One of the arch staples of the summer Grilling Season is the Hamburger. Yes, you can buy pre-made Patties, and some of them even include enhancements such as Spices or Onions. But there’s much mote to it than that, if you are a true Hamburger aficionado and insist on making them yourself…
I don’t know if I qualify as a ‘true Hamburger aficionado’, but as with the casual art lover, I know what I like. And I like my burgers Juicy, tender and flavourful. Some purists say the only way to make a Ground Beef Patty is with pure Beef of the highest quality with no additives or enhancements. For the weekend Grilling Gourmet, though, that’s an unattainable goal. First, who’s going to grind up perfectly good Ribeyes for Burger meat? That’s just nuts. And who’s going to pay the price of a really good Steak for even an exceptional Burger? Not your average Real Person, that’s for sure.
So, here’s Dr. Maggie’s prescription for the Perfect Burger, my way.
What you do…
Start with a about 2 lb. / 1 kg of Medium Ground Beef. (Makes about 10 generous Patties.) That’s right, not pricier Lean, much less Extra Lean. They’re too lean to produce a really juicy Burger. And remember, the excess at will render off into the coals (or the gas burger pan) during cooking. And, as real Chefs all insist, ‘Fat is Flavour’.
Finely dice a Whole Medium Onion. This is the most fundamental and indispensable ‘aromatic’ Veggie you can pair with Beef. It will also add moisture to the mix.
Here’s the Italian secret for all things Ground Beef: Soak 3/4 cup / 190 ml of fine Bread Crumbs in enough Milk to bring them to a mushy consistency; make sure all the Milk is absorbed. Too much milk is not a good thing. This is why Mrs. Indovina’s Meatballs were always to luscious and velvety. If you don’t tell your diners, they’ll never even realize there are Bread Crumbs in the mix.
Grab 1 tsp. / 5 ml Salt and a good Pinch of Pepper.
Choose your flavour inspiration: French? Italian? Tex-Mex? Asian? It’s totally up to you. Add Herbs and Spices of your choice, to your taste. That’s not to say you should be tasting raw Ground Beef; heat a small pan on the stove top when you’ve got the mixture thoroughly blended, cook a small piece of the Meat about the size of your thumbnail and taste that. Sometimes, I just add 4-5 shakes of Worcestershire Sauce for Umami punch and leave it at that.
Place all the ingredients into a medium-sized steel bowl and mush them together with your well-washed (or gloved) bate hands. I maintain that using one’s hands rather than a wooden spoon or spatula or some other instrument to meld the Patty ingredients imparts a special je ne sais quoi. Maybe it’s just my imagination, but it elevates my enjoyment!
Test-cook that small sample as I suggested a couple of paragraphs ago. Adjust Seasoning and flavours are desired.
Using a 4 oz. / 120 ml. kitchen scoop, measure out the patties and form using a ring mold a size larger than the Buns you intend to serve. Three will be shrinkage in cooking, but the Patties will almost perfectly match the diameter of the Buns. That’s an elegant little pro touch that will wow your guests and family. They won’t say anything, but they’ll notice.
Note that, while the Patties shrink a little in diameter, they may actually rise a little in cooking. That’s the power of the Milk-soaked Bread Crumbs, expanding throughout the mass.
Grill your Burgers about 3 min. per side on a hot Grill. Turn only once.
Whatever you do, don’t press the Burgers with a spatula or squeeze them too tight with your tongs (the pros’ preferred instrument for manipulating Burgers on the Grill). You’ll just crush all the juice out of them and they’ll turn out dry and tough.
The really good news is, you can also cook these babies on a grill pan in the oven anytime, year round!
Serve on better-quality Hamburger Buns; the kind with the fancy French or Italian names. At my supermarket, you can even get Brioche Hamburger ‘Rolls’ if you want to pay a little extra.
Dress with Lettuce, Tomato Slices, Cheese, Pickles (if you wish) and any Condiments you may desire. But remember, these internally flavoured Burgers taste really good already; don’t drown out their great flavours!
For further details on Burger creation see my 2014 rundown of ‘the fine points’…
And that’s my personal recipe for a quick, easy ‘perfect’ Burger we can all afford, make and enjoy. See you on the patio!
~ Maggie J.