Hamburgers with Herb Butter
Chances are, if you are like most Americans, you dream of serving up smoky briskets and competition-quality ribs. But most of the time, when you fire up your grill, it is to cook a humble hamburger. Cooking a great burger has gotten harder in recent years, even though grills have become more sophisticated. The problem lies with the beef. When I was growing up, salmonella poisoning was a freak occurence. Now, science and prudence dictate that you cook a hamburger to an internal temperature that is at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit--in other words, until it is medium to medium-well done. Desperate times require desperate measures. Here is the burger quite unlike any you have probably ever tasted. In order to keep succulence in a fully cooked burger, I place a disk of herb butter in the center. The melting butter moistens the meat from the inside, so you can cook it through without drying it out.
Wet your hands with cold water and divide the ground beef into four portions. Pat each portion into a thick patty filled with a slice of herb butter. Season with salt and pepper and refrigerate the burgers, covered, on a plate lined with plastic wrap while you preheat the grill.
Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to high. When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate.
Grill the pancetta, if using, until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain.
Place the burgers on the hot grate and season again with salt and pepper. Grill the burgers until cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes per side for medium. (If you like, rotate the burgers 90 degrees halfway through cooking to create an attractive crosshatch of grill marks.) If using cheese and/or pancetta, place a slice of each on each burger after you have turned it (pancetta first). To test for doneness, insert an instant-read meat thermometer through the side of the burger into the center. The internal temperature should be at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit for medium.
Brush the buns with melted butter and toast them on the grill, 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Assemble the burgers: on the bottom half of each bun, place a lettuce leaf followed by a slice of onion and tomato. Top with the burger, the condiments of your choice, and the top half of the bun.
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