Today is the first day after the Pie and I finished our month-long vegetarian experiment. Accordingly, we’re going to MEAT IT UP and have ourselves some burgers tonight. So much for easing back into omnivorism.
There are two very important things to remember when making burgers by hand. The first is to buy no leaner than a medium ground chuck. You may think you’ve made a healthy choice with a leaner ground but your burger will not stick together and will crumble as it cooks. The second is to touch the meat as little as possible, which is quite a feat considering you need to hand-form the patties. But it is doable, and making your own burgers really isn’t that hard.
There is a third thing you should know about burgers: KEEP IT SIMPLE. Remember that you are frying or grilling up some ground meat, which, as it cooks, will secrete slippery oil and will shrink into individual particles. This means that cohesiveness is an issue when making burgers, which is why you don’t touch them too much or get too rough with them. The more stuff you add to the chuck before forming it into the patty, the more you risk a crumbling burger. If you’re going to add things to the meat, make sure they’re small things so they don’t mess with the burger’s internal structure.
So you take your meat. We made some of these patties out of medium ground beef and others from ground chicken. I like to leave it out of the fridge for a while because you are going to be working it in your hands and manipulating cold ground meat feels like sticking your hands in the northern Pacific in the winter (which I have done and don’t recommend). The amount of meat you use depends on the number of burgers you want, obviously. We find a kilo of ground makes about 9 3-inch patties.
Put your meat in a large bowl that you can easily get your hands into. Remove your rings and roll up your sleeves. This is going to get gooey.
Finely (and I’m talking FINE) dice a medium onion and chuck that in with the meat. Add a few teaspoons of minced garlic from a jar, and a few sprinkles of dried oregano and basil (or any herb of your choice) and a pinch or two of sea salt and ground pepper. If you’re feeling adventurous you can add a few splashes of Worcestershire sauce and/or Tabasco sauce. Don’t go too crazy with your ingredients, because you need the meat to be able to stick to itself as it cooks.
If you have no confidence in your patty cohesiveness, or if you have ignored me and purchased lean ground beef, you can add an egg or two, but I think that’s cheating. Eggs are useful in meatloaf, but they don’t really belong in burgers. ON burgers, but not IN burgers.
Working quickly, mix the meat with your hands until all your ingredients are just combined.
Grab a handful of the mixture and pat it gently into a patty about the size of your palm. Make a thumbprint indentation in the centre of the patty and set it aside. The indentation will keep the patty from contracting too much as it cooks. Repeat until all the meat is gone.
You can freeze your patties for use at a later date. Simply separate the patties with wax paper and place them in a freezer bag, tightly sealed, with the air removed.
Heat a large skillet with a bit of olive oil (or a grill, or even a broiler) and get those patties on there. Once the patties are on the hot surface, you leave them the hell alone. You may flip the burgers, but you can only do it ONCE, usually about five to ten minutes into the cooking, depending on how well done you like your meat. Safety-wise, your burger should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160°F.
If you like cheese on your burger, put a few slices on after you have flipped the patty and they will melt into the meat.
Serve on a bun of your choice with the toppings you like. Very much a crowd-pleaser, and it covers four food groups.