Why You’ve Been Grilling Hot Dogs and Hamburgers All Wrong
And how to do them right.
It’s not you, it’s the grill. At most cookouts, the burgers and hot dogs are thrown over a blazing fire side by side. That’s a surefire way to get burgers black outside and uncomfortably red inside and shriveled hot dogs as dry as jerky. Because these summer staples are so simple (that’s why we love them!), they have to be cooked right to taste great. It’s all a matter of heat and timing. Start by taking control of the grill and end with the best barbecue ever:
1 Create two heat zones.
Burgers and dogs are two different beasts—even if they came from the same mooing one. To get a gorgeous char on burgers, you need to start the patties on medium-high heat. Throw dogs over that same flame and they’ll burst, weeping their tasty juices. Start—and keep—hot dogs over a medium-low heat.
2 Flip the patty when it wants to be flipped.
Once the meat chars on the grill, caramelizing in its own fat, it’ll easily release from the grate. If you need to pry and scrape the burger to move it, don’t mess with it. When it’s ready, it’ll turn over without any sticking.
3 Keep those dogs moving.
Even though grill marks look pretty, they’re a small sacrifice for dogs that are hot all the way through with a snappy skin. To achieve that nirvana, roll them on the grate often to heat evenly.
4 To cover or not to cover?
That is the (easy) question. Cover with a gas grill, but not with charcoal.
5 Go low.
Once the hot dogs glisten a shade darker than reddish-brown and look taut, like a balloon ready to burst, stuff them into buns and serve or move them over low heat. If they overheat, they’ll start to dry out and get tough. If the burgers develop a crackly brown crust, but you want medium, medium-well, or well-done burgers, move them over medium-low heat to keep cooking them so the outsides don’t burn. If you want medium-rare, slip the patties into buns and serve.
6 Taste to test.
If you’re not sure whether your burgers are done, you can insert an instant-read thermometer to check the temperature (155° F for medium) or slide a paring knife in the center and peek. But your best bet is to taste it. Ditto with the dogs. And with everything you cook.