Patriotic Grilling 101
Junior's Grill Fired Burgers
To say that Dallas resident Dave Price – Junior as he is known to many – has experienced a wide range of cooking on the Fourth of July would be an understatement.
That's because Price, who grew up in Virginia and played football at Virginia Tech, has spent many Independence Day holidays outside the United States as a member of the armed forces.
A retired officer and pilot with the U.S. Air Force, Price spent many of Uncle Sam's birthdays overseas in the last three decades defending the red, white and blue as a combat aviator.
Since then, he has spent much of his time traveling good portions of the world, seeing what hunting and fishing adventures he can find with his Hoyt bow and his Orvis fly rods.
From Africa to Canada, from Mongolia to New Zealand, Price has been there, done that, and has the t-shirt to prove it. Not to mention the taxidermy bill.
And while he has enjoyed many different cultures and their methods of cooking, his culinary roots are now deep in the heart of Texas.
Which is why you will find the Dallas Safari Club board of directors member behind a hot mesquite fired grill this weekend, cooking some good old fashioned Lone Star beef up for his fellow DSC members.
"Cooking on the grill has always been my favorite way to cook," said Price, a life-member and sponsor of DSC along with being the organization's current membership chairman (www.biggame.org ).
"I've come a long way from my father's approach of chunking a piece of beef on the grill, cooking it four minutes on each side and serving it for supper," he added.
"It was delicious though and my childhood memories of grilling with my father and uncles will live with me forever!”
While Price says his backyard grill will have some exotic fare this weekend – game taken on various hunts – his favorite recipe to prepare and eat also happens to be one of the simplest ones.
"We're going to have a number of our DSC friends over for a backyard barbecue and then watch the local fireworks display," said Price. "And I'm going to be honest, probably the thing that most of us will want this weekend is a simple grilled burger."
Price said that his current version of the American grilled classic draws its inspiration from the classic "Nolan Ryan's Beef and BBQ Cookbook."
He also has picked up burger grilling tips in conversations with various hunting town chefs at such Lone Star State eateries as Mac and Ernie's in Tarpley, Texas, and the Alamo Springs General Store near Fredericksburg, Texas.
"I guess since I got some of my inspiration from Nolan Ryan's cookbook, I'd also have to say I'm a big fan of his beef products," said Price. "In my opinion, it's the best beef on the market."
"When I cook burgers out, I'm using ground chuck with an 80/20 or a 70/30 mixture of beef to fat," he added. "That ratio gives the meat great flavor and there's enough fat to hold the beef patties together while they're being mixed and molded."
To the ground beef Price will mix in salt, pepper, garlic powder and finely chopped onions to taste. He says that using an egg will help keep the patties together as well. Once he's gotten all of the ingredients mixed together, Price will form the meat into equal sized patties.
"I like mine thick – usually nearly an inch thick – but others in our crowd like thinner patties so I have a bunch of both sizes," said Price. "Once you've gotten the patties formed, place them on a baking sheet and refrigerate them until you're ready to grill."
Price says that refrigerating the burgers before putting them on the grill actually helps the patties form, helps the spices mix with the meat and produces a great flavor when all of the ingredients combine.
Then it's on to the grill.
"While waiting for the meat to chill I coat the grill surface lightly with olive oil then preheat the grill to a medium high heat," said Price. "Once the grill is heated, I sear the patties for a minute on each side, then grill for an additional four minutes per side – or longer depending on how folks want their burger done."
What about venison and other wild game burgers? Price usually has a freezer full of wild meat and said that he will cook up some of that too.
"My wild game burgers use the same recipe as my beef burgers do," said Price. "Any wild game meat will work well. But my personal favorite game meat for grilling is good old Texas whitetail deer or some exotic black buck and axis deer meat from down in the Hill Country."
Price says that whatever wild burger meat is being used, grillers must remember that wild game meat contains very little fat. That means that you've usually got to mix in some sort of fat to make the burger magic happen.
"Personally, I always mix in ground pork butt to arrive at the 80/20 or 70/30 ratio of meat-to-fat that I mentioned earlier."
Whether he's grilling Texas raised beef or Lone Star State bred venison, Price says there are few things more memorable, or more patriotic, in his mind than a backyard barbecue cookout on the Fourth of July.
Having defended the U.S. flag from one corner of the globe to the other, he should know.
"I'd like to tell everyone to have a great July 4th celebration," said Price. "And I'd like to ask everyone to remember our troops deployed down range who can't enjoy celebrating the birth of our great nation here in the U.S.A.!"