Fourth of July means grills will be fired up all over the state. Pits will be smoking, too, but we’ll offer some tips here on keeping things safe on and around the grill, plus some cooking and planning tips for your cookout from caterer Don Strange of Texas.
Also, below are some simple tips from a chef to cooking great burgers.
- Keep your setting in mind. It’s dry, which means that a fire could start easily from an ember or spark. So, have your garden hose, a fire extinguisher or a bucket of sand handy in case a fire does start.
Watch out for children playing in the area.
- Don’t wear loose clothing around a lit grill.
- Don’t leave a grill unattended.
- Don’t have your grill too close to your house or another building. Don’t place it under tree branches or wooden trellises that could easily go up in smoke.
- Don’t light your fire with gasoline. Don’t spray lighter fluid on already-lit coals.
- When you’re finished, make sure the fire will go out. If you’re using coals, close all of the vents on the grill.
1. Bun should be smaller than the burger so that the meat drapes over the sides. Pretzel buns best, they soak up juice of the burger without falling apart. Brush with butter, grill and keep hot until ready to top with burger.
2. Grind bacon (partially cooked with caramelized onion and garlic), white, yellow cheddar or smoked gouda, cheese and roasted garlic mixed into the ground meat. Favorite meat grind: Strip loin and tri-tip, using the bacon for the fat and keeping the lean-to-fat ratio at 80-20.
3. Shape the burger: Put a little water on the burger before you shape, helps with the handling. Don’t overhandle the beef as you form into patty.
4. You might be making your burgers on the grill on July Fourth. That’s great. But, burgers also are very good either griddled or cooked in a cast-iron skillet. Look for an internal temperature of 120 degrees in the center — this seems to be optimal for flavor profile. Also, do not press down on the burger with spatula as it will press out moisture — and you want a moist burger. If you want cheese, put it on top of the burger as soon as you flip — and only flip once!
5. Take off grill and put in bun that you have already grilled and have your toppings close by. You want to assemble as quickly as possible. Also, keep condiments at room temperature, so they don’t chill down the burger. Other toppings such as grilled poblano peppers, etc., should also be at least room temp or warm.
Tips from Don Strange of Texas on general grilling.
• Know your grill — all grills are not alike. “No matter where or what we’re grilling, on the spot timing is the key. For things to be served at precisely the right time, the fire must be started on time and allowed to reach the right temperature before we start to grill,” says Vice President of Sales and Culinary Vision for Don Strange of Texas Catering Di-Anna Arias.
“Timing and temperature vary depending on your tools: charcoal, smoker, wood, gas grill—you can’t treat them all the same. Just because they each produce a flame, don’t expect them all to cook the same way or require the same amount of time.”
• Not only does the type of grill have to be considered, but the type of meat as well. Don Strange cooks grill tenderloins to medium rare and hold them in a warming area where they continue to cook. They have to be constantly monitored to be sure they’re not overcooked, then allowed to rest so they can be carved perfectly and served for dinner.
• Fish is another great option for grilling, and hint from the seasoned team at Don Strange of Texas: keeping the skin on the fish for grilling is the best option unless you have a fish basket. Spray the fish with cooking spray or vegetable oil and voila, unless you’re serving salmon. Try grilling the fish in foil with fresh herbs, citrus, whole peppers or chile flake sea salt for a savory taste that isn’t overwhelming.