Traditional Texas Food
Articles about Texas' most famous foods
by John Raven, Ph.B.
by John Raven, Ph.B.
With the coming of spring, it is only natural to want to do your cooking outside and avoid all the heat and smoke in the house. If you have a patio, it's the perfect place to assemble and consume your meals. If you don't have a patio, the back yard will have to do. In either case as long as you are under clear skies, the meal will taste a lot better.
You are not limited to the grill or smoker alone for outdoor cooking. An inexpensive camp stove may be more versatile than you know. Most of your camp stoves now burn propane; the white gasoline models are dropping out of favor. The propane burns clean and you can't spill it. Most camp stoves are equipped to use small propane cylinders about the size of a coffee can. One of these will give you a couple of hours of cooking, depending on how high you turn up the burner. If you are going to do considerable outdoor cooking with your camp stove, get a hose and large (5-gallon) propane bottle. You can find these at nearly any outdoor shop. By refilling the large bottle you save money and don't have the problem of what to do with the empty cylinders. One filling of the large bottle should last you all year.
My favorite thing for cooking outdoors is hamburgers. Burgers don't require a lot of prep and they are not expensive compared to other meats. Being from Texas I am a die-hard beef fan. I do not care for ground poultry. If you want to do the chicken or turkey burger, go ahead on. I'm sure they will be tasty and healthful.
Ground beef for burgers can be obtained anywhere there's a meat market. You can get the meat in bulk or already formed into patties. The patties can be composed of chuck, round or sirloin. You can even get the guy behind the meat counter to custom mix your meat with the amount of fat you desire. You need a little fat in the meat to keep it moist, and the fat adds flavor. If you are on a real strict diet, you can use wild game such as venison for your non-fat, healthy burgers.
The preformed burger patties are going to contain considerable fat. It should say on the label how much fat they contain. I think fifty percent is about the norm.
If you want to use bulk ground meat and make your own patties, there is a little plastic gadget out that will let you form a perfect patty every time. You just place the patty maker over a ball of ground meat, hold it securely and mash the handle. Nothing to it.
The normal serving size for a hamburger patty is a quarter-pound (or four ounces for you math wizards). This is a good size as it will be thin enough too cook quickly and thick enough not to dry out. If you don't have a kitchen scale, the way you get the four-ounce size is to take a one pound lump of ground meat and divide it into four equal portions. Roll each portion into a ball and mash it flat.
If you want to make up a bunch of patties and freeze them, be sure you separate the patties with a sheet of wax paper so they won't stick together when they freeze or else you will need the log splitter to get them apart. The "press and seal" plastic wrap works real well for storing hamburger patties.
And yes, Virginia, a frozen patty can go directly on the grill without adverse effects.
The traditional hamburger patty is seasoned only with pepper and salt. If you are making your patties at home, you can mix seasoning into the meat and mix it in before you form the patties. This gets flavor all the way through the patty.
The family used to put some crushed Fritos corn chips in the patties. It gave them a different flavor and provided a bit of crunch. I've got a couple of ideas that will follow for added inside flavor.
When grilling hamburger patties, you want a hot grill. You want the patties to cook fast. The system that works for me is to put the patty on the grill and, when a bit of juice begins to bubble up on the top, you turn the patty and let it cook another minute or two.
Toasting the buns is optional. I don't think toasting is required, but warming the bun is. It just makes it better. You can warm your buns on the back of the grill or in the oven in the house.
The classic hamburger has onion, tomato, pickle, lettuce and mustard for dressing. This combination is hard to beat.
A slice of American cheese makes your creation a cheeseburger. A couple of slices of crisp fried bacon on the cheese burger makes the bacon cheeseburger, which I think is as close to perfection as you can get between two buns.
Here are a couple of burger recipes I have encountered that sound real good. The first is
That is about all we have space for this time. While you are grilling your burger patties to perfection, you should have a pot of hot oil on your camp stove to cook up some French fries and onion rings for a "go mitt", as us Germans say.
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