The Art of Flame and Bacon Cheeseburgers
It is a pleasant thing, the sound of a match striking the side of its patron box on a hushed, winter’s eve. Even that initial blast of sulfur off the flame, tho unruly and noxious, it still triggers memories long recessed for which I am glad. Memories of past cooks, and campfires, and fellowship with the flames.
Fire. It’s part of the allure of outdoor cooking, I think. We get to play with fire. Upon lighting the charcoal this evening, I may have regressed to the age of ten again, doing things I probably ought not to. But I couldn’t help it, it’s fire after all. That brilliant, orange-fluttering seduction of heat and light, that which boys are irrevocably drawn. And tonight, I frolicked in the flames. I noticed with tongs in hand, if I tapped a charcoal chimney that which smoldered heap full of maturing coals, I got an interesting result. One difficult however to appreciate at the default and governed speed of life. But if I froze the moment, for the moment’s sake, oh what startling beauty I discovered. And with the click of a shutter, the art of flame was beheld. Lovely vectors of light, and tracers of orange and yellow against a pale, blackened night. Articulate and unique, like a thumb print on fire. Very cool, I thought. And a fun, inaugural firework sort-of-way to kick off tonight’s grilling endeavor – the venerable bacon cheeseburger. So grab yourself a lovely beverage, and we’ll tell you a little more about it, and how it went and came to be.
After the initial fire lust had ebbed, I was able to prepare the patties. 80/20 ground beef as a rule, makes a very fine place to start with your hamburgers. We took a pound of it, and formed it into three, shapely and uniform patties. My bride expressed interest tonight, in keeping a handle, as it were, on my proclivity for experimental flavors. She just wanted a basic, and simple cheeseburger. And with bacon if I might. Well I can do that, I thunk. I’ve often croaked, after all, that “simple is the best design.”
“Very well“, I declared, “tonight’s feast shall be simple.”
Keeping to the simplistic theme, I dusted the patties lightly with only salt and pepper. Oh I was eyeing my racks of assorted spice and flavors, and tho it was difficult, I resolutely resisted. After the coals were scattered to the back side of the old kettle grill, setting it up for in-direct grilling operations, I ceremoniously tossed on a small chunk of cherry wood, just because. I found I rather like a bit of smokey taste to my burgers, and cherry wood is darn near about my favorite. I gently placed the patties over direct heat for a little while per side, lightly searing them there, and then inserted my tongs directly into the center of the BBQ grate, and with a torque of the wrist, twisted the entire grate, burgers and all, 180 degrees, thus putting all the patties simultaneously opposite the hot coals. A little trick Weber owners pick up on right away, courtesy of their inherent circular grates. I love that sort of thing!
The rest of the cook would be spent in-direct, bathed in that lovely and aromatic cherry wood smoke. We put some of the double cold smoked bacon we did up the other week, alongside the burgers. Bacon on the stove top is delicious, nobody will deny that. But bacon done out on the grill, over smokey hard wood flames, is point-blank out of this world. Yum! Anyways, with the sounds of muffled traffic in the distance, the night waxed ever darker whilst I dawdled out by the pit. It wasn’t too cold tonight, only zero degrees or something, and I could manage just fine in my smoking jacket. I stood henceforth abreast the pit, like men do, wallowing in the wondrous aromas belching forth there, and thinking for a moment, about burger craft.
Burgers are such personal things, I thought. Sort of like a blank canvas to start, and a pit master proper, puts his or her own unique stamp on it. Makes it their own. There is no one-and-only, nor singularly right way to make them, and that right there is where the science parleys to art. And maybe that is why I like grilling burgers so well, along with all the BBQ arts. Each creation a potential masterpiece. Each cook a personal journey. And for the string of moments whilst you’re at the grill front, steady-footed and tongs in hand, you are at once the resident Monet of Meat. You really are! At least in your own mind you are. And this then is your art. So be proud then in what you have done there, aside licking flames and pastel evenings, where the wood smoke gently rises. Amen.