Barbecue Burger

I’ve always said that if you want to know something about a particular subject, go to the experts.

That’s what our philosophy was when we had the monthly magazine Northland Outdoors at the Herald. We didn’t claim to be the experts on hunting and fishing, but we talked with and wrote about what the experts said.

So, if you want to know something about barbecuing, you should check out those who are the best at it.

That’s why I read with interest the latest installment of The Associated Press’ “20 Burgers of Summer” series, which featured Paul Kirk, a man who clearly knows his meat. According to J.M. Hirsch, the AP’s food editor, Kirk is one of the world’s most accomplished barbecue gurus — with some 450 awards, including seven World Barbecue Championships — as well as executive chef at New York’s R.U.B. BBQ restaurant.

“This may sound too obvious, but what makes a burger great is the meat. You can add different things to your patties or top them with whatever you’d like, but if you don’t start with the right foundation, the whole building will crumble, right?” he said in an interview by e-mail with Hirsch.

Kirk told Hirsch he’s all for experimenting with blends of different cuts of meat, but says the most important part for the home cook to focus on is the ratio of fat.
“Keep it somewhere in the 80/20 range and you’ll end up with a flavorful, juicy burger,” he said. “After that, I like to keep things pretty simple. Some hearty white buns and maybe some onion, but I don’t top ‘em with too much. I like to let the meat shine.”

Kirk’s addition to the series is BBQ burger, which he calls a no-brainer.

“We had some chopped brisket available, as we tend to have at the restaurant, and thought about mixing a little of it in with our burger patty,” he said. “It took two or three tests before we got the right balance so that you could taste the smokiness of the meat through the burger.”

To up the barbecue flavor even more, Kirk added some of his dry barbecue rub to the burgers just before tossing them on the grill. He suggests using whatever variety rub you like.

BBQ Burger
1½ pounds 80 percent lean ground chuck
8 ounces smoked or barbecued beef (such as brisket, short rib or tri-tip), finely chopped
¼ cup purchased barbecue dry rub
1 Vidalia onion, sliced into ¼-inch rings
¼ cup vegetable oil
4 slices smoked Cheddar cheese
4 white hamburger buns
2 tablespoons butter, softened
In a large bowl, mix the ground chuck with the chopped beef until well combined. Form the mixture into four 8-ounce patties. Season both sides of each patty with the barbecue rub, reserving just a bit of the rub.
In a small bowl, toss the onion rings with the vegetable oil and some of the remaining barbecue rub.
Heat a grill to medium and lightly oil the grate.
Spread the butter on the inside of each bun.
Cook the burgers until nearly done, flipping once, about 6 minutes per side for medium-rare, or to desired doneness.
Meanwhile, add the onions to the grill and cook until slightly charred and soft.
Just before the burgers are done, top each with onions and a slice of the cheese. Cook for another minute or so.
Toast the buns lightly over the grill and assemble the burgers.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 711 calories, 377 calories from fat, 43 grams fat (16 grams saturated, no trans fats), 170 milligrams cholesterol, 27 grams carbohydrates, 57 grams protein, 2 grams fiber, 525 milligrams sodium.

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