Could any food be as simplistic and delicious at the same time as a patty of beef on top of a crusty bun, served with lettuce, tomato and your choice of condiments? Burgers are the go-to item for barbecues, campouts, fast-food meals, and late night trips to the diner. A juicy burger can satisfy so many cravings in one sitting.

If ever there was a recipe to master, it would be grilling the perfect burger. Though barbecued burgers may seem easy to make, all too often burgers are botched by a few mistakes. But don’t worry, burger mastery is within reach if you follow these simple tips.

* Begin with fresh meat. Freshly ground meat will produce the best flavor. If you are unsure when the packaged ground beef was made, ask the butcher or someone in the meat department of the supermarket to grind you up a fresh batch. Otherwise, use a food processor or an attachment on a stand mixer to grind the meat yourself.

* Fat has flavor. If you’re going to indulge in a burger, make sure it has a fair amount of fat content. Fat helps keep the burgers moist and juicy. Make sure the fat content is about 18 to 20 percent of the mix. This helps to guarantee flavorful burgers.

* Keep the meat cold. Chilled burger patties will firm up and hold their shape better during cooking. Leave the pre-made patties in the refrigerator until the last minute. Keep patties on ice if you will be cooking burgers in batches.

* Don’t overhandle the meat. Compressing the meat and handling it too much can lead to dry, dense burgers. Avoid tough meat by handling it as little as possible. Keep your hands wet while shaping the patties so they’ll come together easily.

* Oil up the grill. A clean, well-oiled grill prevents burgers from sticking during cooking.

* Make sure the grill is super-hot. The goal is to cook burgers over high heat and fast. This is achieved with a very hot grill. It may only take three to five minutes per side to cook the burgers, depending on the thickness of the patty.

* Flip only once. Wait until the burgers have been grilling for a few minutes and release easily from the grill grate. Flip them over and allow them to cook a few minutes more. This helps keep the juices inside the meat and prevents your burgers from turning into burnt hockey pucks.

* Resist the urge to squash the burgers. Pushing down on the burgers with the spatula will only force the juices out. If you want dry burgers, press them down. If you want nice, juicy burgers, step away from the spatula.

* Allow the burgers to rest. Take the burgers off the grill and let them rest for 5 minutes so that all of their juice redistributes through the patty. Toast your hamburger buns and then serve the burgers with your favorite toppings.

Dig in and enjoy your efforts, as well as the compliments from other diners.

Add homemade onion rings to your backyard barbecue

Backyard barbecues typically leave all the preparation to the family grillmaster. But the menu at such a soiree need not be exclusive to grilled foods. Hosts who want to give their guests something a little different can pass around a hearty helping of “Beer-Batter Onion Rings” courtesy of Neal Corman’s “Virgil’s Barbecue Road Trip Cookbook” (St. Martin’s Press).

Beer-Batter Onion Rings

Serves 4 to 6

Flour mixture

  • 2 pounds all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated garlic
  • 1/2 cup granulated onion
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt


  • 6 extra-large eggs
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 11/2 teaspoons lemon pepper
  • 11/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 11/2 cups ale beer


  • 2 pounds large yellow onions, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch slices
  • 4 cups canola oil
  • 1. Sift all the ingredients for the flour mixture together into a large bowl.

2. Blend the eggs for the batter in the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment on medium, or in a large mixing bowl if using a hand mixer.

3. Reduce the mixing speed to low and add all the dry batter ingredients. Beat until incorporated. Add the ale and transfer to a large shallow bowl or baking dish.

4. Set up a breading station with the flour mixture, the batter and a clean sheet pan.

5. For each onion ring, dredge the onion in flour, then in the batter, then in the flour again. Place the twice-breaded onion ring on the sheet pan (making sure to keep ring separated), and repeat the process until you’ve breaded all the onion rings. Refrigerate the rings for 10 to 15 minutes or fry immediately.

6. Add the oil to a large and deep saute pan or electric skillet, so it is one-third full, and heat it to 340 F.

7. Fry the rings in batches, being careful not to crowd the pan. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate and let cool for several minutes before serving to prevent burns.

Suggested serving: Serve with ranch dressing.