How to Make a Great Burger

9 Sep

I eat meat a lot more than I used to.  It’s from getting into cooking and feeding a carnivorous boyfriend, but I definitely eat more meat than bread and pasta these days.  Still, I think I would perfectly happy as a vegetarian.  Left to my own devices, I would probably eat peanut butter and marshmallow fluff sandwiches, cereal, and ice cream all day.  And, you know, fruits and vegetables…

But I could never be a vegetarian for three reasons (the three b’s, if you will): bacon (duh), barbeque (pulled pork, brisket…basically any slow cooked meat slathered in barbeque sauce), and BURGERS.

I decided there needed to be burgers this weekend.  The boyfriend didn’t protest.  In fact, the conversation went something like this:

Me: I’m making burgers this weekend.

Him: Like, regular burgers?

Me: Yes, regular burgers.

Him: Because usually you say that and then say “Oh and then I’m gonna mix it with this or that, or top it with something weird”

Me: …(remembering the time I made orchard turkey burgers, or pad thai with tofu)…yes, regular burgers.  With beef.  And regular fries.

Him:  Good, because if you try to feed me another sweet potato, I swear I’m going to McDonalds.

Okay, I may have made that last line up, but apparently he doesn’t like sweet potatoes as much as I thought he did…

To make a great burger, you only need ground beef, salt, and pepper.

Start with some great meat.  If you can get it, ground sirloin, or ½ sirloin, ½ chuck.  Talk to the butcher if you don’t see it on your grocery store shelves…the restaurant standard is 80/20 (that’s 80% meat, 20% fat).  This makes for an exceptionally juicy, flavorful burger.

I’m breaking both those steps…This is ‘ground beef”.  It doesn’t say what part of the cow.  And I’m using 93/7, because it’s lower fat (healthier), and it happened to be cheaper.

Next step, divide your meat into four patties (if you’ve got a pound).

Now, don’t OVERWORK THAT MEAT!  Carefully take your portions from the package, toss them back and forth A FEW times, and form them gently into a burger shape and size to fit your buns.

You don’t want to overwork these because you don’t want to squish all the air out.  Overworked burgers will be dense rather than light and tender. My burgers always look so loose that they might fall apart in the pan, but I’ve never had a problem with it.

Make a thumbprint on one side of each patty.  The burgers will plump as they cook, so this trick keeps them more or less flat on both sides instead of football shaped.

Then season both sides with a generous helping of salt and pepper.  Very important.

Cook those burgers on a medium-high heat grill/grill pan.  Okay, so I’m using a large saucepan…it’s all I got!  (Note: don’t use a saucepan with 80/20 meat or higher fat content (75/25, etc.)…all that fat comes out and spatters!  It’s a greasy mess.)

Cook 4-5 minutes per side for medium well-well burgers.  I like to cover for the last 1-2 minutes of cooking.  It remoistens the burgers, and keeps the heat in to make sure they’re totally cooked.

And don’t even think about patting those burgers down with the back of your spatula.  Just don’t do it.  You’ll lose all those delicious juices, and your burgers will be dense and dry.

Look at these beauties.  The only thing left are your favorite toppings!  These babies are getting some avocado slices, caramelized onions and bacon!

So light and airy, perfectly moist and well done! With a side of easy, homemade, baked fries (recipe to come tomorrow!)


How to make a great burger (with nothing but beef, salt, and pepper):

1)      Get some good ground beef—ground sirloin, or ½ ground sirloin and ½ ground chuck

2)      80% meat, 20% fat to maximize the flavor and juiciness

3)      Do not overwork your meat while forming patties

4)      Make a thumbprint on one side of each patty

5)      Season both sides liberally with salt and pepper

6)      Don’t press the burgers while they are on the grill.  Don’t do it.

7)      Eat with some great toppings!



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