Two-stage burgers

JayHeyl

TVWBB Pro
A recent email from ThermoWorks linked to a blog post about reverse searing hamburgers. The testing they did showed that a burger cooked entirely over high heat spent just 30 seconds in the desired "finished" temperature zone of 153F to 157F. (The assumption is that carry-over will take the burger to the 160F needed for safety.) When using a two-stage cooking method -- initially cooked indirectly to 135F and then moved to high heat -- the burger spent over a minute in the "finished" temperature range, giving you a lot more room for error and still having a perfectly done burger.

Has anyone tried this approach? I have serious doubts that I'd get the kind of crusting desired given the small amount of time the burger is likely to spend over high heat. Using the direct heat only approach my burgers often don't get as crusty as I'd like, and that's with spending 3-4 minutes per side directly over the coals. If that's reduced to 30 seconds per side I can't see how a lot of Malliard reaction is gong to be taking place. My suspicion is this approach may make it easier to hit precisely the desired "done" temperature, but the overall result would be not what's actually wanted. And this is not even considering how you'd get the cheese to melt without moving the burger back to the indirect zone for a couple minutes.

Perhaps the Vortex would make this a more viable approach with the very concentrated heat right above the Vortex.
 

Dustin Dorsey

TVWBB Platinum Member
I cook them to 145 generally. It depends on what I'm going for. Getting a hard crust on a grilled burger isn't as important to me as if I was cooking one on a griddle. I mainly want to put it over medium direct heat and let the drippings hit the coals, maybe get some good grill marks on it and call it done. I think burgers are so fatty that cooking them over high heat coals is likely going to cause a massive flareup. I've taken that approach cooking 2 or 3, but over that it's unmanageable. I get the idea behind what Thermoworks is saying. Food safety is a matter of time at temperature and reverse searing can keep them at 145 way longer than a direct cook I guess.
 

JayHeyl

TVWBB Pro
That's a good point about time at temperature, Dustin. Just did a bit of searching and found a graph that shows bacteria begin to die at 130F. 112 minutes at 130F will hit the "safe" level for remaining bacteria. About 10 minutes at 140F will do the same job. But it's cumulative, so the time it took to go from 130F to 140F counts. At 150F you need about one minute, but, again, it's cumulative with time above 130F.

All of this is according to the U.S. government food safety experts who err far to the side of caution, hence the general recommendation to achieve 165F since it takes like 1 second at that temp to kill off 99.999% of the hazardous bacteria. So from a food safety perspective it looks like slowly raising the temp from 130F to 150F would be the best approach. Not so sure about that taste and texture though.

I think tonight is going to be burgers and since I have a new Vortex and porcelain coated cast iron grate waiting for a baptism of fire, I may have to try a two-stage approach and see how it goes. I am thinking that more time at lower temps will drive off the moisture from the outer portions of the burger and allow it to sear much quicker, so maybe 30 seconds over very high heat would do the job.

Still not sure about the cheese. I like to use a thicker slice of cheddar and it usually doesn't melt well with just the heat of the burger like a thin slice of American would. Maybe a minute back in the indirect zone would do the job.
 

JayHeyl

TVWBB Pro
So I tried the two-stage, reverse sear cook with the burgers using the Vortex and the new cast iron grate. I put eleven 5 oz. burgers around the Vortex. I gave them five minutes, then flipped and gave them about five more minutes. Then I starting moving them to directly over the Vortex. I could fit four at a time. 30 seconds on each side, then back to the outer ring while I dealt with the rest.

The results were not great, but I think it had more to do with learning how to apply this method than that the method itself is flawed. The burgers had a surprisingly uniform level of doneness, much like you'd see with reverse seared steaks. That was definitely on the plus side. On the minus side, they were uniformly overcooked and a bit dry as a result. Not terrible. Definitely still edible, but not something I'd expect to win any contests with.

What went wrong? First, I think I used too much charcoal in the Vortex. This was my first time using it so I went with the same amount of charcoal I'd have used cooking the burgers normally -- a full Weber chimney. I think a more gentle heat would have allowed the burgers more time on the cooler part of the grate. Less charcoal would have also provided a bit more room between charcoal and grate. I wanted a hot fire in the center, but this might have been too much. Next time, no more than 3/4 chimney to start.

Second, too much time on the outer ring. I was completely winging it with times on this. I tried using a thermometer, but temping a half-inch hamburger patty is next to hopeless. Plus, it was reading 130+F in about four minutes. I figured that couldn't be right so just went with time. Next time, less charcoal, lower heat, maybe cut back to four minutes per side, or start taking temps sooner.

The cheese worked out okay putting it on as I moved the burgers back off the center onto the outer ring. The minute or two they spent after the intense heat was enough to get a good melt.

I'll make adjustments next time and report back.
 

BobJ

TVWBB Fan
I sometimes get confused taking the temp of thinner foods. If I push the Thermapen in to what I guess would be 1/2 way I get one reading, then I flip the food and check the temp again right away it'll show a lot higher, like it's reading the top surface temp as opposed to the middle. I saw somewhere just the other day to take the temp at an angle, guessing their idea is to get more of the probe in the center of the food. FWIW, Thermapen says their probe is right at the tip.
 

LMichaels

TVWBB Hall of Fame
Honestly if you buy fresh ground or grind your own you stand little to no chance of harm from a mid rare burger. I have personally NEVER been ill from a rare or mid rare burger. Hell when we were all kids we used to ask our mom for some raw burger with a little salt on it. Delicious! Honestly my ONLY ever known case of food borne illness was a horrid case of food poisoning (so bad our county health dept had to call me and follow up because the hospital reported it) was from avocados! In the hospital the Dr told me because I did not wash the outside with soap and water or a mild bleach solution when I cut into it/them I brought the germs into the flesh and boom I was flat on my back for a week and ill/on meds for a month! So bottom line. Do not buy packaged ground beef. Only buy freshly ground from your butcher or buy the cuts you want and use either a meat grinder or food processor and make your own. Then quit over cooking your burgers
 

J Grotz

TVWBB Super Fan
A recent email from ThermoWorks linked to a blog post about reverse searing hamburgers...When using a two-stage cooking method -- initially cooked indirectly to 135F and then moved to high heat -- the burger spent over a minute in the "finished" temperature range, giving you a lot more room for error and still having a perfectly done burger.

Has anyone tried this approach? ...
I find I use a reverse sear on most everything that needs a sear these days. For burgers, I put all the coals on one half of the grill and lay a CI griddle on top of the grates over the coals. I cook the burgers on the other half of the grill over indirect heat, then finish them on the griddle for a nice crust. The griddle is also great for toasting buns, sauteing onions, etc.
 
No need for me. I grind my own hamburger, so the food airborne buggies are not an issue for me, as I like my burgers med-rare. I find my 4" 9oz patties reach an internal temp of 125, on a screaming hot fire (500-600 degrees) right when I reach my perfect charred sear...perfect timming.

This grind is boneless short rib, 70/30.









 
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JayHeyl

TVWBB Pro
I have personally NEVER been ill from a rare or mid rare burger.
You'll have to excuse me but this sounds a lot like my mother, who has an absolutely appalling lack of awareness concerning any food safety issues save cooking pork until it's tough as shoe leather, whenever I catch her doing something unsafe. She always says, "Well, I haven't killed anyone yet." To which I respond, "Give it time." At her age I know I'm fighting a losing battle but I still keep fighting.

I'm not pursuing this as a means to a "safe" burger. I'm looking for a better burger with readily repeatable results. Regardless of what your target temperature is, the principle of slowly raising the temperature of the entire piece of meat and then searing it would still be valid. The only exception would be if you can't get the sear you want without driving the internal temp past your desired end temp. Then you'd have to go right to sear.
 

JKalchik

TVWBB Pro
My understanding of the issue with ground meat is that it's really the grinding process. Bacteria and other pathogens on the exterior of the cuts fed into the grinder get spread throughout, as well as the somewhat inherent problem of sanitizing the grinding equipment itself. As a result, what was the exterior of the fed-in cuts of meat are now in the interior. When you grill a steak, the exterior that potentially had contact with a contaminated surface gets directly exposed to a sanitizing heat. The interior of a ground meat patty doesn't get that exposure, and unless it spends a relatively long time, you're still at risk from live critters.

Re: taking the temp of something thin, go in from the edge. On a half inch thick patty, thin pork chop, etc., you can get a pretty accurate temp of what's been farthest from the heat.

The reverse sear method allows you to get a relatively even cook at a low temperature, then a quick sear to finish it off, ending up with a pretty even cook with a good sear & crust.

Edit: if you really want to go for a high heat sear, put a grate over the top of a fully lit charcoal chimney. I get stainless grate just starting to glow on mine this way.
 
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LMichaels

TVWBB Hall of Fame
Trust me Jey I am FAR from "clueless" especially after having been put flat on my back for close to a month due to food poisoning. So trust me "clueless" I am NOT. If you notice my caveats I only use freshly ground beef from a known "cut" or grind my own. I NEVER eat a burger as rare as I would a steak or the cut of beef I made that burger from. I just think people go over board on stuff like this. If you follow stuff like this you see these e-coli, and other bacteria issue cases are due to the large commercial batches of ground beef/burgers from large commercial packing houses, packed and shipped in large tubes. Perfect breeding grounds for all kinds of nasties. So when I state I have not had any issues it's NOT because I am clueless as you so kindly state it's because I am CAREFUL.
 

J Hasselberger

TVWBB Pro
No need for me. I grind my own hamburger, so the food airborne buggies are not an issue for me, as I like my burgers med-rare. I find my 4" 9oz patties reach an internal temp of 125, on a screaming hot fire (500-600 degrees) right when I reach my perfect charred sear...perfect timming.

This grind is boneless short rib, 70/30.
I'm in the grind-yer-own camp as well, and I like the coarse grind, Chris. The nice thing about the DIY approach is that you can blend meats. Modern briskets tend to be cut "long" so that the thin end of the flat is REALLY thin. I trim that off, cube it and freeze it for when grind time comes around. I save pork rib trimmings for the same reason and throw a bit of that in the mix. I haven't done short ribs, but I may just do that next time around. I vary the mix to what is handy, but I like the flavor of 40%-50% brisket.

Jeff
 

timothy

TVWBB Hall of Fame
I've done smoked burgers like Bob posted and I take them to 160. ( they always have a nice color, with some dark crust)
They be so juicy, I would worry about a serious flareup putting them over direct heat.

Tim
 
My understanding of the issue with ground meat is that it's really the grinding process. Bacteria and other pathogens on the exterior of the cuts fed into the grinder get spread throughout...
Yes and no. The issue with commercial ground beef, is that the batch they portion out to sell, could have come from many different cuts, and from multiple animals...sometimes many, which exponentially increases the risk of foodborne bugs. If you buy a steak, which would be safe to eat rare or med rare, there is no reason to suspect it to be buggy if ground, if your equipment is properly sanitized (and mine always are).
 
I'm in the grind-yer-own camp as well, and I like the coarse grind, Chris. The nice thing about the DIY approach is that you can blend meats. Modern briskets tend to be cut "long" so that the thin end of the flat is REALLY thin. I trim that off, cube it and freeze it for when grind time comes around. I save pork rib trimmings for the same reason and throw a bit of that in the mix. I haven't done short ribs, but I may just do that next time around. I vary the mix to what is handy, but I like the flavor of 40%-50% brisket.

Jeff
Yes Jeff, youve got it!

Ive done, tri-tip, sirloin, brisket, flat iron, short rib, cheek, round, chuck, skirt, and others Im sure, and yes, blending is great. My fav is 50/50 short rib/brisket, but I have been known to blend 4 types, and my target is always 70/30 lean/fat. I did some lean tri-tip once, I just added bacon to the grind to increase fat %.

I dont even buy commercial ground beef anymore...even if you want the standard 80/20 chuck, buy the chuck roast and grind yourself, and save dollars per pound.
 

JayHeyl

TVWBB Pro
Trust me Jey I am FAR from "clueless" especially after having been put flat on my back for close to a month due to food poisoning. So trust me "clueless" I am NOT. If you notice my caveats I only use freshly ground beef from a known "cut" or grind my own.
And do you know the state of all the meat that went through the grinder since it was last cleaned? Just because you only have them put good stuff through for your package doesn't mean they didn't just run a big batch from whatever scraps they cut while trimming up everything else sold that day. I'm not saying that's bad meat, just that you're suggesting your "known cut" beef ground by the butcher is less likely to have a bacteria issue, but it's running through the same grinder as all the other meat ground earlier that day. If ANY of that had bacteria on it, then your "known cut" ground beef has the same bacteria. If you grind your own, then obviously you know the state of the grinder and you're likely safe, but anything ground by the butcher is going to be exposed to bacteria from the dirtiest piece of meat that went through the grinder that day.
 

LMichaels

TVWBB Hall of Fame
I only buy from places I trues if I don't grind it myself. These folks take good care of their equipment (I see them clean the grinder between batches), more times than not I actually pick out the cut I want ground as well. If on rare (no pun intended) I have to use beef from unknown sources I cook to about 160 for safety sake for myself and my family. When I was in the hospital with my bout of food poisoning the Dr treating me told me that due to what happened I would have to be more careful than any "normal" person.
So honestly to imply I am careless or "clueless" is an insult. Even though my case of FP (EColi, Campylobacter, Listeria and a couple more I cannot remember) did come from vegetation NOT from animal product I am extremely careful on what I buy, use and how I use it. Oddly I was NEVER that careful about burger meat prior to that like I am now and what's funny is what got me was Avocado NOT Hamburger.
Anyway suffice to say I am VERY careful about everything now whether animal protein or vegetables/fruits.
 

Kristof Jozsa

TVWBB Fan
I have been doing this for the past years. Cooking the burgers on indirect to 135F, putting them to rest, get the grates cool out somewhat and sear them 1 min/side over the glowing hot Slow n sear in the grill. I'm not sure about the end temperature but it should be around 150-160 I think.

Smoked burgers sound like an idea to try, but I'm also afraid I'd miss the crunchy exterior without searing..
 

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