David Chang's Fiery Critique Of Grilled Burgers

The hamburger is the icon of an American summer. It's not a real barbecue until someone fires up the grill and puts some burgers on. And if you're not careful, you might end up with something that looks like a charcoal briquet. This is what Michelin-starred chef David Chang wants you to avoid every summer.

On an episode of his podcast "The Dave Chang Show," Chang called hamburgers on the grill "carbonized crap." Besides a surefire way to, well, set a fire, hamburgers dry out quickly on the grill, which isn't a great trade-off for the smoky flavor you seek. The juices leak out of the burger as it cooks, leaving your burger more like a hockey puck than a juicy burger. The fatty juices catch fire, resulting in flare-ups that can char other foods on the grill — and not in a good way.

In all, you should avoid making burgers on the grill in favor of food that takes well to the high heat. So what is the grill good for? Basically anything but a burger, according to Chang. Chicken in any form, pork, lamb, seafood, and vegetables do well on the grill and fare better than a juicy burger over the hot coals.

Grilling burgers doesn't have to result in a dry, disappointing burger

When you're looking for a nice, smoky char on your burgers, but still want them juicy, what are you supposed to do instead? You can cook your burgers on a cast iron skillet or griddle, or even a frying pan if that's all you have. If your grill has a side burner, haul your cast iron skillet or a sturdy frying pan out there and get cooking. You can even place your skillet directly on the grates — it's one of the best ways to use your cast iron skillet. Besides better burgers, you'll have extra room for more delicate veggies and proteins like asparagus and shrimp.

If you're dead set on grilling your burgers, there are mistakes to avoid when grilling while also avoiding scorching flare-ups. Using ground beef with a lower meat-to-fat ratio means there will be less juice to leak out. If you're a serial burger flipper or squisher, try to restrain yourself as this will cause the fatty juices to leak out and there goes your moist, juicy burger. Poking inside the burger to check doneness will also cause all those juices to flow out and cause a flare-up. If you want to be sure your burger is done, invest in a meat thermometer. Bottom line — leave those burgers alone whenever possible.