I’m confounded at how many people buy the pre-formed and shaped burger patties at the supermarket these days. They are often sold with fillers like bread crumbs, rusk, and worst of all, in America at least, the dreaded “Pink Slime” (aka LFTB)…and who wants or needs that? It is very simple to buy plain mincemeat, and form your own burgers by hand. You can make them as big or small as you want, and they will taste much better, like the kind you would get in a good restaurant. It is usually cheaper, as well. Here are a few tips for a great homemade steakhouse burger:
* I find it impossible to predict how mince will taste by looking at it in the package. Usually it consists of ‘trim’, or leftover bits from steaks and roasts cut from all over the cow. Not all cuts taste the same. Also, there is no guarantee it does not contain the afore-mentioned additives. I prefer 100% chuck, which is from the shoulder of the cow. It is known here in Ireland as the “Housekeepers’ Cut”. Any butcher, and most supermarkets, will grind this fresh for you, on request. Ground round is popular too, but I find it too lean (ideally you want 20 to 25% fat content) and not as tasty. Alternatively, if you’ve a food processor you can make your own mince by cutting the joint or meat into one and a half inch cubes and pulsing or grinding it well, to the desired consistency. This actually works quite well.
*Season the beef before you make the patties. I like fresh ground black pepper and sea salt. A delicious Irish brand is Irish Atlantic Sea Salt, (sold at Super Quinn and others) from the Beara Peninsula. Season the meat, and shape the patties into the desired size. It is important not to overhandle, or pack them too tightly when forming them, just enough to keep them together. If you are having cheeseburgers, you’ll be amazed at how much better they will taste by integrating a quality grated cheddar into the mince itself before forming the burger patty, as opposed to adding a thin slice of ‘cheese food’ at the end of cooking.
*Whether cooking on a charcoal or gas grill, or inside in a frypan, burgers, regardless of whether they are being eaten medium rare or well done, should be cooked over very high heat. Don’t use a non-stick pan, as they are not intended for, and cannot withstand, high heat. Cast Iron or a well clad regular pan is best.
*A burger is only as good as it’s bun. Don’t put all this effort into preparing the perfect burger, only to scrimp on the bread. A fresh bap or blaa will make all the difference. They only cost about 35 or 40 cents, and are well worth it. You can toast them if you like by spreading them with some butter and putting them on a hot pan or griddle, but I like mine soft and squishy. I achieve this by a quick 10 to 20 second ‘zap’ in the microwave. (Yes, microwave.)
* While you’re at it why not make fresh-cut chips as opposed to frozen? I don’t even peel mine, but I do fry them twice to make them crispy. First on a moderate heat (about 125 celsius) for three to five minutes. Then I let them cool to room temp, and fry them again when the burger is nearly done, at 200 celsius, until golden brown. Be certain the potatoes you are using are the right variety for chips. This can vary by season, but should be advertised on the bag, e.g. “bake, boil, fry.”
*Toppings are a very personal thing. I like sauteed onions, and Mikes’s BBQ Sauce. If you prefer ketchup, it’s worth it (in my opinion) to spend a few extra cents on Heinz 57, as opposed to a generic brand. It is the standard bearer in the industry, and is what most ketchups are rated against.
This may seem like alot of to-do to make hamburgers, but it really isn’t. The few extra minutes you spend ‘cooking from scratch’ will richly reward you, your family, and guests when you sit down to eat. Enjoy! Mike