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Burger Time

Hamburger is the most popular food for the grill, followed by steak and chicken. Did you know — one out of every five times Americans fire-up the grill, it's to cook a hamburger?

Burgers 101

Start with the meat, typically it’s beef. My preference is for at least 83-85% lean ground round. No need for sirloin, all the fixins and condiments will overpower the flavor of the meat. Since the meat is ground it should be prepared within 24 hours, or pre-make your patties and wrap with film and freeze. Defrost for 24 hours in the refrigerator before grilling. 

For the purist you can always grind your own meat. The benefit is knowing exactly what type of meat and the true ratio of fat to meat. Just keep everything well iced including placing the grinder blades in the freezer prior to the big grind.

Fresh Ground: At all costs avoid the frozen hockey pucks. There is no way of telling what kind of meat it is. It may be labeled 100% beef patties, but they are probably old dairy cows and not steers that are raised for meat consumption. The hockey pucks will not cook properly if frozen and are guaranteed to flare up your grill with the excessive fat. It is well worth the time to pre-make your patties from scratch. It’s easy and they’ll look gourmet, even if they look more rectangle than round. Allow time to chill in the refrigerator at least one hour before cooking, after making the patties. A well-chilled burger will prevent the patty from breaking up. 

Divide + Keep Patties Cold: To make the burger patty; for every pound of meat divide into 4 for four ounce servings, 3 for 5 ounce, 2 for 8 ounce and so on. Lightly shape each serving into a round, then press and rotate the meat in your hands until they become patty like. Don’t over work the patty or you will warm up the meat. This will reduce then binding and they are more likely to fall apart and be too dense. 

Pre-prep: Serving the perfect burger is all about getting your condiments ready before you even fire up the grill. Slice your tomatoes, onion, lettuce, cheese, pickles, etc. Ready the mustard, ketchup and mayo if you prefer. The time to run for the condiments is not when the burgers are oozing out their juices all over the platter. 

The Hasty Flipper: Preheat your grill to high heat. On a clean grill, place burgers on high heat for 3-4 minutes. Do not flip, but move them to another hot spot to continue to cook at a high temperature so they do not steam. Once you begin to see the juices rising to the top you can flip the burgers over to the original cooking spot, which has now become a new hot spot. 

sliced kosher dill pickles, is a must topping

Patience: Next, grab a soda or a beer. This is the most important step, because it will give you something to do. Otherwise you will begin to press the burgers, or worse flip them over and over. The burgers get flipped once, period. And please for the sake of making a juicy 5 star burger, DO NOT PRESS THE MEAT.

Burger Under Cover: Avoid flare ups by keeping the lid closed on the grill. The oxygen will be cut off reducing the flare up. You can even cook burgers on an indirect heat. Keep one section of the grill with no heat. After searing the burgers on a very high heat, before the fat runs onto the flames, move the burgers to the side with no heat directly under. 

Time Is On Your Side: Ding, the bell rang, but you can’t possibly tell how well those burgers are cooked by setting a clock. Chefs may have a clock in their heads, but you will need to rely on experience and the many conditions that face your outdoor kitchen—such as outdoor temperature, wind to the heat of your coals or gas grill. 

As a guide; four to five minutes on each side for a five ounce burger, will give you a medium done burger. Everyone likes their burger prepared different, so as long as you know the risks of serving a burger not fully cooked consider this: lightly touch the patty with the back of the grill fork, the more the meat springs back the more done the meat is cooked. If you use a meat thermometer it will read 160 degrees for a well-done burger. But, try not to let anyone see you using a meat thermometer for a grilling a burger, it just looks silly:).

The time to serve the burgers is immediately after they come off the grill, not 10 or 20 minutes later. So be sure to ready your fixins and be ready to serve the food that is the most sought after of all cuisine —The American Hamburger!

One Other Helpful Tip: 

- Don’t overcrowd. Your grill is only so big. The more crowded the surface of the cooking area is the more likely you will steam your food or cause a flare up. 

If I happen to be invited to your backyard BBQ, I like my hamburger well done with lots of ketchup, sliced pickles on the bottom of an un-toasted soft potato bun, with more ketchup on the topside with a slice of tomato. Now go ahead, feel free to wear that fancy apron, you’ve earned it!

sliced heirloom tomatoes are perfect topper for any burger

Burger Recipes Beyond Beef

Once you start eating turkey burgers, you’ll never want another drive- through burger again!

Recipe By Chef George Hirsch | Makes 6-8 burgers

2 pounds lean ground turkey 
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
2 Tablespoons bbq sauce
1/4 cup finely chopped mushrooms
2 jalapeno peppers, grilled for about 3 minutes, seeded and chopped
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Accompaniments: crusty rolls, lettuce and sliced tomato

In a 2-quart mixing bowl, combine all of the ingredients and mix with a fork, taking care not to overwork the meat. Divide into 6 or 8 equal portions and form into 3/4 inch thick patties. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours. Preheat the grill to medium-high. Place the burgers on a hot grill and cook about 4 inches from the heat source for 2 minutes per side, turning once. Lower the heat slightly and cook for another 7 or 8 minutes, or until done. Serve in rolls with lettuce and tomatoes.

If you don’t see ground lamb in your supermarket or butcher shop, by all means ask for it. Whenever you’re mixing any ground meat product, it’s a good idea to have the meat and bowl well chilled. Not only will a chilled bowl cut down on bacterial growth but it will help bind the meat. So if possible, use a metal bowl for mixing the ingredients and place it in the freezer beforehand. If your kitchen is warm, place the bowl over a bowl of ice when you’re incorporating the meat with the spices.

Don’t even think of serving these or any burgers rare. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, all ground meats should be cooked until the ingredients internal temperature is 160 degrees. The patties can also be wrapped with precooked bacon going on to the grill.

Recipe by George Hirsch | Makes 4 Servings 

2 pounds ground lamb
2 eggs
1/4 cup chopped scallions
4 cloves garlic chopped fine
2 Tablespoons chopped walnuts or Pine nuts
1 Tablespoon Italian parsley, chopped
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
salt and pepper, to taste

Combine the lamb, eggs, scallions, garlic, pine nuts, parsley, hot sauce, nutmeg, salt and pepper in a well chilled bowl and mix gently but well. Form the mixture into 4 patties and grill for 4-5 minutes for well done.

When you think burger these days, you don't have to think beef. Meaty tuna, marinated in a flavorful marinade makes a nice switch. Be sure to keep the tuna cold during the preparation.


Recipe By George Hirsch | Makes 4 servings

1 1/2 pounds fresh tuna, either yellowfin, blue, or ahi
2 egg whites
1 teaspoon chopped cilantro
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 marinade recipe
4 burger buns
1 bunch arugula, washed and dried

For Asian Style Marinade
Makes 1 cup

2 fresh limes
1/2 cup olive oil
3 Tablespoons sesame oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
2 Tablespoons ginger, chopped fine
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1 Tablespoon fresh Cilantro, chopped

Cut the zest from the limes. Place the limes on a cutting board and firmly roll them back and forth with the palm of your hand to loosen the juice. Cut the limes in half and squeeze out the juice. In a small bowl, combine the lime juice with the remaining ingredients and mix well.

Cut the tuna into 1-inch pieces and place them in the bowl of a food processor. Using an on-off motion, grind the tuna for 45 to 60 seconds, or until it is chopped but not pureed. Over processing the tuna will make it warm.

Transfer the tuna to a bowl, stir in the egg whites, and mix well. Add the cilantro, lime zest, hot sauce and mustard. Blend well. Shape the tuna mixture into four burgers. Place them in the marinade and refrigerate 2 to 3 hours.

Place the burgers on a preheated hot grill and cook them 3 to 4 minutes on each side, or until rare or medium rare. Over cooking the burgers will dry them out. Place the burgers on a bun and serve on a bed of arugula.

Lamb: From Gather ‘round the Grill cookbook,  Copyright ©1995, George Hirsch with Marie Bianco

Tuna: Grilling with George Hirsch cookbook, Copyright ©1994 George Hirsch with Marie Bianco

Turkey: From George Hirsch Living it UP! cookbook, Copyright ©2000, George Hirsch


Strawberry Cornbread Shortcake

This Southern version of strawberry shortcake is baked in a black iron skillet, which gives it a crunchy crust, the perfect foil for berries and sweetened whipped cream. Using cake flour will give the shortcake a lighter, more tender texture.

Strawberry Cornbread Shortcake

From George Hirsch Know Your Fire Cookbook | Makes 6 - 8 servings

For the Cornbread:

1 cup cornmeal

1 cup cake flour or all-purpose flour

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk

2 eggs. lightly beaten

1/4 cup sweet butter, melted

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon


For the whipped cream:

1 cup heavy cream

2 Tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

2 pints mixed fresh strawberries and optional blueberries

1/2 pint fresh blueberries

Granulated sugar, if necessary

Strawberry Shortcake, Hirsch Media image

Preheat oven or grill to medium temperature or 375 degrees F. 

In a medium bowl combine the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl combine the milk, eggs, butter, vanilla and cinnamon and mix well. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until no particles of the dry ingredients remain. Do not over mix.

Spoon the mixture into a well-greased, 8-inch, black iron skillet or cake pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool the cornbread 5 minutes in the pan; remove and cool completely on a rack.

Beat the heavy cream until soft peaks form. Add the confectioners’ sugar and continue beating until peaks are stiff. Wash the strawberries and pat dry gently with a paper towel. Cut half of the strawberries into slices and leave the rest whole. If the berries are not sweet, toss with a small amount of granulated sugar. 

Slice the cornbread in half horizontally and spread the lower half with half the whipped cream and sliced strawberries and blueberries. Replace the top half and cover with remaining whipped cream and berries.



George Hirsch’s Cedar Plank Salmon

I have cooked with plank grilling on my recent George Hirsch Lifestyle TV series and on many live TV shows, it's fool proof and quite impressive for entertaining in your home. Over the past twenty years I've intoduced the age old art of hot smoking on wood planks in my TV shows and cookbooks. However, this technique of cooking on planks is far from new. The Indians in the Pacific Northwest cooked on cedar and alder, a tradition done for many centuries, as all cooking on an open fire. Once you try it yourself you'll see why.

George Hirsch Planked Salmon

George Hirsch’s Cedar Plank Salmon

Makes four servings 

as seen on George Hirsch Lifestyle TV series

1 cedar plank

One 1 1/2 pound salmon fillets

Juice of one fresh lemon

1 teaspoon each: thyme, rosemary, paprika, black pepper

3 Tablespoons olive oil

2 Tablespoons butter, melted

1 Tablespoon chopped fresh dill

1 lemon, sliced  

Soak plank in water to cover 2 hours; drain.

Pre heat Grill to high.

Rub plank with one-tablespoon olive oil.

Place fillets on plank; season with thyme, rosemary, paprika, black pepper, dill, lemon juice. Top with remaining olive oil.

Grill 10-14 minutes on a covered grill for optimum smoke or until fish is cooked. The thickness of the fillets will determine final cooking time.

Prior to serving top with fresh dill butter and serve with extra fresh lemon slices, or grill lemon slices along with salmon.


Soak planks for at least 2 hours or more  in cold water before you fire-up the grill.

Make sure the grill is good and hot, this is key! Grilled cedar planked fish takes on a wonderful smoky flavor. The plank will be charred, but the fish will be perfectly cooked. When opening grill if planks should fare up spray plank with water to dose flame and immdiatly close grill cover to reduce oxygen.

Note: Cedar plank should be untreated non-resin wood, no thicker than 1 inch.

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