safe and use tongs.

I placed the four patties on the grill, lowered the top, and set my timer for three minutes. As those excruciating 180 seconds passed, I had to forcibly restrain myself from peeking at the progress and allowing all the heat to escape. But when the alarm finally sounded, I lifted the lid to see something I had only previously dreamed of…grill marks.

Burgers on the Grill

Excitedly, I flipped my burgers and waited another three minutes before pulling them off the grill. On went my buttered buns, and 45 seconds later, we were ready to eat.

A true condiment lover, I adorned my burger with a healthy slathering of ketchup, mustard, Sriracha aioli, pickled onions, and lettuce. I piled my plate with the accompanying salads and took a deep breath as I picked up my knife. This was the moment of truth. I whispered one final prayer to the grilling gods and then I cut, revealing a light pink center that was (a tad) more medium than my desired medium-rare.

The finished product

The finished product

Sitting at the table with my friends, a rainbow of condiments smeared across my face, I could not remember why this had taken me so long to do. Was it the best burger I have ever tasted? No. But as is swiped my finger across the last remaining drop of aioli and looked across the table at three other empty plates, I knew it was not half bad.


  1. Beginners Guide to Grilling: Ratatouille | A blog by Sunset

    […] am happy to report that my burgers (week #1) weren’t just edible; they were pretty darn good. So when faced with my second assignment, I had […]

    October 18, 2013 at 5:24 pm

    Its such as you read my thoughts! You sseem too understand so much approximately this, such
    as you wrote the ebook in it or something. I believe that you simply can do with some percent to
    pressure the message home a little bit, but other tha that, this is wonderful blog.

    A fantastic read. I’ll definitely be back.

    October 17, 2013 at 12:42 pm
  3. Aliza

    Burgers look amazing! The side salads sound delicious as well. Impressive for a beginner!

    October 8, 2013 at 8:26 pm
  4. Roger Halverson

    Buy chuck roast trim hard fat cut into small strips and grind your own meat with the coarse wheel. Hamburger tat has been sitting in the meat counter has been firmed up and does not bring out the flavor like home ground. If you have a food saver do a big batch making the ground meat into very loosely formed large meat balls. Shrink wrap them after they have set up in the freezer and you are ready for the next grill outing.
    Griller from Minnesota

    October 8, 2013 at 1:31 am

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s