Monthly Archives: July 2011

Simple Backyard Burgers

Burgers are your typical backyard bbq perennial go-to meat. That doesn’t mean the burgers have to be typical. And mine are never anything but tasty and juicy.  This recipe is as simple as the title says.  You can leave out any herb or seasoning and they will still be great tasting burgers.  The key is how you cook them on the grill.

There are a few important things to remember when cooking just about any meat over (or in) any heating source.  The first is to NEVER press or spear the meat!  Doing so releases all of the juices and leaves you with a dry piece of rubber or brick that will have to be either choked down with copious amounts of a beverage or smothered in a sauce.  Now, smothering in a sauce isn’t always a bad thing, but it is my belief that one should be able to enjoy and savor a piece of meat without having to add a sauce.  If it’s not good enough to stand alone, then it’s not good enough.  The second thing to remember is to turn the meat over only once through the cooking time.  Again, this will help retain the natural juices.  You can turn the meat without flipping it in order to get the grill marks pretty (I could care less-I’m just going to eat it!) if you are so inclined, but do so without turning over.  The last thing I want all of you to remember is to make sure you let the meat sit out for a little while before putting it on the grill.  Let it come to (or at least close to) room temperature.  This allows for less cooking time, thereby retaining more of those juices and it lets the meat relax.  Just like us, when a piece of meat is cold, it tenses and shrinks up and needs a little time to relax.  A gradual warm-up is better than the shock of sudden heat.

Recipe (All measurements are approximate)

To about 2 pounds of ground beef (I use 70% lean-lots of natural flavor and keeps burgers juicy):

1 tbsp dry minced onion

1/4 tsp garlic powder or 1 clove minced fresh garlic

1 tsp dill weed or about 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh dill

2 tsp ground mustard

2 tsp paprika

1/8-1/4 tsp white pepper

2 tsp coriander

1-1/2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

cheese slices (any type goes well with this recipe)

These may be prepared well ahead of time.  If preparing more than a 1/2 hour before putting on the grill, refrigerate.  I have prepared the burgers when I bring the ground beef home and put them in the freezer, taking out the night before to thaw in the fridge.  Other times, I’ve prepared them after starting the fire and either way is just fine. 

Mix all ingredients except cheese in a bowl.  Mix well. 

 Form into 4-5 ounce patties. 

I usually get 7 patties. 

A trick I learned from Rachael Ray:  put an indention in the center of the burger patty-the burgers will cook evenly.  Works very well. 

To grill:  start charcoal fire for direct cooking, using approximately 30-40 coals.  Once spread, this will be enough to provide heat extending a little way beyond the surface area you will need for the burgers. 

You will be cooking the burgers over direct, high heat (8-10″ above coals, hold hand-about 2-4 seconds should be all you can stand).

After 5 minutes or so, burger should start to look like this.  See the juices collecting in the indention.  You know these are going to be good!  Remember, you are only turning over once.  No matter how tempting it may be to turn over at this point, don’t do it! 

Flare ups will occur with a higher fat content burger.  Keep your trusty squirt bottle on hand to put them out (unless you like flame broiled-I don’t.  You will dry out your burger).

Flip burgers over when edges are brown, about 8-10  minutes into cooking time.  When using a spatula to flip food over on a grill, follow the lines of the grill.  If you flip the food against the grill lines, you risk sending your food down into the coals.  That would make me sad.  I hate seeing food turn into burnt up shrivels of coals.  And it will smell awful.

Wait another couple of minutes or so, juices again will come to the surface.  Move all burgers to edges of grill, away from direct heat.  Then you will add your slices of cheese.  This time around, I used some crumbled feta (garlic and herb) and american cheeses.  Other times I have used apple wood smoked cheddar and cheddar jack.  Any cheese will do with this simple combo of beef and seasonings.    Once the cheese is on the burgers, place the lid over the grill, leaving the vent on top open.

Wait 3-4 minutes to let the cheese absorb some smoke and get nice and gooey. 






Remove from grill.  Add any other toppings you choose and enjoy!

Until next time, Grill, Baby, Grill!


Steak with Mustard Marinade

This is what was left of a couple of pounds of steaks I grilled recently.  And this girl from the Cowtown is not a big fan of steak!  The mustard marinade made this piece of beef so tender, it practically melted in your mouth.  It was utterly delicious and will be a repeat in this household!

I don’t remember what type of steak I had picked up, but just about any cut will do.  I do not recommend buying  the most expensive cut as it will be marinating for at least all day if not overnight. 

And now a public service announcement on steaks:  Porterhouse (aka, T-bone),  filet mignon (aka, tenderloin), rib-eye, KC strip (aka, NY strip-of course I am partial to calling it the KC strip, but around here it is the NY strip), sirloin, skirt/flank, flatiron and possibly tri-trip are the names you will see when you shop your local supermarket or butcher.  I usually purchase sirloin or flank steak (I probably grilled a sirloin for this recipe).  Alton Brown, in his very first episode of Good Eats, tackled this very subject, explaining beef and where each cut is found on the cow (  Very informative.  By the way, Alton Brown is my hero.  The way he presents cooking is as entertaining as it is  an educational experience.  If you have never watched the show,  I highly recommend watching it some time.

Back to the recipe.  The marinade is not completely my own.  Weber has a girl’s guide to grilling in which the basic marinade recipe is included.  I changed a couple of things to make it a little more my own.  I do that often.  I generally use recipes as a starting point, personalizing them to suit my tastes and those of my family.   The steak is 3/4 to 1 inch thick.

The marinade (makes 1 cup): 

6 tbsp packed brown sugar

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (to juice a lemon, bring it to room temperature if stored in fridge.  Roll it on the counter to break up the pulp before slicing in half.  Then I squeeze it over my hand (to catch seeds) over a bowl).

1/4 cup spicy brown mustard

1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp garlic powder

2 tsp onion powder

Vigorously whisk all together in a bowl.  Makes enough for 2 to 2 1/2 pounds of meat. 

Place meat in resealable plastic bag.  Pour marinade over.  Press air out of bag and seal.  Turn bag to be sure to cover all of the meat.  Put in fridge for 6-8 hours or overnight, turning over at least once.  Take out about 1/2 hour before putting on grill to bring to room temperature.  Discard the marinade.  You will grill this over direct, medium heat.  Conduct the hand test- it will be about 5 to 7 seconds over the coals for medium.  It will take 10-12 minutes or so for medium rare to medium doneness.  Turn once, using tongs to prevent puncturing the steak and releasing juices,  about halfway through cooking time.  I cooked a little bit longer, moving the steaks to the side for a short time of indirect cooking with the lid on.  You should have clear juices on the top of the steak; try to keep those juices as you transfer the steak to a plate.  Let rest for 3 or 4 minutes.  This allows the meat to “relax” and the juices in the center to distribute evenly throughout the steak.  Serve with potatoes (any way you like them-I’ll post how to grill potatoes some other time) and a green salad.  Enjoy!

Until next time, Grill, Baby, Grill!

Cooking with Charcoal

Now that you have one recipe to tantalize your taste buds, how about a quick lesson on using a charcoal grill?  I know some of you out there have probably never used a charcoal grill or even cooked anything over a fire (well, maybe a marshmallow or hotdog).  I have to admit, when I first started using a charcoal grill as a means to cook food, I was intimidated.  My Dad did all of the outdoor cooking when I was growing up and in the early part of my marriage, it was my husband.  Now, after 18 years of married life, it is a complete turn-around.  Very rarely does my husband grill.  I’m not exactly sure when I kicked him off the grill, but it is to the point where he prefers I do the grilling.  On Mother’s Day this year, he asked me to grill the burgers since my burgers taste so much better.  I wasn’t sure if it was truly a compliment, or he just didn’t feel like cooking! 

Today, I’ll just talk about a simple set-up.  Subsequent posts will go in more detail about the different types of fires you can set up for a variety of cooking methods. 

This is my grill.  It is a Weber 22″ round kettle.  It is about 18 years old and has had hundreds of fires and pounds of meat and veggies and other delectables cooked in it.  So that makes it just about right as far as seasoning!

The cooking grate I use (thanks to Santa Claus) is hinged on 2 sides (opposite each other).  This is extremely useful when needing to add more coals for long cooking times or to access foods that are being cooked on the lower level next to the coals.








These are the tools I use to move the grates, the coals and clean out ash.  As you can see, nothing fancy.  Old gardening tools work well.  I can’t use them in the garden anymore, so I just found another use for them.  The grill brush is the only actual “grill” tool I have.

This also comes in handy when needing to quench a flame or two.  Unless you like your meat flame-broiled.








My preferred charcoal brands.  Kingsford is briquets, which put out heat longer, so excellent for slow-cooking.  The hardwood lump charcoal is great for high-heat, fast cooking, i.e., searing meat or the veggies in the Sizzlin’ Chicken Fajitas.

The tools I use for turning meats, veggies, etc.  Nice big spatula, long handle.  And yes, there are 3 different tongs.  One pair has sharp edges, the other 2 are not sharp.  I do not use the sharp edges on meat.  Piercing meat releases its natural juices and results in dry meat.  The tongs with the sharp edges are good for stirring veggies and other things.  I also have a silicone brush.  The silicone can stand up to the high temperatures of a charcoal fire.

And now, a pile of charcoal.  This is only briquets (with a few leftovers from a previous foray into grilling).  There are about 20 briquets there.  Piled into a pyramid, they will light and burn better.  Once they have achieved the gray, ashy appearance desired, they are spread out in an even layer.  You want to have enough charcoal to extend a bit beyond the food you will be cooking.  Too little, and you will have to rotate your food in order to get even cooking when using the direct method.  So, having a bit too much isn’t going to hurt.  For this fire set-up, I have “baskets” on the sides.  I would be cooking only in the center of the grill.  You don’t need to have the baskets, I just didn’t take them out for this picture.  Usually, the baskets are for when I am in need of an indirect method of cooking, searing the meat on the sides and moving it later to the middle.  More on that another time.

Here are the coals, ready to be spread.  The darker piece is the hardwood lump charcoal.  It rapidly heated up after the coals were spread.  Replace the great and happy grilling!  Until next time, Grill, Baby Grill!