Cook: Grilled Burgers with Cheddar and Caramelized Onions

Grilling is the quintessential method of summer cooking.  Unfortunately, our NYC apartment doesn't allow us the luxury of owning a grill.  On a recent trip to Denver, Colorado, we had a chance to grill up these burgers.  The simplicity of grilling and the amount of flavor that it imparts to the meat convinced us that we need to look for an apartment with outdoor space.  Hopefully we find one -- you'll see many more grilled recipes here if we do!

Grilled Burgers with Cheddar and Caramelized Onions

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Yield: 8 burgers

1 lb ground 80% chuck
1 lb ground sirloin
6 oz sharp cheddar, shredded
2 large sweet onions, peeled and sliced into rings
8 potato hamburger buns
6 tbsp butter (2 tbsp melted)
3 tbsp salt
2 tbsp pepper

(1) Light charcoal -- don't use lighter fluid (see below).
(2) Melt 4 tbsp butter in a saute pan.

(3) Add onions and saute until golden brown.

(4) In a large bowl, mix together both types of ground beef.

(5) Add 3 tbsp salt and 2 tbsp pepper; mix until combined.

(6) Shape into 8 equal-sized patties, about 1" thick.

(7) Grill burgers for about 8 minutes, then flip.

(8) Top burgers with cheese, grill for another 5-10 minutes, or until burgers reach medium rare.

(9) Meanwhile, brush inside of buns with melted butter.

(10) Place under a broiler, or on the grill (if you have space), until lightly toasted.

(11) Place each burger on a bun, top with onions, and enjoy!

We used a charcoal grill, rather than a gas grill.  Lighting a charcoal grill can be tricky - I highly recommend a chimney starter to light the coals.  Lighter fluid should be avoided at all costs, since it significantly affects the flavor of the meat.  Depending on the weather conditions, the coals will take varying times to get to the right temperature.  When using a full chimney, the coals are ready when the top coals start to turn gray.  If using less than a full chimney of coals, the top coals should be fully gray. 

Some people have a problem with eating burgers cooked to medium rare.  I have a problem eating a dried-out lump of what used to be beef.  If you're worried about safety, I recommend buying unground meat, searing just the outside, and then grinding it yourself.  In any case, if you can grind the beef yourself, you should - or try to find a butcher who will grind it fresh for you.  To help reach medium rare, I like to keep the patties at least an inch thick.  The exact amount of time needed on each side will vary based on the thickness of the patties, the temperature of the coals, the actual fat content of the meat, and the weather conditions.  Use your best judgment - or a meat thermometer (about 140 degrees).  The meat will continue to heat up internally after removing it from the grill.  Safety note: the USDA recommends cooking beef to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

Why mix chuck and sirloin?  Fatty beef, like 80% chuck, yields juicier burgers.  The sirloin adds tenderness and quality.  Don't press the burgers down when they're cooking; it just squeezes all of the delicious juices out onto the coals.

We used Cabot Private Stock Sharp Cheddar and strongly recommend it.  We found it in the local grocery store in Denver, so you should be able to find it near you.  It's excellent supermarket cheddar (side note: Cabot Clothbound Cheddar is possibly one of the best cheeses ever made).

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