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Quadrants, May 1, 2010

The warmer days and brighter nights have grills firing up throughout the Quad-City region. Steaks, brats, hot dogs and the all-American burger are finding their way home.

But when it comes to the burger, could this be a mistake?

Countless cooking sites, including Men’s Journal and eHow, say the best way to cook a burger is not on a grill at all — and certainly not over an open flame.

Most experts agree that burgers need to be cooked on a solid surface, preferably a cast-iron one.

Why? The juices. It’s all about the juices.

Here’s a quick guide to what many say makes a sure-fire tasty burger:

-- Mold a quarter-pound of freshly ground beef into a ball and preheat a solid cast-iron skillet for at least five minutes on high heat. When the skillet is ready, spread a tablespoon of canola oil on the surface, set a timer for three minutes, drop the meat in the pan and salt the uncooked top.

-- After one minute, use a spatula to flip the ball over. Then press down forcefully on the meat with the spatula until it’s a half-inch thick. The edges may look ragged, but the cracks just mean more opportunity for carmelization. Salt and pepper, then leave it alone for 60 seconds.

-- Loosen the patty carefully from the griddle and flip one last time, seasoning again. (If you’re a cheese man, now’s the time to add it.) After exactly three minutes total, you’ll have the perfect rare burger. A fourth minute gets you to medium-rare and adding another 45 seconds after that gets you to medium.

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