by Gwen Allen
With Memorial Day, warmer temperatures and delayed sunsets approaching, May is the unofficial kickoff to the cookout season and is conveniently National Hamburger Month.
Although its origin remains unclear, National Hamburger Month seems relevant with estimates of the average American consuming up to three burgers a week. So what is it about a hamburger that makes it so special?
Randy Ream, owner of Ream’s Meat Market in Elburn, believes its popularity is due to a combination of things that include lower cost and ease of preparation. He said it is one of his most popular products.
“We have sold more hamburgers than anything this year, even more than steaks,” Ream said. “I think because of the economy, but also because it is a very versatile meat, it can be spiced and cooked in many different ways.”
But long before the grill and spices are added, a truly good burger begins with the meatâ€™s processing, Ream said.
“Different fat (from the cow) and muscles offer different flavors,” he said. “We use steak trimmings and sirloin tips. Some of the bigger chains use all fat, some are harder fats, so it can make them (burgers) taste waxy at times.”
Aside from visiting a local butcher, Ream said the only other way to get good ground beef is to buy a grinder, a potroast and do it yourself.
“They (chain stores) are just confusing consumers with the meatâ€™s origin (regarding ecoli scares and fat ratios),” Ream said. “(Faced with ground beef in a chain store), I would just buy a steak, or do it myself.”
Once you have established a good ground beef, he said the grilling portion is really simple. With a pound of ground beef, Ream said to add one egg, a chopped onion and combine them all together for an easy, tasty mixture. Then, grill to your preference, and add any condiment to suit your taste. An internal temperature of 165 degrees is recommended for safety.
While ketchup, mustard, pickle, tomato, lettuce and onion remain popular staples, there are creative alternatives waiting to be discovered. The list is endless, but other toppings include mushrooms, swiss cheese, blue cheese, mayonnaise, spicy mustard or ranch dressing, just to name a few.
Ream said he likes to wrap burgers in bacon and spice with garlic salt before he grills them.
No matter how you make them, the hamburger is a sure way to fill up your family affordably, and what better excuse is there to celebrate than that?