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How-to Tuesday – How to Grill the Perfect Hamburger

For the past several weeks I have been trying to grill the ultimate hamburger. In order to do that, we need to define what the ultimate hamburger is:
1. Juicy
2. Thick
3. Medium to well done
4. Not needing much spice
5. Delicious

The first burger was juicy, thick, lightly spiced, but still mooing. Feeling the heat to get the burgers ready for the already finished meal, in my haste I didn’t check them well enough; hence we ate meat that was far too raw.

Lesson #1: Thou shalt take thy time to do things right. (Thank you Mr. Rogers; your lessons still linger with us.)

The second burger was smarter than his younger burger. He built his house out of sticks… Wrong story, sorry. So the next go round, I let them cook longer. Albeit still in a rush, I didn’t cook them until the juices ran clear. “Medium rare” I lied to myself, and served them up. They were rare, and my wife didn’t much care for the blood on the plate.

Lesson #2: Thou shalt cook them until the juices run clear.

The third burger was not entirely perfect, but very very very close. I defrosted some premade patties that were about 3/4 inch thick, so it passes the thickness test. I lightly spiced them with a fresh batch of house seasoning, so they passed the spice test. I put them on a preheated grill, and cooked one side for about 7 minutes then turned them once and grilled for 7 more. I knew they were juicy because a slight press brought out the sizzle, and the meat thermometer hole shot like a geyser. Yes they were delicious, but one was medium and the other was medium rare. Three lessons on this one:

Lesson #3 Thou shalt not squish the juices out of thine meat.
Lesson #4 Thou shalt check all meat with the meat thermometer.
Lesson #5 Thou shalt calibrate thy meat thermometer, and thou wouldst be better off to not buy a cheap one.

The fourth burger was, well, a good apex to the strange weekend I had over Easter. Nothing seemed to go right, and I’ve been dealing with sick kids all day. Since we missed out on my Mom’s famous marinated chicken, I decided to fire up the grill and do another hamburger. The burger was top-notch. However, I burned the buns while trying to toast them. Thick, juicy, well done: it was perfect; except for the burnt bun.

Lesson #6 Thou shalt cook thy burger first, then thou shalt toast thy bun.
Lesson #7 Even a bad burger is still a burger. Be grateful you have a burger.

A few more lessons from my experience:

Lesson #8 Form thy meat to about 3/4 inch thick. Freeze the patties with wax paper in between them in food saver bags.
Lesson #9 Thou shalt defrost thy meat before grilling. It seals in the flavor better if you can get a good sear.
Lesson #10 Thou shalt preheat thy grill on high to get good sear marks, then reduce thy heat to medium.

What is your experience cooking the ultimate hamburger? Sound off in the comments. Don’t forget! Add a comment to help decide what we’ll be cooking in the iron chef challenge! Leave a comment below with a meat and a veggie or fruit or starch!


Spices – House Seasoning

3 parts salt
1 part pepper
1 part garlic powder
Mix all ingredients thoroughly and store in spice shaker jars.

How-To Tuesday – How to Make Grilled Sourdough Pizza

I’ve always wanted to cook sourdough pizza, so last Monday I called my pal Mark, of Mark’s Black Pot, who is the resident bread expert this side of the Great Plains. The following is the weeklong saga culminating with the best pizza I’ve ever had. Yes fans, it was that good. This post will be split into two sections:

Sourdough Basics

Grilling Pizza

Lets get started:

Sourdough Basics:

Step 1. If you mix it, they will come. We need a nice habitat for our wild yeast friends that will be living in our dough. A week before your party, mix together 1 cup water and 1 cup flour. This is called the starter. It should have the consistency of somewhere between pancake batter and biscuit dough. Leave it out on the counter overnight in a place it won’t be disturbed, not too much heat, and no metal. Stirring, mixing, or bowl. NO METAL. Metal kills yeast.

Step 2. Invite the colony to the party. Now you should have caught some wild yeast bugs and they are happily producing the gas that makes sourdough so yummy. Every night for 5 nights, scoop out half the starter and discard it, replacing it with 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup flour. This is “feeding” the start. If your kids keep bugging you about getting a dog or cat, tell them they have to take care of yeast for a week. That will be a good test to see if they can handle a multicellular organism.

Step 3. Mix the sponge. The morning of the party, mix 1 cup starter, 2 1/2 cups water, 4 cups flour. Let it ferment for about 6 to 8 hours. This is uncovered, on the counter.

Step 4. Mix the dough. 3 hours to showtime, get the dough started… it will need to raise for 1-2 hours. To the sponge, mix 1 cup flour, 1 egg, 2 tbsp sugar, 3 tbsp oil, and 1 tbsp salt. Mix thoroughly and knead adding flour until it passes the “windowpane test”. If you can stretch a window of dough without it tearing it is ready. Cut the dough into appropriate sized balls and let raise in a warm place for 1-2 hours.

At this point, you can take the dough and make sourdough bread, but we want to make pizza, so with no further ado,

Grilling Pizza

Step 1. Prep your ingredients. Get everything “Mise en Place”. For our pizzas we used:

Tomatoes, sliced
Pepperoni, sliced
Artichoke hearts
Green onion, chopped
Red onion, sliced
Mozzarella cheese, shredded
Tomato sauce

Remember to brown the sausage ahead of time.

Step 2. Make the tomato sauce.

1 15 oz can stewed tomatoes, cubed
1 6 oz can tomato paste
1 tbsp parsley
1 tsp basil
2 tsp garlic powder

Mash tomatoes, mix all ingredients until blended. Let stand 10 minutes prior to use.

Step 3. Roll out the dough. I used my hands only, but you could use a rolling pin. Roll it out on some cornmeal so it doesn’t stick. Put it on a piece of parchment paper and build your pizza. Brush the crust with olive oil after rolling out to get the top crisp.

Step 4. Preheat the pizza stone. If you don’t have a pizza stone, you can use bricks, but it may take longer to heat. Put the stone on the grill, light the grill, close the lid and let it warm up.

Step 5. Place the pizza on the stone. Use the parchment paper to move it. It may char some, but it is only temporary. If you have a pizza peel, use that, otherwise, this works. Once the pizza starts to cook, you can remove the parchment.

Step 6. Bake the pizza from 15-20 minutes on low grill heat. Watch it closely so it doesn’t burn. When done, pull out and put on foil to cool. Cut and enjoy!

Bon Appetit! The Outdoors Start at Your Back Porch!

Dutch Oven – Mushroom Pork Chops

Growing up, this was my favorite meal. My mother would make these pork chops in her frying pan and they are oh-so-good! I have many fond memories cooking with my mother. I think it was her that sparked a lifetime love of cooking.

12″ Dutch oven
350 Degrees
40 Minutes
4 Servings


  • 4 pork chops
  • 2 cans cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 can water
  • 1/4 cup sliced mushrooms
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Garlic Powder
  • 4 potatoes, cubed

Sear both sides of the pork chops on medium high heat. Sprinkle with spices. Top with soup, water, mushrooms and potatoes, and bake for 30-40 minutes until the potatoes are tender.

5 Stars

Bon Appetit! The Outdoors Start at Your Back Porch!

Outdoor Cooking Duel – Call for help

Spring is here and it’s time to fire up our grills, dust off our cast iron cookware and scrape the grease from our barbecue pits. I feel like my cooking has plateaued again, which means my cooking skills have leveled and I am not trying too many new things. Maybe I am.

At any rate, I’m throwing down another challenge. I want as many participants to do this as possible. In that spirit, I’m opening the ingredients to the community. Leave a comment on this post with what meat and what vegetable/fruit/starch we should do in the challenge. Then I’ll number them and put them in the fateful hands of Whatever comes out we will be cooking with. That’s not all the fun, though! The third ingredient is chosen by each chef, but is an item you’ve never ever cooked with before. Cous cous? Arugula? Tomatoes? Whatever it is, it’s up to you to make it great. If you haven’t seen us do these before, check the past challenges out here. Even if you don’t plan on doing the competition, what ingredients should we put forth to our brave chefs? Let’s hear about it in the comments.


1. The meal shall be cook outdoors as a major component of cooking.
a. Foods can be prepped to the “Mise en Place” stage indoors, such as chopping food, melting butter, etc.
b. The major cooking time shall be outside, for example (non inclusive list), Dutch oven, grill, outdoor stove, solar oven, open fire, etc.
2. The chef shall learn a new cooking skill. If you are too new to cooking outdoors to know where to start, there are great guides on youtube, and for a list of cooking techniques, see this wikipedia article here.
a. Exemptions: The chef may not run an extention cord and microwave the meal outside. The microwave oven is only to be used during the pre-mise en place stage.
3. Ingredients: The community will decide 2 of the 3 required ingredients, but the chef decides the third. It must be an ingredient the chef has never cooked with before.
4. The recipe must be original. The chef may research the internet for ideas, but the end meal may not represent any recipes the chef has researched.
5. The chef should share their experience on the web. If the chef does not operate a blog or website and doesn’t want to start one, guest articles may be submitted for posting here on the Back Porch Gourmet. However, if you don’t want to write up a long post, just send us a recipe or picture!

Bon Appetit! The Outdoors Start at Your Back Porch!

How-To Tuesday – How to Make Sizzling Fajitas

Don’t you love it when you order fajitas at the restaurant and they come to your table singing a choir of sizzling goodness? Want that awesome effect at home? Here’s how:

You Will Need:
Fajita pans or skillets. They have to be cast iron or you won’t get the sizzle.
Chicken or steak, sliced into strips
Olive oil
House seasoning: 3 parts salt, 1 part pepper, 1 part garlic powder
Bell peppers, sliced
Onions, sliced
Sour cream
Fajita sized torillas, flour

Step 1. Heat the skillets on a barbecue or flame stove. You want a live fire, trust me, it will make them better. Add the oil and let it preheat. When adding oil, make sure there is enough to just cover the bottom of the whole pan.

Step 2. Add the meat and vegetables and sprinkle with house seasoning.

Step 3. Turn the chicken once and cook until browned and the juices run clear. The vegetables should sweat, but you could take the onions to carmelized. If you do, start the onions first then add everything else.

Step 4. Warm the tortillas on the top rack of your gas grill. This will soften them up and make them pliable.

Step 5. Turn the heat to high to get a good sizzle going, while making sure your table is set and you are ready to eat. Bring them in and serve them immediately. Most fajita pans have a wooden tray or basket to protect the table. If you don’t have something, put a hot pad down.

Step 6. Enjoy the amazing restaurant-style fajitas with good friends and family.

Bon Appetit! The Outdoors Start at Your Back Porch!

Podcast – 2011 IDOS Spring Gathering

As promised, here’s the podcast from yesterday’s IDOS Spring Gathering in Farmington, Utah. We got to interview a lot of folks that have a great passion for cast iron cooking. Interviewed are folks from the Taste of Dutch, the Youth Cookoff, and some from the Champions Mystery Bag Cookoff. The food was great and we had lots of fun! I can’t wait to do it next year.

Check out the full podcast here.

Bon Appetit! The Outdoors Start at Your Back Porch!