JEFF TIEDEMAN: Burger blissToday’s cooks elevate grilling favorite to new heights.
What’s your favorite food from the grill?
I asked about two dozen of my co-workers that question, and there wasn’t a consensus.
About an equal number picked hamburgers, steak, chicken, kebabs and ribs in my informal poll. And brats, vegetables and salmon weren’t far behind. Those results were in line with those that I found on a Google search of the most-popular foods to cook on the grill.
But when it gets right down to it, what food isn’t good on the grill?
I’m a fan of all the aforementioned foods but would have trouble singling out just one as my favorite. For example, within the past month or so, we’ve had burgers, marinated pheasant and sharp-tailed grouse breasts, homemade venison sausage, kielbasa (from Kramarczuk’s in northeast Minneapolis) and vegetables from the grill. And if I go back a little further, you can add salmon and kebabs to the list. Each night, I might have had a different answer as to what would be my top choice.
As one of the biggest grilling days of the summer — the Fourth of July — looms on the horizon, I’m sure there are plenty of people who are planning their backyard barbecue menu, including me. With family from Ohio coming in this week, I’ve sort of made up my mind to fix burgers, since we have an abundance of ground buffalo and venison in our freezer.
These days when you talk about burgers, there’s always a discussion about what constitutes the best one. Three things that fall into that debate are the type of ground meat, the ratio of fat and grilling technique. If you asked five people, it’s unlikely you would get all of them to agree in any of the categories.
A lot of restaurant chefs and backyard grillers have elevated the burger to a gourmet dish with creations that are topped with such condiments as cilantro-laced pestos, Greek-style tzatziki and mango salsas or are stuffed with a chunk of cheese, a spoonful of sauteed mushrooms or some chopped red pepper.
If you are one those cooks, you should consider entering the granddaddy of all burger contests. The Build a Better Burger contest is sponsored mostly by Sutter Home Winery in Napa Valley, Calif. In its 21 year, the contest cook-off takes place in Chicago. The grand prize for the best beef burger is $100,000, plus the trip to the Windy city to compete. Entries are being accepted through Aug. 31. (Contest rules can be found at sutterhome.com or send a self-addressed, stamped No.10 envelope to Sutter Home Winery’s Build a Better Burger Rules, Box 248, St. Helena, CA 94574-0248.) Cooks also can enter an alternative burger for a shot at a $15,000 prize. (Alternative burgers can be made from any ground foods.)
I wonder if they need any judges.
Tiedeman is food editor at the Herald. Reach him at (701) 780-1136 or toll-free at (800) 477-6572, or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.