Perfectly Melting Cheese At a Cookout

melting-cheeseHave you ever been to a cookout, whether it be for the Fourth of July or Memorial Day, were whoever is cooking the hamburgers doesn’t melt any of the cheese that they’re putting on the burgers? They just slap it right on the patty as they dish it out. Un-melted cheese is also very common at fast food places, although in their case I believe it to be unintentional. As much as I like their burgers, Five Guys seems to have a problem with melting the cheese on their hamburgers. And so does McDonald’s, but I’m also not totally convinced that is even cheese, ha! Or have you ever experienced the other extreme when the cheese is melted but the burger is way overcooked because it sat in the grill too long to melt the cheese? Well in this post I want to talk about how to get a perfectly melted piece of cheese on a hamburger for your future cookouts.

Burgers are meant to be served hot. This is an obvious statement; no one wants a cold hamburger. But just since burgers are meant to be served hot doesn’t necessarily mean that all of your toppings are also meant to be served hot. For instance, lettuce is always cold. Onions can be raw or cooked, same with green peppers. Tomatoes should definitely be cold. But what about the cheese? Should that be hot or cold? Well, since a burger is a hot sandwich, I think that the cheese should be hot. After all, you can’t truly appreciate cheese on a hot sandwich unless it is melted.

Now the secret to getting a perfectly melted piece of cheese on a burger is to place it on the hamburger maybe two minutes BEFORE the hamburger is done cooking. That’s right, don’t wait around until the hamburger is cooked to the right temperature to put the cheese on because if you wait that long, the burger will be overcooked by the time that the cheese melts.

That is a classic mistake. People wait until the burgers are cooked to their liking and then they put the cheese on only to find out that the burger now is overcooked. The best time to put cheese on a burger is about 2 minutes before your burger is done, depending on the thickness of the cheese of course.

So next time your find yourself cooking at a grill-out or you find yourself talking to the guy doing the grilling, give him the secret and watch the crowd go wild with how much of a different that that makes on the hamburgers.

Notice however that this doesn’t even address the type of cheese to include on a hamburger, only when to place it on the patty itself. The variation of cheese flavors is something that will be discussed in future posts as we could easily write another 1,000 words on the subject. Who ever knew that making hamburgers was such a science? Or is it an art form? You decide.

My First In N Out Burger

ino-vs-5My First In N Out Burger

Now, I live in New York City, so the majority of the burger joints that I review and talk about on this blog are located in and around New York, but I recently took a trip out to California and was instructed by a number of fellow burger lovers to visit an In N Out Burger. They all gave it stellar reviews and gave a list of items that I needed to order when I got there. So here is the account of my first In N Out Burger! :]

First thing’s first, I arrived roughly 1:15 p.m. and the placed was absolutely packed. This is usually a good because there is no worse feeling than walking into a restaurant during lunch hours and having it be completely empty. Really makes you question how good the food is. But luckily for me this wasn’t the case; it was hopping! So busy in fact, I always had a hard time finding a table to sit at once I got my food.

At In N Out you get a ticket, sit down, and wait for them to call you name. Once they call your name, you head up to the counter, get your food and go back to your table.

So, as my friends advised, I got a Double-Double Burger “Animal Style.” Animal Style hamburgers are all the rave at/about In N Out. It is a special type of sauce that they include on the burger for these. You can also get animal style french fries which have cheese and chili on them.

Now this is where some of my California readers might want to stop reading, ha! The reason I say this is because in California and in the surrounding states, In N Out Burger is an institution and any criticism of it is not allowed. Here are my thoughts on my In N Out experience. The burgers were good, but they weren’t great. I did thoroughly enjoy the animal style sauce that was on both the burger and the fries, but that in and of itself wasn’t enough to set the place above and beyond.

Now before you all cry “heresy!” hear me out, because I have a rational for this.

Five Guys have become pretty popular all across the United States in the last five years or so, and, in my opinion really stepped up the fast-foodesque burger game. Sure they are more expensive than places like McDonald’s but can you really compare Five Guys to McDonald’s? But what has now happened since establishments like Five Guys have become so popular and widespread is that they have cause other burger establishments that ordinarily would have been a great eating place when compared to McDonald’s or Burger King to fall into the “okay” or “pretty good” category. Five Guys has in effect raised the bar of what a fast good burger should taste like.

So, back to In N Out, the burger was good, but was it better than a Five Guys burger? I can’t say that it was. Is Five Guys better than In N Out? I’m not sure I can say that either, but I am certain that there isn’t a clear-cut winner. I would say that the fries were probably better at In N Out.

What do you think? Do you think my comparison is accurate?

What Makes A Good Burger?

what-makes-a-good-hamburgerPeople routinely ask me what is it that makes a good burger? What are the ingredients? What is the temperature? What kind of toppings should you put on it? All of these kinds of questions I get asked on a very regular basis, and I usually have to go into a detailed explanation of what it is to make, cook, and prepare a good burger. Well, no more explanations after today because I will have an entire blog post dedicated to it, so I can direct anyone and everyone who asks me from now on to this page! :]

So what’s the secret?

Well, the “secret” isn’t all that secret in my opinion, but I’m going to lay out some of the best burger making tips I can in this post.

Temperature

Probably the most important element to cooking any hamburger is cooking is to the proper temperature. Like any meat, you cook it for taste and to rid it of any bacteria that it has. The hotter you cook the meat, the more bacteria that is killed. This is why at restaurants you usually see a note on the menu that says, “Consuming raw or undercook meats can increase the likelihood of food borne illness.” This is because the less you cook a hamburger the more bacteria that is able to survive. Now, you may be thinking, well we should just cook it super thorough to get rid of everything! Right? Well, the problem is if you cook a burger too much it can start to lose a lot of its taste. Also, the more you cook it the tougher and drier the meat becomes, and no one like a dry burger.

The best temperature for a burger is medium. This was you are still cooking out plenty of the bacteria but you are keeping as much taste as you can. A true medium should still be pink and juicy in the center.

Seasoning

Now, a good piece of meat doesn’t always need a lot of spices or seasoning, but a great way to spice up your burger if you don’t have the best cut is to put some seasoning on it. It’s important not to go overboard with them though because you want to keep the burger in mind. The burger is what you are featuring so you don’t want it’s taste to be drowned out by other seasonings. A great all-purpose seasoning is Lawry’s season salt. It is a combination of salt, pepper, garlic salt, and just a great medley of seasoning.

Toppings

Toppings are very much to taste. I would say even more so than temperature and seasonings. Some people like their burgers plain, while others like to load them up with tons and tons of toppings. I prefer mine to be right in the middle. I like all of the traditional toppings you might find on a hamburger, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and pickles, but I am not a big fan of some of the more extreme toppings like hot sauce or onion rings and French fries. I am, however, a big fan of green peppers on my hamburgers.