Dads, all eyes are going to be on you this Labor Day whether you like it or not. Might as well thrill 'em at the grill with a few moves that'll take your burgers and steak from yum to YOWZA!
Fire it up
Charcoal briquettes and lighter fluid are just dandy - if you like the acrid taste of chemicals and extra carcinogens added to your food. Gas is quick and clean, of course, but maximum fire flavor comes from hardwood lump charcoal. It's generally not treated with extra chemicals and it's a cinch to light, once you know the trick.
Tuck that into the bottom of the chimney starter and pour the coals into the top portion. Make sure you're in a cleared area - outside, always outside - with no ambient, flammable branches, grass, untucked sleeves, hair, children, dogs, etc., around. Then light the paper through the bottom vents. It will catch fire, igniting the coals from below.
Scrub it up
While you're waiting for the coals to ash, scrub the grill grate. That caked-on gunk from last Labor Day doesn't "add flavor" like some folks say. It's just gross, and it adds funky flavor. You're better than that.
Scrub the grate with some balled-up heavy duty aluminum foil and once the goo is gone, slather it with some cooking oil so food won't stick.
Cook it up
Once the coals are no longer glowing and have a light layer of white ash, pour them - carefully, as they tend to spark - into the bottom of your grill. If you feel like getting a bit fancy, throw in a few sprigs of water-soaked rosemary or a handful of mesquite or hickory chips that have been soaking in beer. This adds an irresistible smoky scent and bang-up flavor to just about any food - even tofu.
Replace the grate and close the lid. The grate should be screaming hot when the meat hits it, and this will help. A closed lid will also aid in cooking your burgers and steaks quickly and more thoroughly once they're in.
Beef it up
Yeah, you've got it down to a science, but these little tips will take your burger game to the next level.
- Don't skimp on fat. yes, you're trying to eat healthily, and we applaud that, but we've never met a 90 percent lean burger that's not painfully dry. Opt for 80 percent or even 70 percent and just skip the extra slice of cheese.
- Consider using grass-fed ground beef. It's better for the environment and the flavor is outta this world. Just try it once and see how it stacks up against plain old supermarket beef.
- Don't handle the meat too much. Form it into loosely packed patties that are slightly lower in the middle than on the sides. The dimple will even out as the meat cooks.
- For the love of all that is holy, don't mash down with a spatula while the patties are cooking. Yes, it's big, manly fun to hear the tsssssssss sound as the juice hits the coals, but that's flavor you're wasting.
- Don't fuss with the patties while they're cooking. Cook on one side, flip once and cook the other. That's it.
Steak it up
- Most of the burger tips apply to steak as well - grill screaming hot, don't move it around too much, just the one flip, don't skimp on fat.
- We will, however, make an exception for grill marks. Halfway through cooking a side, lift the steak and rotate it 45 degrees for a killer, professional-looking crosshatch.
- Blot the meat with a paper towel before you season and cook it. Wet spots just steam the meat and you're cheating yourself out of delicious char.
- Speaking of seasoning, kosher salt, fresh-ground pepper and olive oil all are you really need. It's great to get fancy with marinades, but it's STEAK. Just enhance the glorious flavor of it, and you'll be good to go.
- Once you take the steak from the grill, let it rest on a board for about 10 minutes to let the juices redistribute. It'll be uniformly delicious and cut like butter.
See all our best grilling advice at Grilling 101