grinding meat

Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman


It’s summertime, for crying out loud! Nothing beats the smell of the smoke when hot fat hits hot coals. Grilling alone is a primal pleasure. Grilling among friends is a social pleasure. The flavor of a grilled burger is different from that of one fried in a cast iron pan–it takes on many complexities of the smoke, and if you’ve built a really hot fire, flames will lick the burger, adding even more complex Maillard flavors from all these differing heat levels. Grilled burgers have incomparable flavor for these reasons.


Why am I going on about the greatness, the inimitable deliciousness of the all-American summertime staple? Because my pal Michael Symon urged people, in the NYTimes of all places, to avoid using a grill because, “A grill is too difficult.”


Let me repeat this. Iron Chef Mike Symon. Said. “A grill is too difficult.”

“A grill is too difficult.”

You can understand, I hope, why that lame-ass remark rankles.

Symon was quoted by the estimable Sam Sifton in an article deconstructing the perfect burger, a very good article with lots of useful and thoughtful information. I loved that numerous people extolled the virtues of cooking burgers in cast iron, indeed a superlative cooking surface (just be sure to heat it properly before you put the meat in). Sifton stresses the importance of fat (he prefers 20%, I prefer 25–30%; this is a matter of taste) and of keeping it cold. Grind your own meat for maximum control of flavor, texture, and safety (regarding the latter, when someone else is grinding, you just never know). See my post on the best way to grind burgers (twice through the large die).

Watch Sifton’s excellent video (in the above article link) on two different burger styles cooked on cast iron (I love that he did the diner burger, which maximizes the seared crust ratio).

But Iron Chef Mike, I gotta worry a little. This is the same guy with whom Donna and I grilled and photographed lamb chops for his book Live to Cook, during which, comparing charcoal grilling and gas grilling, he said, “Using a gas grill is like kissing your sister.”

And now this: “A grill is too difficult.” Say it ain’t so, Joe!


Other links you may like:

© 2014 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2014 Donna Turner-Ruhlman. All rights reserved.