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Your Weekend Drinking Instructions Hit the Grill

What're you going to do with yourself this weekend? Answer: sear meat via radiant heat.

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

What are you doing with yourself today? If you're like me, and everyone is, you're sitting in a dark room staring at a wall, wondering why you're sitting in a dark room staring at a wall and somehow reading this post. It's okay. We've all been there.

A lot of hullabaloo has been made this week about the Thursday start for Michigan, and approximately a billion of the 3+ million fans out there have made some kind of stodgy comment about football being on Saturdays. I for one would have preferred the game on any day before Thursday - ideally, maybe last Saturday or the Saturday before. Or the Saturday before that.

The biggest problem with Thursday games, other than me having to listen to other people bitch about why Thursday games are an abomination and dealing with going to work the day after football, is what am I supposed to do with myself the weekend after? Especially on a holiday weekend like this one. But when in doubt, I quit my wall-staring and go immediately to the well for two of my favorite old standbys: beer, and grilling.

It's Labor Day Weekend! The last chance to wear those sweet white pants. The last chance to drink an Oberon by the beach if it hasn't already been replaced by that stupid shitty pumpkin beer that people think is a good idea to release in late July. Michael Stein over at dcbeer has an excellent summary of exactly what the hell is going on with seasonal creep and some alternatives for those of you who aren't quite ready to switch from your summer lagers and hefes to fall/winter brews. I'll give you a clue: do not drink pumpkin beer. Go to the store, and pick anything else.

So you're likely going to show up at some kind of family barbecue in the next 48 hours. Good for you. You probably have relatives you barely tolerate and who, if I know my audience well, barely tolerate you. But that's okay. It's what holidays are for. You've got two options for said barbecue:

  1. bring some store-bought tub of potato salad, suck, and likely be cut out of Aunt Nellie's will for said suckage
  2. swagger in with the asskickingest blend of meats you've ever graced anyone's palette with

Go with #2. That way your personality can be what makes other people hate you. But with this recipe, you're going to walk away from your barbecue a king. A king, I tell you. (By the way - Joe at MGo came so close with his recipe that we're going to endorse everything here EXCEPT putting the bacon on the outside of the burger. Really good shit, though)

Here's what you're going to need to make eight of the best burgers you've ever had.

  • Two pounds of 80/20 chuck
  • A pound of ground pork (or a little ground veal, or some other kind of fattier blend)
  • A pound of ground bacon (If your grocery store won't grind bacon for you - most will - and you're not a fancypants who goes to butchers, that's OK. Buy your bacon and just chop the hell out of it till it resembles some ground meat. It works fine).
  • One egg
  • Beer (for your off hand)
  • Some spices - but let's just go with kosher salt and black pepper today, killer. You won't need much else.
  • Whatever you put on your burger and buns and stuff, but who cares, because we're talking MEAT today.

First, you want to mix your meats. It's a proven fact that burgers with blends of meats and lots of different fat contents taste great, but you can do a lot by just searing some ground chuck on your grill. It'll still be delicious. Today we're adding some pork and bacon to give you the deepest umami-nom taste (that's a word) you've ever had on a burger. Bacon is delicious, but sometimes it's a hassle because you can't have it in every single bite of everything you eat. This recipe solves that. Toss the meat with your hands until it's nice and mixed. Don't overdo it - otherwise you're going to end up with spongelike burgers. Crack your egg into the mixture and make sure it's mixed in - this is what holds the meat together. It'll feel weird, but it's worth it later.

Then sprinkle some pepper in there - NO SALT before you form your patties - otherwise you're on a one-way path to spongetown because the salt breaks down the proteins - and then begin separating the meat into patties. This should make about eight nice round balls of raw bacon-pork-beef blend. They should be about eight ounces apiece, which will make you a bigass burger.

After you've got your spheres of yummy beef, press them into what resemble nice thick hockey pucks. A good ratio here is about 3:1 width to height. Go ahead and make a little dimple in the center with your thumb, because the burgers will inflate a little as they cook and juices move around, and you don't want lumpy undercooked beef in random places. Joe's beer can idea works fine here too.

Next, whip out that kosher salt and pepper and generously coat the outsides of your patties with seasoning. This'll help form a really nice crust on the outside of the burger. I don't cook with much salt myself, but it won't harm the beef and will help with moisture, so just throw some on there. Then, toss those patties in your fridge for about 40 minutes to an hour to cool. This will help keep them together once you put them on your grill.

Go turn on your grill. Some of you may have gas, some of you may have a charcoal grill, some of you may use a skillet. It's Labor Day so go outside, but other than that, I don't really care. Use your Big Green Egg or $8000 Weber gas grill or your $3 charcoal tub from Home Depot. They'll all work. But your goal here is high heat. That means searing, and that means flavor.

Now, for cooking time. Toss your burgers on the hottest part of the grill and go to town. It'll take about six to eight minutes for rare because they're huge. Flip 'em once halfway through and you should be good. Flip them more, I don't care, but that's time you could be drinking. Make sure you have a beer in your off hand - you can drizzle a little over the burgers if you want or just drizzle it right into your mouth.

I prefer my burgers on the rare side of medium rare, but with these there's a little pork and ground bacon in them, so if you feel more comfortable, you might want to stick around medium. But don't go higher than that because that is just silly. I've seen people order well-done burgers at NICE burger places and I can hear the chefs crying. Please don't do that to your meat. At least just try it once. You literally cannot fuck up burgers, though. Unless you somehow burn them beyond all recognition. But kids will still eat them.

Top them with whatever you want. Grill your buns for a nice touch, and maybe go with a strong white cheddar, but it really doesn't matter. But remember, there's bacon IN the burgers, so I totally understand if you want to just lower your face to the grill and start biting into them. Don't worry, Aunt Edna will forgive you once she has her first bite of flavorville. Hello, cat-shaped lamp you've been eyeing from her future estate. Don't worry, you'll get the first pick once she has that first bite. That's how inheritance works, right?

I've written 1300 words and I haven't told you what to drink, yet. For that I am truly sorry.

Your Beer of the Week: Bell's Amber Ale

It's a weird time of year. It's still hot out, but it's fall. You need a beer that isn't pumpkin and knows how to tell you "the leaves are turning colors, but you're still sweating!". Sadly, it's getting harder to find harvest ales now that Sierra Nevada has killed its very underrated wet-hopped Harvest Ale. Basically, wet hopping is when you take the hops you harvest without drying them and immediately put them into beer. It allows you add a very light citrus and spice taste to any type of beer. Think - pick 'em on a Friday, brew 'em on a Saturday kind of quick. Not all breweries can do this - check around for a local place that does it at a smaller scale - but the harvest-style ales from a lot of the bigger places often at least mimic the flavors. They're delicious and perfect for the end of the summer.

But in terms of easily available beer that's delicious without being too much of anything? Grab a Bell's Amber. It's in my opinion their most versatile offering (Two Hearted is up there, too, but it's too hoppy for some who don't like IPAs). It's got exactly the right color for an end-of-summer cookout and is eminently quaffable. It's got a little caramel to it but light hoppy taste and still on the lager end of the spectrum enough to drink when it's 90 and humid. Sometimes I tell you to find some obscure something-or-other that's really delicious but honestly not worth the effort - I admit it - but this is a weekend to grill and chill, and you shouldn't stress about beer selection. Go grab an Amber - preferably a Bell's - and you won't be sorry this Labor Day weekend.

Until next week, cheers, Michigan Faithful!