Outdoor Cooking: Burger Tips

Originally posted at TheKitchenHotline.com:

I am a firm believer that the most American food is not the hot dog nor the apple pie but the burger.  Both the hot dog and the apple pie trace their lineage to one other country (Germany and France respectively) while the burger reflects our melting pot culture.  The bun originates in Egypt, the Mongols were the first to grind the beef while the Germans were the first to cook it, tomatoes are from the New World but ketchup gets here by way of Italy via China and mustard is from India.

Mobile Burger CrawlThere is a very important designation to make here – a burger refers to a sandwich with at least 5 ounces of meat while anything with less than 5 ounces of meat (including a quarter-pounder) is a slider.  Remember when the McDonald’s sign used to say how many hamburgers were sold?  Today it says “billions served.”  There is no mention of hamburgers.  Perhaps that is because most of their menu fails to meet the definition of a burger.

Of course when most of us think about throwing a few burgers on the grill few visualize a paper thin wafer of frozen ground beef.  Most of us visualize a thick, hand formed patty.  That’s why the designation is important, if you try to mimic the weights at Micky D’s you’ll end up disappointed with your grilling experience.  In this case bigger is absolutely better.

Calories aside the best burgers contain a grind that is 80% lean meat and 20% pure fat.  Unfortunately that much fat can be lethal.  Many have experimented with leaner grinds, not just of beef but also chicken, turkey, pork, et al.  The result is a dry, less than satisfying burger.  Granted it is healthy but not exactly good.

I have two healthy fixes, one easy and the other a bit labor intensive.  The first is to throw your lean ground meat into a large bowl then blend in olive oil equal to 1/5th of your meat.  That’s 1/5th by weight mind you not volume or 3.2 ounces of oil per one pound of ground meat.  Olive oil being unsaturated fat that is full of antioxidants will give your burger the right mouth-feel without adding all the saturated fat.

The other method is for the burger connoisseur like myself.  Using the meat grinding attachment on my trusty old stand mixer I usually grind my own meat for burgers.  I buy the leanest sirloin steak I can find, usually 96% lean or higher, grass fed if at all possible.  I cut that into 2” cubes and place them two or three cubes at a time into the grinder alternating frequently with a tablespoon of coconut oil.  This gives me an actual saturated fat for my burger that has the added benefit of being very healthy.  The result is a burger that is perfect in every conceivable way.  This same method works well for grinding a skinless turkey breast or a nice lean pork tenderloin.

When hand-pattying burgers it is important not to work the meat too much, it can actually make them tough.  For the novice I suggest getting a 5 ounce ice cream scoop to make well-rounded balls.  Place each ball on a piece of parchment paper or cellophane topped with another piece then gently pressing down with a plate until the patty is ½ to ¾ of an inch thick.

Something else I like to do when making burgers is to blend herbs into the meat.  My preference is Herbes de Provence but any dried herbs and/or seasonings will do.   This way the meat is flavored throughout and not just on the surface that gets the salt and pepper on it.  Oh, yeah, salt is not an option; it has to be used.  In addition to enhancing the flavor it is crucial for the Maillard reaction which is the fancy science name for searing meat to get a crust.

Mother’s Day Recipes From Food Network Moms

In 1908, Anna M. Jarvis campaigned for the creation of an official Mother’s Day to honor her mother and for peace. Anna petitioned the superintendent of her mother’s church.  She got her wish as the first Mother’s Day celebration took place May 10 of that year.  Anna then spent the rest of her life protesting people for celebrating Mother’s Day.  She ridiculed florists for selling flowers and even petitioned the US  Postal Service to remove the words “Mother’s Day” from a stamp that also feature her own mother on it.  Apparently she was just a tad bit crazy.

Marcela ValladolidMother’s Day is just around the corner.  Rather than prodding mom into the cattle car that is the Olive Garden lobby how about actually cooking her something?  After learning about the originator of Mother’s Day the idea of you cooking for your mother shouldn’t seem quite as crazy.

The Moms of the Food Network have put together a few recipes to help you show your mom a little love.  Marcela Valladolid (pictured above with son Fausto), Sandra Lee, Paula Deen, Gina Neeley and Giada De Laurentiis help you to make a it a Mother’s Day to remember:

: Cream Cheese Filled Bisquits

: Recipe courtesy Paula Deen

  • 2 cups biscuit mix (suggested: Bisquick)
  • 3 ounces cream cheese
  • Milk, to moisten
  • Flour
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. In a mixing bowl, cut cream cheese into biscuit mix until cornmeal consistency. Add enough milk to moisten.
  3. Place dough-like mixture onto floured surface and knead 2 or 3 times. Don’t knead too much or your biscuits will be tough.
  4. Roll dough to desired thickness using a rolling pin and cut out with round cookie cutter. Place biscuits on a greased cookie sheet and bake until golden brown, approximately 15 minutes.

Notice this is a Paula Deen recipe without any butter in it.

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Cooking time: 15 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 12

Culinary tradition: USA (Southern)

: Lazy Sunday Mimosa

: Recipe courtesy The Neely’s

  • 1/2 cup pink sanding sugar
  • 1 (750-ml) bottle brut Champagne
  • 4 tablespoons pineapple juice
  • 4 tablespoons blood orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons orange liqueur (recommended: Grand Marnier)
  1. Dip the rims of the champagne flutes in water. Dip again in the sanding sugar.
  2. Divide Champagne between 2 glasses. Add half of both juices to each glass and top with orange liqueur.

Preparation time: 5 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 2

Culinary tradition: USA (Southern)

: Guac’ with Fresh Baked Tortilla chips

: Recipe courtesy Marcela Valladolid


  • 4 firm, ripe avocados, halved, pitted, and peeled
  • 1/2 medium white onion, minced (about 4 tablespoons)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 medium lime, freshly squeezed (about 2 tablespoons)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


  • 12 fresh corn tortillas
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • Kosher salt

To make the guacamole:

  1. In a medium bowl, coarsely mash the avocado. Lightly mix in the onion, cilantro and the lime juice. Season the guacamole liberally with salt and pepper.

To make the chips:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Brush each tortilla lightly with oil. Slice the tortillas into 8ths. Using 2 baking sheets, distribute half the chips onto each sheet, making sure they are evenly spread out and not overlapping. (If the chips overlap they will not crisp in the oven.)
  3. Bake on the top rack until golden and crispy, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven to a serving bowl. Season with salt and serve immediately.

Cook’s Note: Season your chips with chipotle powder and/or garlic salt before baking for extra flavor.

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Cooking time: 15 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 6

Culinary tradition: Mexican

: Sparkling Cider Mimosa

: Recipe courtesy Sandra Lee

  • 1 (25.4-ounce) bottle sparkling apple cider
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup cranberry juice
  1. Combine all ingredients in a pitcher and pour into chilled champagne flutes.

Preparation time: 2 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

Culinary tradition: Italian

: Jade’s Mini Pancakes with Blueberries

: Recipe Courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis


  • 1 cup buttermilk pancake mix (recommended: Krusteaz Buttermilk)
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature


  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 pint blueberries
  1. Preheat a griddle or large skillet over medium heat.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the pancake mix and water until just blended and slightly lumpy. Melt the butter on the griddle. For each pancake, add 1 tablespoon of batter to the griddle. Cook for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes each side until golden brown.
  3. In a clean bowl, using an electric hand held mixer, beat the heavy whipping cream until thick. Add the sugar and vanilla. Continue whipping until the cream forms stiff peaks.
  4. Top the pancakes with whipped cream and fresh blueberries.

Preparation time: 5 minute(s)

Cooking time: 8 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4


half-assing it

Robb Walsh on Texas’ BBQ History

This is a great piece that was part of a History Channel pilot on food history. The network didn’t pick it up but I sure wish they would. This clip features Robb Walsh who was most recently the lead restaurant reviewer and food writer for the Houston Press, he is a food columnist for Natural History Magazine, a commentator for NPR and the author of several books including the Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook: Recipes and Recollections from the Pit Bosses.  Watch and learn:

Review: Food Tech

Technology is an amazing thing. It is the reason that when the animals are living with adverse weather conditions we sit warm and toasty in front of our 70″ LCD’s watching “24” on Tivo. But one place I’m not comfortable with an over abundance of technology is at the dinner table.

The History Channel’s new series, Food Tech, is a tour of the nation’s food processing facilities. It shows the things we eat as they are transformed through the magic of bright shiny conveyor belts and auto-robotic presses. Suspiciously absent are the images of disfigured animals crowded together in cages until the blissful release of death.

So Food Tech is less documentary and more like a celebration of progress.  There is no attention paid to the repercussions of food processing just a childlike appreciation for bagging 75,000 tons of chips a day.  It’s like Food Network’s Unwrapped only longer.

The episode I watched was entitled Cheeseburger & Fries but it wasn’t about real burgers.  It was about those drive-thru things that pass for burgers.  Technically to be a burger the patty must be 5 ounces or more.  Anything under 5 ounces is called a slider.  These were the ubiquitous quarter-pounders that are machine-made and designed to go straight from freezer to assembly line.

Host Bobby Bognar tours the imitation cheese plant where dairy bi-product is molded into one 1000 foot long sheet of cheese-food.  He narrates how it is cut into uniform slices and automatically wrapped and sealed. Then they move to a laboratory to “prove” that processed cheese is better than natural cheese because it provides a more even melt.  There is more to cheese than even melting like say taste.

Bognar then heads off to a Salinas, California lettuce farm to show how it is harvested for use in the drive-thru.  He even says that lettuce is all about the crunch and nothing is better than Iceberg.  Except Romain, Green Leaf, Red Leaf or any other green lettuce.  Why not just tell the truth, “Sure Iceberg is devoid of flavor and nutrients but it is extremely cheap to produce.”

I know the goal of the show is to trumpet innovation but I have to wonder if at anytime Bognar thinks, “maybe that’s something I shouldn’t eat.”  Just because something can be chewed, digested and passed does not make it food.  All I am asking is a little equal time on the subject rather than a series of propaganda films for agri-business.  This series is a glorification of everything that is wrong with America’s food system.

Cheeseburger & Fries

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less

Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards

2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up


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