Culinary no-no #475



1. conforming absolutely to the description or definition of an ideal type: a perfect sphere; a perfect gentleman.

2. excellent or complete beyond practical or theoretical improvement: There is no perfect legal code. The proportions of this temple are almost perfect.


noun, Rhetoric.
1. obvious and intentional exaggeration.

2. an extravagant statement or figure of speech not intended to be taken literally, as “to wait an eternity.”

“Perfect” is a genuine, authentic, bona fide, real English word.

So is “awesome.”

Both are incredibly over-used.

However there are many experiences that are truly “awesome.” I doubt any are ever “perfect.”

And so my curious bone reacts, my radar goes up whenever I hear/read the term “perfect,” especially when it refers to food.

This Memorial Day weekend is often considered the first official weekend of summer (it’s not) and thus, automatically, the first grilling weekend of the year (it’s not because grilling season is 365 days a year, it never ends).

I’m not sure how many burgers will be tossed on the grill this weekend and weekends to follow. Quite a few, and that’s no hyperbole for sure.

I’m no James Beard award-winning chef, but when it comes to burgers on the grill I don’t believe you don’t have  to be. My formula:

We purchase really nice ground beef, season it, marinade with Worcestershire sauce and let it sit for awhile before putting the patties on a hot grill.

I use a stop watch. Five to six minutes (the grill has been covered) and I flip.

The last 45 seconds or so I place the cheese (can be any kind, the one we want that particular day and whatever’s on hand). That goes for the tops of the buns, too. About 30 seconds on the grill just to get a nice, gentle toast.

After 10-12 minutes my stop watch tells me it’s time to take the burgers off.

If I wanted grilled onions I’ve had them wrapped in aluminum foil well off to the side so they’ll be perfect, OOPS, I’m sorry, just right when I take them into the house.

This is so easy ANYBODY could do it.

And yet some folks suggest that while this isn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination that I could certainly do much better. That I could definitely be doing more.

In fact they use the word “perfect” to describe their methodology.

Oh really?

Please. Enlighten me.

That’s J. M. Hirsch, Food Editor of the Associated Press.

Hirsch claims to have stumbled across the technique to grill the perfect burger when he was attempting to determine how to grill slider-sized burgers without them falling through the cracks. His answer?

A cast-iron grill platter.

Hirsch writes on AP and look for that “word”:

I placed the platter on the grill grate and started grilling the bites. They were all delicious. But the most exciting part was the rich, brown crust they all developed. The platter turned the gas grill into a flat grill, while the heat of the cast-iron surface deeply caramelized everything it touched. Because the lid was down and there were other foods on the grill, the burgers still got that smoky outdoor grilled flavor, but with a griddle-style crust.

It was the perfect cooking mashup of grill and griddle for my all-American cheeseburger topped with melted American cheese. Since that evening, it is the only way that I grill burgers — of any size.

Todd Kliman agrees with Hirsch. Kliman writes for the Washingtonian but is leaving at the end of this month, May. Kliman’s consensus is based on recommendations he received from the Burger Guru who has cooked at burger competitions around the country, including the World Burger Championship in Las Vegas. Kliman wrote in the Washingtonian recently:

Do not use your grill. Cook your burgers on the stove, in a cast-iron skillet. “I used to be a grill guy,” said the Burger Guru. “Now I’m a cast-iron guy.” Why? “The crust. You can’t get a good crust on the grill. You can in the pan.” He advises heating a small knob of butter before searing your patties.

OK. Before all hell breaks loose, and I become  part of the pitch forks and torches brigade, let me just say that I could write paragraph after paragraph about the obscenity above. I’ll just submit that this:

Do not use your grill. Cook your burgers on the stove, in a cast-iron skillet. “I used to be a grill guy,” said the Burger Guru. “Now I’m a cast-iron guy.” Why? “The crust. You can’t get a good crust on the grill. You can in the pan.” He advises heating a small knob of butter before searing your patties.

Is completely sacrilegious. Completely abandon the entire ritual of outdoor grilling? You’re out of your *&^%$$#$^*^%^ mind.

I don’t doubt that the skillet method yields  tasty burgers. But it’s an added step that I consider unnecessary. Also, My wife, the bargain hunter tells me these skillets are not cheap. Depending, of course, on where you shop.

For Hirsch it was the skillet. For Kliman it was not just the skillet, BUT 14 other steps to cook that perfect burger. I scrutinized his 15 steps, and found these to be questionable:

1) Buy cheap meat. “The cheaper the ingredients, the better.”

KF: Sorry. As much as I love Kwik Trip just blocks from my house, I ain’t buyin’ my meat there.

2) Don’t mix in salt and pepper.

KF: I don’t see a problem here.

3) Secret ingredient #1: fish sauce.

KF: Never been there. Never done that. Probably won’t.

4) Secret ingredient #2: Duke’s mayonnaise.

KF: The only place mayonnaise may go on my burger is on the bun.

11) The second side gets half as much cooking time.

KF: I prefer an even cooking on each side. As mentioned, I use a stop watch for accuracy.

12) No gouda, no cheddar, no provolone. Put the cheese on once the burger’s off the pan. “American cheese all the way,” the Burger Guru said.

KF: Wrong, twice. Why bother with a grill if you’re not going to use grill heat to melt that cheese. And LOTS of cheeses work, not just boring American.

14) Use a potato roll.

KF: Good choice, but not the only one.

Read all Kliman’s 15 here.

Upon further and complete review I am not convinced with the original suggestion made.

Patties laid gingerly over grill plates with hot coals below. NO skillet. It’s how I’ve seen it done for over 50 years. No complaints.



The healthy burger that may make even carnivores opt for veg’

ALSO: Check out my wife’s latest and timely Culinary yes-yes



3 thoughts on “Culinary no-no #475

  1. How do you know if it’s not good if you don’t even make it and see?

    Ah, because you just … simply … know.

    Because, because — that’s the way you’ve always done it.

    Nothing more to learn.

    Here are two more words to mull:




      • Back again to usage.

        You can’t have a *preference* if there’s only one way that you’ve tried.

        And if it’s simply a way you really like to go, and have no desire — no *curiosity* — to try the other, why expend so many words and paragraphs on it? Why denigrate something you have no idea of?


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