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Summer Grilling and Barbecue Series: Hamburgers, Hot Dogs and Brats - Roundtable #2

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To bun, or not to bun

Discover Orange Bowl - Northern Illinois v Florida State Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Here we are on to round-table #2 which will cover hamburgers, hot dogs and brats.


First - What is your default answer to the following question - would you like a hamburger or hot dog? You have not seen what the burger looks like nor do you know what kind of hot dogs are on the grill.

Patrick: Hamburger

Mike: I’m more than 10 years old... so it’s a hamburger.

Jon: Hot dogs have to be one of the grossest foods I can think of. What’s in them? Who knows. I’m having a hamburger.

Nate M: I’ll cheat. I’ll ask if there are any brats. If no brats then I’ll go with a burger.

Second - When grilling for family and friends is the onus on you (the cook) to ask whether everybody wants cheese on their burger or is the onus on the person who doesn’t want cheese to tell the cook not to put cheese on their burger?

Patrick: It’s on the chef or at least that’s how I’ve always treated it.

Mike: We always put the cheese on after they get off the grill; frequently, we have a choice of cheese. And if you are fast with getting your burger, it’ll still get nice and melty.

Jon: The person doing the cooking should always ask.

Nate M: Every time I’m grilling my assumption is that cheese is going on the burgers. Then at the last minute I remember to ask. So it might be both. I’ll always take cheese on my burger, however if I didn’t want cheese I think I would tell the person who is grilling to make one without cheese.

Third - If you are making the burgers by hand what do you put in the mixture? Maybe it is nothing. Maybe it is everything. Maybe it is maybeline.

Patrick: I use to have a couple of mixtures that I would use but I have gone away from that over the years. Now it’s 85% beef and whatever seasoning I feel like adding before they go on. Do something different every time. Also, do this while wearing Maybeline. If you’re going to grill then be fabulous while doing it.

Mike: Nothing but beef.

Jon: There’s an assumption here that burgers are always beef. We typically have three options always available at our house - beef, chicken, and salmon. Most of the time we’re using pre-bought patties because everyone is always in a hurry. The times I’ve done my own mixture, I have used hamburger and pork sausage, or I have added hot spices because my family is a hot and spicy family. They can either learn to love spice, or GTFO.

Nate M: Our usual is beef, egg and Worcestershire. Also salt and pepper.

Fourth - What are your best tips for grilling a burger?

Patrick: Grilling or BBQing, whatever you want to call it, is still cooking. You have to be good at it and that takes time. Just throwing something over heat in the great outdoors doesn’t make it good. Learn what you think makes a good burger and become a master at it. Also, use your imagination.

Mike: Put your thumb in the center of the patty immediately before putting it on the grill. It keeps the patty from puffing up in the middle.

Jon: Go get a cold Grain Belt and drink it while I sit on my ass and watch someone else grill the food. Maybe three Grain Belts. Maybe six. I smoke food. Other people at my house grill. No one ever invites me any place, and I don’t invite people over. Yes, I am anti-social. Screw you.

Nate M: One thing I’ve learned is that you need to give the grill time to get hot. If food is sticking to a pan or in this case a grill then it is the food’s way of telling you that it isn’t ready to be flipped. In other words I need to learn to be more patient while cooking food. Keep the grill on high for 10-15 minutes and then when it is time to cook, turn it down. Or keep it up. Your call.

Fifth - There is a pan of grilled hot dogs and brats. How many brats do you take and what color is the trashcan that you throw the hot dogs into?

Patrick: Two brats and the hot dogs go to the dogs. Dogs are kind of like trash cans, right?

Mike: Depends on the size of the brats; usually just one. I load mine with a good amount of kraut. Hopefully someone else eats the hot dogs.

Jon: Two brats minimum. Jalapenos and onions, or kraut if those aren’t available. Maybe this is why people don’t invite me over. I want my brats explosive. Small children can have the hot dogs. Or the dog. Our dog is white. She is a mini-horse. She could eat all the hot dogs. Here is a picture of our dog Esther:

Where’s the hot dogs, you sunsabitches?

Nate M: Brats are the best. In fact, we don’t have hot dogs in our house but we do have brats. I know they are higher in fat (usually) but we tell my kids they are hot dogs because my oldest was at one point at like 7 percentile in bodyweight because he was sick for a long time. So we are still trying to catch back up. This last check-up he was at 45%.

Sixth - What are the best types of hot dogs? What is your go to brat?

Patrick: Best type of hot dog is a Chicago Dog. Go to brat would be..........green onion? I’ll have to think about this one. I’m more concerned about what type of mustard I want on it.

Mike: Free hot dogs that someone hands you at the party. Otherwise, I’m grabbing something else. As for brats, my #1 choice is from Fareway and my preference is actually the bratburger. Tastes like a bratwurst, but no skin on this patty as you cook and eat it like a burger.

Jon: The best type of hot dog is one that someone else wants. Brats - probably Johnsonville, the jalapeno or cheddar cheese variety.

Nate M: I like some cheese in my brat. In terms of hot dogs, I actually love it when schools have the Fairbury hot dogs. The real red ones. Yum.

Seven - Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato and Ketchup. Does anything else go onto your burger? Meat-bun ratio?

Patrick: Anything can go on a burger. One of my favorites is a sticky burger which has peanut butter, provolone cheese, and bacon. Like I stated above, use your imagination with toppings. However, you can go overboard to the point where certain flavors mask others and negate their purpose. Learn what goes well together and you can do anything with it. As to meat-bun ratio, I would go with 35% meat 35% bun and 30% toppings. Yes, I just came up with that ratio because I have never thought of it before.

Mike: I’m open to many toppings... or none at all, if it’s a really well cooked burger. (For example, Omaha’s Goldbergs, for example.) Green peppers, banana peppers... hell, I’ll even go with teriyaki sauce and pineapple, for something different. My baseline is ketchup and pickle, though.

Jon: I’m like Mike. I’m pretty open, with the exception of peanut butter. (I woke up from a coma hating peanut butter, fuck that shit.) Otherwise, whatever is available, again, preferably something spicy. Meat-bun ratio? People put too much thought into this. I don’t... what?

Nate M: I have started buying buns that are smaller. I hate huge buns. They just get in the way. The smaller the bun the better. I like mayo, ketchup, onion, tomatoes, lettuce and bacon. That sounds pretty tasty.

Eight - If an Iowa fan shows up to your cookout wearing Hawkeye gear, do you have him sit at the kid’s table or do you tell him/her to leave?

Patrick: I treat them like a human being should be treated.

Mike: I grab a couple of hot dogs from the garbage can from question 5, throw them back on the grill for 30 seconds to heat them back up, and hand him a couple.

Jon: So say I had this theoretical cookout. Why would an Iowa fan show up?

Nate M: They sit at the kids table.