Homemade Pub Burgers
Prep Time: 90 min
Cook Time: 15 min
Yield: 20 burgers
approx. 7 lbs. USDA Choice chuck roast
approx. 1 1/2 lbs. uncured bacon
Southern Links BBQ Burger & Sausage Seasoning - to taste
20 slices sharp cheddar cheese
A Break from the Daily Grind
For this dance with my grill, I didn't give Mikey the option of giving me a true assignment. I was hosting a family party for my son's birthday, and I wanted to cook for them. With that being said, Mikey suggested burgers. Finally, a cook that is in my wheelhouse! I have been grilling burgers for years, granted they were crappy burgers, but I had more skill now. As quickly as I breathed that sigh of relief, Mikey's next text kicked the wind out of me.
"You have a meat grinder right?"
Now let's just pause here for a damn minute. I have never been a chef, but I have been married for 17 years, have 3 kids and we have all eaten homemade meals. In all these years, I have never even thought that I should ever have a 'need' for a fucking meat grinder. I am not a hunter and somewhere in my head that would be the only justification to own a meat grinder. Beyond that, WTF? This was supposed to be an easy cook!
As if he was then trying to give me a guilt trip, Mikey started talking about how I don't need one but if I really wanted to have good burgers there was no other way. Still, I protested saying I could get the butcher to grind a cut for me. My protests though would be undone...not by Mikey, but by me. See he planted that little seed which sent me into a flurry of research. The first thing which shocked me was that it was not entirely uncommon to grind your own meat for burgers. Then, I started to read why people did it. While it is nowhere near as eye-opening as when you find out how McDonald's makes chicken nuggets, I hesitate to think that I could buy the ground beef in a tube anytime soon. Even with the ground beef from the butcher...while it is better, there is still a massive difference from that to controlling your ingredients yourself.
So yeah, Mikey sold me. The only problem remaining was this cook was coming up quickly and I still had no meat grinder. It was at this point in which the ninja pitmaster opened the doors to his home so that we could grind meat together.
One side note, trying to get out of cleaning the house for a party, saying "I have to go over to Mikey's to grind some meat" is not a valid excuse.
So, I headed over to Mikey's for the strangest date of my life! I arrived empty handed as I was told we were also going to buy the meat. So I knew what to look for in the future. We headed to the butcher shop. I got a little tutorial on what to look for, where the marble should be, and what it should look like. A few minutes later I had two of the largest chuck roasts I have ever seen, and we were headed for the door. Back at Mikey's, he pulled out a couple pounds of his homemade bacon and we cut it all up into chunks.
Next, Mikey set up his meat grinder on his Kitchenaid mixer and started pushing all the chunks of meat through. Before I knew it, he had ground all the meat into a gorgeous grind. I had made the mistake of assuming we were done when Mikey asked me to put the bowls of freshly ground meat in the garage to let it cool down. After letting the meat and his grinder cool down a while, we retrieved it and started mixing it together in preparation for the second grind. After running all the meat through the grinder a second time, we were ready to make the patties. We started forming the meat into hamburgers, which were about 1/3 pound to 1/2 pound. They were thick and looked amazing. We finished up by separating them all with wax paper and packing them up.
When it comes to grilling burgers, I am far from an expert. I honestly thought I had tried every technique out there to get a great burger and had never quite gotten it. Then again, these burgers were a far cry from anything I have ever cooked before too. Either way, whether it was a frozen bag of 'burgers' to the more expensive butcher burgers, I had never mastered it. For these, Mikey handed me Southern Links BBQ Burger & Sausage Seasoning telling me to season both sides and set up my grill for two-zone cooking. From there, sear them quickly on both sides over the fire and then move off and let them cook. I will admit, this I had not tried. So what the hell? It's time to grill!
Now maybe I am a glutton for punishment, or maybe I just like to work way too hard. Whatever the reason, I wanted this party to be my food from start to finish. What kind of host would I be if I just gave people a burger, albeit a phenomenal one? So I decided to haul out Mikey's PK! (Oops, was I supposed to bring that back to him on our grinding date?) So while I was grilling the burgers, I would also fire up the PK and smoke both homemade mac & cheese as well as tomato soup grilled cheese bites.
The morning of the party, I was sitting there realizing I have logistically 3 cooks happening at once here. Plus, the PK could not hold both sides at the same time. So, I had to figure that out. I started out by making my homemade mac and cheese. I got that all made and assembled in a grilling tray. Then I take out all of my beautiful pub burgers and seasoned them. Finally, I took my cheese and tomato soup ice cubes out of the freezer and wrapped them up in dough. With all the food prepped, it was just about time to fire up the cookers.
Since the PK was running longer, I fired her up first. I set out a couple rows of briquettes and added a layer of lit ones. Once I got her to a solid 250, I added on two chunks of pecan wood. Soon, I added on the tray of mac & cheese and let that smoke while I fired up my kettle. Since I was going hot on the kettle I fired a full chimney and dumped it on the one side of the kettle, with the vents wide open.
After about 15 minutes, I took the mac & cheese out of the PK and put it in the oven set at 300. In its place, I put in the tray of tomato soup grilled cheese bites. From that point, it was time to try and cook the hell out of these beautiful burgers. I seared 5 or 6 of them at a time, letting them set on the coals for a couple minutes before flipping. Then, I moved them over to the cooler side of the Kettle and repeated the process through all the burgers. Here is where I should have planned a little better. Who knew 20 burgers would not all fit on the cooler side of the grill? Improvising I rotated the ones one the far side with the ones closer to the fire. Fortunately for me, the tomato soup grilled cheese bites on the PK were done. So, I put those in the oven with the mac & cheese and used the space on the PK to take 6 burgers off the kettle to cook.
These burgers were thick. The cook time took longer than expected. To pass the time, I got a second High Life. Soon enough, they were all just about ready for cheese. I added on a slice of sharp cheddar to 15 of them. A couple minutes longer, and they were gorgeous. Before I knew it, my guests were diving into a massive amount of food, which was all barbecued by me. Relaxing for the first time all morning, I indulged in what was the best hamburger I have ever had!
This was a stressful cook, no doubt. I joke that I added the stress on myself with the added sides. The truth is, though, while it is a rush to cook, there is something about sharing what I cook with others which is amazing. No, everything wasn't perfect. I cooked the mac & cheese a bit too long in the smoker giving it a bit too much smoke. But it was a great meal, certainly better than the crap we used to order in trays for parties. Beyond that, the reward of seeing people enjoy the food was well worth the price of all of the stress.
From an educational standpoint, though, a lot came out of this. This was the first cook I walked into with confidence in knowing what I was doing. Hell, I have cooked burgers a thousand times. Yet, in the end, learning a better way of doing it was as much unchartered territory as my lobster tails were. I cannot say that I will grind my own meat every time I cook burgers, but I will consider it. I also will never even consider those bags of frozen patties again. At every step in BBQ, there is a way to improve, be it the technique, or the raw ingredients. This cook turned the world of what I knew upside down, and the results were simply beautiful!
Until next post, remember kids.....CHUNKS not chips!
Cut the chuck roast and bacon into 1 inch cubes.
Using a meat grinder, grind both the chuck roast and bacon together.
Mix the grind well with hands.
Re-grind all of the meat a second time.
With hands, form 20 thick patties approx 1/3 lb. to 1/2 lb. each.
Season each patty with Southern Links BBQ Burger & Sausage Seasoning on both sides
Set up cooker for 2-zone cooking.
Place burgers directly above charcoal and seer for approx. 2 min. on each side.
Move burgers to inderect side of the grill and continue cooking approx. 7-12 minutes.
When burgers are almost done, place 1 slice of cheese on each patty and continue cooking for approx. 2 min.
Remove and let rest for 5 minutes.