What’s the secret to making really great burgers at home?
Really great meat! And very little else.
From Grow and Behold
At Grow and Behold, we are purists. We prefer a burger that is just meat, rather than one filled with seasonings, eggs, breadcrumbs, etc. Let the juiciness and flavor of the meat really shine. When you’ve got meat as tasty as ours, raised on pasture with no hormones or antibiotics, you really don’t need much else.
One thing we do like to do is combine different meats – mix up Ground Lamb + Beef for a more intense flavor, or use Meatball Mix (half Beef + half Rose Veal) for a lighter burger. For extra seasonings, pay attention to the sauce and the toppings (more on that later). If you just want a simple great recipe try this...
To make your own patties, make sure meat is fully defrosted. Break each pound of meat into 3 or 4 patties, depending on your preferred size. Smaller patties are easier to handle, but cook more quickly, so pay attention if you want them on the rarer side. Handle the meat lightly. Overworking, squishing and forming will make a dense, chewy burger. Leaving the edges a bit ragged gives you lots of nooks and crannies for that great umami flavor of seared meat to build and build.
You might also consider kibbeh or meat cigars. Take a small handful in your palm and close your fingers around it gently to make an oblong shape. These will cook up in no time and can be tucked into pita with a riot of fresh salads and sauces for a very delicious alternative to traditional burgers.
The Grow and Behold grass-fed beef is so flavorful you don't want to overpower it with too many spices. This dish shows off the meat.
Grilling and Basting
If you like extra flavor on your burgers, slather with sauce, during cooking and after. Once your patties have seared on one side, flip them and paint with BBQ sauce. After the other side has seared, flip and transfer to a cool portion of the grill so the inside can continue to cook (if desired), and paint second side with BBQ sauce. Serve with additional sauce on the side. Try our favorite BBQ sauce for burgers.
BBQ SAUCE FOR BURGERS (VINEGAR-BASED)
We like a vinegar-based BBQ sauce that is not too sweet. Our homemade sauce combines red wine vinegar, ketchup, mustard, brown sugar, and tamarind paste – but when we can’t make our own, we love Mendel’s Kansas City BBQ Sauce.
There aren’t many things you won’t find on burgers these days. Here are some of our favorites:
- Caramelized onions
- Leftover smoked meat (brisket, back ribs, etc.) and/or beef bacon
- Mayo, ketchup, mustard, lettuce (they are part of the burger cannon for a reason!)
- And if you want to indulge in your inner chef, a fried egg and arugula
- Homemade date ketchup
This flavorful condiment is perfect on burgers or with other meat.
Elliott Chrem Agrees...
Ahhhh, the classic hamburger. So simple, yet so complex.
At its heart, a burger really IS pretty simple; it's all about the meat so get the best you can find. First and foremost, you've got to lose your fear of fat. Super lean ground beef may be better for your diet, but it makes really bad, dry burgers. The rendered fat is what gives burgers their flavor and juiciness. Shoot for a ratio of about 75% lean to 25% fat. If you're able to grind your own meat that's the ultimate, but at the very least try to avoid the pre-packaged stuff on the shelf. Who knows how long it's been there? Ask your butcher to grind chuck for you fresh, and as coarsely ground as possible. I get mine ground with some added lamb fat too, just for the extra notes of flavor.
Once you have your ground beef, form it into patties -- but gently, gently. It's important not to overwork the meat or it will become tough and dense. Handle it as little as you possibly can. Five to seven ounce patties are the perfect size. Anything larger than that is just silly. Try to measure out all your burgers so they're of equal size -- this will ensure that they all cook evenly and at pretty much the same rate of speed. To avoid the dreaded "football blob" effect (when your patty bulges as it cooks) lightly press the center of each patty with your thumb, forming an indentation. That should keep your burgers nicely burger-shaped.
As far as seasonings go, again simplicity is key. Adding "stuff" to your burgers like onions, vegetables, eggs, breadcrumbs, etc, not only forces you to overhandle the meat, but reduces your perfect burger to the status of meatloaf. Don't do it. If you're using good meat, and of course you are, the only seasonings you'll need are coarse salt and freshly ground pepper from whole peppercorns. That's all it takes. Liberally season the outside of your patties with the salt and pepper just before they hit the grill.
Make sure you start with a super hot grill. When your patty hits the cooking surface you want to hear that happy, hard sizzle which means your perfect burger is on it's way to forming a perfectly seared crust. Flip it after about a minute or two, when it's no longer sticking to the grates, and sear the other side for another minute or two. At this point you can move the burger to a lower temperature to finish cooking through. Do NOT press down on the burger with the blade of your spatula. Let me say that part again. DO NOT press down on your burger with the blade of the spatula. You're not making it cook any faster. Really, you're not. All you're succeeding in doing is squishing out the precious, flavorful juices and squirting them onto the fire below, probably making a flaming, smoking mess in the process. Don't do it!
Thank me later. Instead, while you're waiting for your burgers to finish, take the time to toast your burger buns on the grill. Personally, I like the soft seeded rolls best.
Cook your burger to medium for optimum beefiness and juiciness. If you're using a meat thermometer to measure doneness, and of course you are, that's 140 degrees. I know this is going to be hard for some of you to hear, but a properly prepared burger is supposed to be pink on the inside. Yes it is, I don't care. If you're cooking it until it's gray all the way through and has no moisture left, you may as well just eat a charcoal briquette right out of the bag. What's the point?
Get creative with your toppings! Lettuce, beefsteak tomatoes, pickles, mushrooms, grilled onions, garlic mayo, guacamole, pastrami -- really anything goes! Burgers match best with great weather and good company. Enjoy!
Now, for some favorite recipes from Chef Laura Frankel beyond beef burgers
There is nothing like a juicy burger, all sizzling and crackling right off the grill to get the appetite going. I love grilling season and will arm wrestle my husband to see who gets to do the honors.
This mix is my favorite. The beef chuck provides the rich, fatty beefy flavor and the brisket adds a heartiness and dense texture. You can try other beef mixes but be sure to look for well-marbled meat and fat.
Sometimes a veggie burger just hits the spot, especially when you want a dairy dessert! I added curry spices to my veggie burger as they pair well with the mango-habanero ketchup. If you are not a curry fan, leave them out.
I am not sure why most ketchups have tomatoes in them. Ketchup is actually an ancient Chinese concoction of pickled fish and spices that evolved into the tomato version we all know. As a different topping for my vegetable burgers I thought I would explore other versions of ketchup. Peaches have a dense texture that lends well to a thick burger topping condiment. I love the floral flavor of mangoes and the layer of flavor they lend to the sauce. I added a fruity habanero pepper to the mix. If you like spicy food, I urge you to try the habanero. Habanero peppers are definitely spicy but have a fruity-complex flavor and not heat. If you are unsure, just use a sliver of the pepper to try it.
Banh mi sandwiches are a byproduct of French colonialism in Indochina, combining French and Vietnamese ingredients and flavors. Banh mi sandwiches are my favorite sandwich and I cannot get enough of the lip-smacking sweet- sour and savory deliciousness. This is my latest Banh mi variation.
I like to use a combination of fresh Wild salmon and smoked salmon (not lox) for my salmon burgers. The briny fresh salmon alone would be “blown away” by the hot smoky grill or even a hot grill pan, but in combination with a smoked salmon, the fresh flavor shines through the smoke and is a brightly flavored alternative to a beef burger.
I use an aioli to bind my ingredients. The fat, in this case the egg yolks and oil, keep the patty intact and add moisture to the mix. I do not use starchy binders like breadcrumbs or flour as the delicate salmon texture would be lost to the gummy starch.
I added lime and ginger to my aioli for my rendition of the classic Vietnamese/French sandwich. I like the bright and “sunshiny” flavors.
Time to start flipping the burgers.