By Kara Kimbrough
If you pay attention to the calendar (not the one that says summer ends when school starts and temperature are hovering near 90), the end of summer is finally near. For those interested in such facts, summer officially begins at the June solstice and ends on the autumnal equinox on Sept. 22. But for many, the season will end as the sun descends on Sept. 5 at the end of what I hope is a leisurely Labor Day weekend for all.
For me, when all-American smells of lighter fluid, glowing charcoal briquettes and sizzling meat waft gently into the night, that’s the cue that fall is on the horizon.
If, also like me, you follow the axiom that in the south, fall is the perfect time of year to grill out, I have just the thing for you too help extend grilling season. It was actually one of the biggest scoops of my journalism career. I uncovered the secret to great grilled meat.
It started innocently enough. Several years ago, I was invited to attend a regional barbecue cook-off. Over 30 teams from eight southern states located along the barbecue belt gathered to compete in a prestigious grilling contest. I’ll omit the name and here’s why.
Wandering up to one of the cooking team sites, I met a member who’ll remain nameless. That's because he received a severe scolding when other members discovered he’d shared some of the top secret grilling recipes with me. In the spirit of anonymity, I’ll share them without divulging his identity.
For great burgers, take a pound of ground sirloin or turkey, mix in a package of Lipton’s Onion Soup Mix and crushed Ritz crackers and form patties. Coat with Tony Chachere’s Seasoning and grill to desired doneness.
Steak-lovers who desire something different should try hand-made filet mignons, which can be cut to order at any service meat counter. Coat with Tony’s or other favorite seasoning and grill to perfection.
And the top secret of all the secret recipes? It involves great ribs, the perfect end to summer’s grilling season. Full disclosure: this is the recipe that was supposed to be a closely-guarded secret. Since several years have passed, I feel comfortable in sharing it.
Trim off all fat and soak in – here’s the secret part - pineapple juice with a splash of lemon juice for about five hours. For the all-important rub, sprinkle with Tony’s, then roll in brown sugar to coat. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours, shake off excess sugar and grill at a low heat. Five minutes before they’re done, coat with your favorite barbecue sauce.
Yes, it’s somewhat sad that summer is almost over but I’ll be grilling and enjoying the products from others' grills until frost bites. Until then, enjoy my journalistic scoop as well as the recipe for the tastiest burgers of the summer.
Best Labor Day Burgers, Buns & Sauce
(makes 8 large burgers)
3 pounds ground chuck
2 large eggs
1/2 cup store-bought (or you can make your own in the food processor) bread crumbs
1/2 cup onions, finely diced (can substitute a packet of Lipton's Onion Soup Mix
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (I add more simply because I like the taste)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons each: dried oregano, salt
1 teaspoon each: smoked paprika, ground black pepper
Add eggs to a bowl and whisk well. Add other ingredients and mix just until combined. Form into 8 equal patties and make a small indentation in the top of each one with a spoon so burgers will cook evenly. If you have time, let the patties chill in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes, as chilled meat stays together better during cooking.
Grill over medium-high heat, flipping only once, until burgers reach desired doneness. To cook on the stovetop, a method that creates a crispy exterior, heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add patties and cook for 4-5 minutes until brown, then flip once and cook to desired doneness.
Melt two sticks of salted butter, then stir in just a dash of your favorite hot sauce, minced garlic or other seasoning. Brush inside of buns and place face down for a few minutes on a hot grill. If using the oven, toast buns in a hot skillet on a baking sheet inside a 300-degree oven. Watch buns carefully, as you don't want them to get too brown or crispy.
Burger sauce: combine 2 parts mayonnaise to 1 part barbecue sauce, then add a dash of pickle relish (to taste).