From fast foods to backyard style grilling, the hamburger has been and will always be a staple of any grilling and outdoor activities. The hamburger is a great American icon and has conquered the world because it’s simple, easy to prepare, satisfying and delicious. Ground beef is the default choice of meat for many burger enthusiast, but there have been many burger versions throughout the years. Chicken burgers, pork burgers, mushroom burgers, eggplant burgers, anything edible that you can grill and put in between a hamburger bun will surely satisfy any hamburger loving individual.
It doesn’t matter if you’re simply topping it with ketchup or you dress it up with different kinds of cheese or other fancy fixings you can think of. What makes a good burger is how you handle and cook it.
Keeping the Burger Juicy
A juicy burger is composed of three 3 components – meat, fat and how you handle your burgers. Let’s elaborate more on the three components.
Meat is composed of protein and fat. The protein parts are full of moisture. For example, lean meat is about 60% water. Grinding the meat allows the moisture inside to run out. When you buy ground meat and the absorptive pad and the bottom is soaked, it means that it’s saturated with the juice that have been in the meat. Making a hamburger juicy again means to restore the lost moisture. You can do this by adding 2-3 tablespoons of water or beer into every pound of burger.
Fat content also contributes to the moisture perception of burgers. Any beef with less than 10% fat will be dry when cooked. Meat with 15% fat will taste lean and juicy, meat with 20% fat will taste rich and beefy and meat with more than 20% fat will have a full flavour but it will leave a fatty feeling.
Lastly is how you handle and cook the burgers. When you cook burgers, the meat proteins shrink or contract which forces out moisture. To maintain the juices, handle the burgers as little as possible. Whenever you turn the patty, the juices will come out. You should never press the burger down as this will make it worse. You might think you’re transferring heat faster by flattening the burger with your spatula, but you’re just letting the natural juices escape.
The Maillard Reaction
Many expert cooks and scientists have stated that getting the best, juiciest burger is not hard, you just have to know the correct way to cook it. They believe that the key to a great burger is the Maillard reaction (named after Louis-Camille Maillard, the French chemist). The Maillard reaction is the chemical process where foods turn brown. In the case of a burger patty on a hot grill, the high heat from the surface of the grill interacts with the proteins and sugars in the meat which browns the burger. This binds the meat together and produces the molecules that makes grilled meat savoury, delicious and tasty.
Most grills masters call this searing the meat. The basic process is to put the meat on high heat to brown the surface and lock in the juices for 1 minute on each side and then transfer the meat over indirect heat to finish the cooking. To do this, you need to make sure your grill has two heat zones, and make sure to preheat the grill 15 minutes before putting the first burger on. Make sure the grill is clean and properly lubricate it with cooking oil to prevent the burgers from sticking. Season and sear your burger well.
A rare burger will have red juices, be soft to the touch and bright red in the centre. A well done burger will be firm, smaller, brown all throughout and drier.
The most common cuts of beef commonly ground for hamburgers are sirloin, chuck and bottom. Chuck is the most flavourful because this is the well exercised part of the cow. Ground sirloin is less flavourful compared to chuck because it is less exercised, but has the smoothest feeling in the mouth. Bottom round falls in the middle. Meat preference will depend on the individual, but for most burger enthusiasts, a ratio of 15%-20% fat to 80%-85% lean meat is the best combination.
The Shape of the Burger
The shape of the burger patty also plays a part when having a good and juicy burger. Some think that a dense patty will be tougher and less flavourful bud a dense burger is not bad at all because it will hold its shape better. The shape of the burger does matter. To prevent the burger from bulging the middle, you have to make a dent in the middle of each patty this will lessen or prevent the bulge form happening giving you a perfectly-shaped burger and not a meatball looking grilled patty.
Now, since the burger basics are laid down the table, you better get started. Below are some of the best burger recipes you can try at home or your backyard grill or picnic at the park.
1. Cheese Stuffed Burgers
Some In Minneapolis, USA, they call it the Juicy Lucy. If you can’t travel to Minneapolis, you can make your own cheese stuffed burgers at home.
2 lbs of ground beef
½ teaspoon of pepper
1 teaspoon of salt
4 hamburger buns
Your cheese options can be:
8 ounces of mozzarella cheese or 8 ounces of blue cheese or 8 ounces of cheddar cut into cubes.
Mix the ground beef with salt and pepper in a bowl. And form 8 equal patties. Put your desired cheese in the middle of one party and over it with another one. Grill the burgers to your desired doneness. Top with the lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, onions and toasted buns and enjoy. Just be careful about the melted cheese inside. It’s hot.
2. Jalapeno-Garlic-Onion Cheeseburgers
1 lb of lean ground meat
4 slices of pepper jack cheese
1 finely chopped jalapeno pepper
2 minced cloves of garlic
1 finely chopped fresh onion
4 hamburger buns
Mix the first 5 ingredients in a bowl and form into patties. Preheat the grill to high heat. Brush the grill with oil to prevent the burgers from sticking. Cook each side for 5 minutes or to your desired doneness. Top with pepper jack cheese and then serve.
3. The Perfect Burger
1 ½ lbs of chuck 80% lean, 20% fat
Salt and pepper
1 ½ teaspoon of canola oil
4 slices of cheddar cheese
4 hamburger buns
Preheat the grill to high. Brush the burgers with oil and grill for 4 minutes on each side or your desired doneness. Top with cheese before putting burger in the bun. Let the cheese melt a bit. Toast the bun, piece together the burger and enjoy.
4. Bacon-wrapped Cheeseburgers
1 lb ground beef
6 slices of bacon
½ cup of shredded cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon of grated Parmesan cheese
1 chopped small onion
1 tablespoon of ketchup
1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
Sal t and pepper to taste
6 hamburger buns
Preheat grill on high heat and set aside the buns. Mix everything in a large bowl and form 6 patties. Wrap a slice of bacon around each patty and secure with a toothpick. Cook the burgers 5 minutes on each side or until your desired doneness. Remove the toothpicks and then serve in a bun. Add your preferred fixings and enjoy.
5. Jalapeno Blue Cheese Burger
2 pounds of ground beef
6 chopped and seeded jalapeno peppers
8 ounces of crumbled blue cheese
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoon garlic powder 2 tablespoon of soy sauce
4 slices of Swiss cheese
4 hamburger buns
In a bowl, combine the first 5 ingredients and form into 4 patties. Preheat grill to high and cook the patties for 8 minutes on each side. Place the Swiss cheese in the last minute of cooking. Serve on buns with your preferred toppings or fixings.
Now you know the basics of making a good burger. Enjoy!
Featured Image credit: Christian Kadluba via Flikr