GRILL + CHILL | Kick Off Summer with a Blue Ribbon Burger

A burger so good you’ll want to smack your mama

Although there have been ground/minced beef dishes for millennia, it wasn’t until the 19th century that someone put raw meat to flame  (and later, still, nestled it between two slices of bread) to created the predecessor of what we think of as today’s hamburger.

Louis’s Lunch in New Haven, Conn. in 1895 was the first place to serve a burger in the nation, so says the Library of Congress. Then came a succession of sandwiches, with the Golden Age of the hamburger starting with the explosion of McDonald’s after the chain was purchased by Ray Kroc in 1955. Today the hamburger continues to evolve – fast food-style, gourmet-style, vegetarian, sliders – it’s a dizzying array of categories. 

We couldn’t think of a better way to kick off Summer this Memorial Day Weekend than with our Blue Ribbon Burger, a classic example of this truly All American dish. 

Our burgers are cooked on our trusty grill, but there is nothing to say you can’t cook it on a grill pan or in a skillet (cast iron is best) indoors in case you don’t have a grill or space to cook outdoors, if there is inclement weather, or other factors. Regardless of your cooking method, you will want to grill the burger over medium-high heat. 

Follow the methods for your grill, whether charcoal or gas, as recommended by the manufacturer. We’ll also have some tips on preparing and using both types of grills  in an upcoming column. 


+ Follow the culinary method of mise en placewhich roughly translates to “everything in it’s place.”

+ Start the charcoal in your grill if applicable in order to have it burn down for the proper temperature

+ Have all the equipment and other items you need laid out: platters, spatulas, tongs, and the like

+ Have all the ingredients you need on hand: beef, buns, and fixings. Items like lettuce should be washed and torn to sizes to fit the bun. Items like onions and tomatoes should be sliced. 


+ For our Blue Ribbon Burger, we want to use the best beef we can. We love visiting with the expert butchers at our official grocer, The Fresh Market [LINK] because we know that the ground beef is produced fresh, in-store daily and is sold only on the day it’s ground. 

With burgers, fat is our friend; a leaner burger means a dryer burger. A good ratio is 80/20, or 80 percent beef to 20 percent fat.

+ The ideal burger patty size is 6 ounces, so 1-1/2 pounds of ground beef would make 4 servings

+ Roll each 6 ounces of beef into a ball, then flatten it into a 4 inch patty that is about 3/4-inches thick. Minimize handling your meat

+ Press a small indention, about 1-1/2 inches wide, into the center of the meat. This will help create a more uniform cooked patty. 

+ Keep the seasoning simple: use a generous amount of salt and fresh black pepper on each side. Season just before putting on the grill, as the salt will pull the moisture out of the meat if it sits too long, making a dryer burger. A bonus of salt in addition to the seasoning; the salt also helps create a crust on the burger.

+ Grill over medium-high heat. A hot grill will sear the burger and keep the juices in.

+ With a clean cotton kitchen towel (or paper towel) held in a tong, oil the grates of grill with a neutral cooking oil with a high smoke point, such as canola, safflower, or sunflower. This will help prevent the burger sticking to the grill. 

+ Place the burgers on the grill with the indentation facing up; cook for about 3 minutes for a medium-rare burger. Medium-rare is the recommended temperature of a burger; cook for a shorter or longer period according to preference. 

+ Flip the burger once; do not press. Continue to cook 3-4 minutes. At this point add thinly sliced cheese then cover with a lid to allow the cheese to steam and melt evenly across the burger. We like a thinly sliced, sharp cheddar cheese for a flavor boost. We’ll have more about the best cheese for burgers in an upcoming column. 

+ Do not cut into the burger to check doneness, this will cause the release of juices. If you are concerned to whether a burger is cooked to your liking or not, use an instant read meat thermometer. A rare burger will register from between 120 to 125 degrees. A medium-rare burger ill read from between 130 to 135 degrees. A medium-well burger will register from between 150 and 155 degrees. And a well-done burger will register from between 160-165. 

+ Remove burgers to a platter to rest for about one minute while you toast the bun.


+ We like a soft, supple bun with good taste and texture, so we often will use a potato roll with our burger.

+ Once you remove the burgers from the grill, place both cut sides of buns on the grill for about 30 seconds to toast.


+ To assemble the burger, put a thin layer of your favorite spreadable condiment, such as mayonnaise or mustard, on the bottom bun and then place the beef patty. Add your pourable condiment like ketchup or steak sauce, on top of the patty and then add your other fixings like lettuce, tomato, and onion.

+ We keep our fixings simple, and, like our buns, we look for both taste and texture. We like crisp lettuce, sliced tomato, sliced raw onion, and pickles.

+ In a future column we’ll talk about the different options of lettuce, tomato, and onion.

+ In a future column we’ll give you a recipe for our quick and easy Picnic Day Pickles that you make in the refrigerator.

Come celebrate Summer with us. Here at Virginia Eats + Drinks we are proud to partner with our Official Grocer, The Fresh Market [LINK], to bring you all the recipes, recourses, tips, and tricks that you need.

We call it Grill + Chill 2019, and you won’t want to miss one single tasty post. 

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