Niman Ranch Burgers

After years of rental housing, moving, and making do with a grill pan, I have to say that I love my real deal Weber grill.  This is the second summer we’ve had it, and I’m determined to become just as good of a cook outside as I try to be inside.  I’ve had some success, for sure, but the one meal that keeps throwing me for a loop is burgers.

Burgers!  You’d think they’d be the simplest thing.  I had an absolute disaster with them last year…  When I cook on the stove, I usually try to buy the leanest ground beef I can find to avoid having to drain it.  On the grill, super lean beef is a bad idea.  Like it or not, fat provides flavor; we ended up with dried out, tasteless little pucks.

This year, I accepted that I was going to have to use beef with a higher fat content in order to get better results.  I found a tasty-looking recipe – Ina Garten’s Niman Ranch Burgers – and decided to give them a whirl.  (Full disclosure: I did not seek out Niman Ranch beef specifically, so I suppose these are just “burgers.”  I did use 80/20 beef as recommended, though.)

Prior to starting the burgers, I heated my grill to medium-high.  In a large bowl, I combined 2 pounds of 80% lean beef, 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of coarse salt, and 1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper.  I gently mixed the ingredients with a fork (overmixing will toughen the meat).  I recently acquired a burger press – I figured that uniform patties would help me get to uniform cooking – so I used that to create six 1/3-pound patties.

Once the grill was ready to go, I oiled the grates to prevent the burgers from sticking.  The recipe said to cook the burgers for 4 minutes on each side for medium-rare.  We are definitely medium to medium-well hamburger eaters, though, so I decided to give mine 5 minutes on each side.  (I’ll probably drop this to 4:30 or 4:45 on each side next time.)  Once the burgers were done, I served them on toasted rolls (I used mini Kaisers from Target, which are so not mini!) with caramelized onions.

Niman Ranch Burgers

I overcooked the burgers slightly, so they weren’t amazing, but they were strides ahead of last year’s disaster.  The olive oil and the higher fat content of the meat kept the burgers moist, and the seasoning combination was simple but so good. This is a great “basic burger” recipe that I fully intend to try again, next time with ground chuck (a tip from my dad) and slightly shorter cooking times.

TIPS:  The burger press took a little getting used to.  I initially had a hard time getting the patties out of the press, but running a butter knife around the edges before inverting the press over a plate helped a lot.  If you are going to freeze any of your patties (I froze half), be sure to freeze them on wax paper or some other surface that will easily release them once they’re frozen.  I must have mentally checked out when I went to freeze mine because I put them directly on a plate to flash freeze them before putting them into freezer bags.  Getting them off of that plate took a little bit of thawing and quite a bit of coaxing.

Recipe link: Niman Ranch Burgers

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