TIPS AND TRICKS: Beyond Your Basic Burger

There is nothing better in the summer than a freshly grilled hamburger. But burger after burger can get a little boring and ruin your summer body. Here are some quick tips to shake up your grill game:

• Spice it up! Use different spice blends, either mixed in with the meat or sprinkled on top. There are a lot of different mixes available—Montreal steak, Asian Spice, Italian, Souvlaki. You can vicariously travel the world while eating your burgers. If you’re not sure what to buy, check out epicure.com. It’s a Canadian company and they use herbs and spices from known sources with no additives.

• Stop with the basic beef. Pork, lamb, chicken, and turkey are all available, extra lean, ground, in your local grocery store’s butcher case. Branch out. Extra lean ground chicken mixed with Italian sausage, topped with melted Provolone makes a really delicious sandwich. How about mixing chopped shrimp in with ground pork and some Asian flavourings like ginger, garlic, and soy sauce? Mix lamb with Souvlaki spices and serve in a pita with some tzatziki.

• How about a meatless Monday burger? Instead of buying premade veggie burgers, make grilled vegetables. Portobello mushrooms, thick rings of eggplant, slices of zucchini, and onion rings, seasoned with salt and pepper, brushed with oil and grilled until tender. Shake on some Italian herbs, drizzle with balsamic glaze, pile it all onto a toasted ciabatta bun, and top with slices of fresh mozzarella and a few fresh basil leaves. Buon appetito!

• Looking for a grilled chicken breast sandwich? I have two great tips.

• Instead of grilling the whole chicken breast and most likely overeating because it’s too big, slice your chicken breast through horizontally, creating two thinner chicken breasts. This serves two purposes. It means your chicken is equally thick from one end to the other, so you don’t end up with one end overcooked and dry and the other end potentially under cooked because it’s too thick. And, it creates a chicken breast that is more in line with a proper portion size. A thinner chicken breast also works better in sandwich form than a thick, uneven breast does. A thin piece of chicken breast will take about 3 minutes a side to grill.

• Let’s face it—chicken breast can be pretty bland. Marinades are a fantastic way to add flavour, and, believe it or not, salad dressing makes a great marinade. It’s readily available and it comes in a variety of flavours. You can use premade bottled dressing, or you can make simple vinaigrette using the following formula: 3 parts oil* + 1 part acid (any type of vinegar, lemon juice, or wine, for example) + salt, pepper, and seasonings to taste + emulsifier (mustard, egg yolk, or soy lecithin).

*Because you’re using a grill, you need to use an oil that has a very high smoke point, like Grape seed oil or Avocado oil. Olive oil isn’t suitable for grilling because of its low smoke point. The oil will burn and transfer the burnt taste to your food.

Happy grilling, everyone!