It's officially grilling season! But the next time you fire up the grill and pull those patties out of the fridge, there's something you'll definitely want to avoid.
You probably already knew that you should never leave raw meat out for long lengths of time. But hamburgers are especially susceptible to issues relating to temperature control — and it's not just about food safety. "The key factors to keep in mind are safety, stability, and steam," Jamie Schweid, President and CEO of Schweid and Sons, tells CountryLiving.com.
- Safety: "Ground beef contains a lot of air, so it will warm up quicker than a steak," Schweid says. "If your burger gets too warm, you run the risk of introducing bacteria into your burger." Keep it at a temperature lower than 40º F.
- Stability: "Ground beef burgers are delicate things," Schweid continues. "The warmer they get, the quicker the fat will begin to render, causing them to lose their shape. If you want your burger to keep its patty formation, leave it in the fridge until your pan or grill is ready for it."
- Steam: "Moisture plays a large role, too," Schweid says. "When a burger cooks, the moisture closest to the edges evaporates first. With a room temperature burger, there is more liquid water to evaporate, which may prolong the searing process, resulting in an overdone burger." And nobody wants that!
So, exactly how long is too long to leave raw meat out? That all depends on the room temperature, Schweid says. "If ground beef is left out in a place that's particularly warm, the meat will warm up faster," he says. "Since this variable may be difficult to control, it's best to keep it refrigerated until use."
The easiest way to check if a patty has passed the point of no return is to break out that meat thermometer and check the internal temperature. If it reads 40 degrees or higher, it's been too long.
Streamline your meat's journey from the fridge to the grill (and maintain shape and temperature of preformed burgers) by leaving them in the package they came in for as long as possible, Schweid says. "Opening the package only when you're ready to cook will help ensure both their freshness and temperature," he adds.
As for handmade patties? "Place them on a tray lined with parchment (or other nonstick) paper and cover the tray with plastic wrap to delay oxidation. When the time comes to remove them, use a dry spatula to carefully remove the patties from the parchment paper and onto the skillet or grill," Schweid says.
Safe grilling, folks!