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The Perfect Burger


Mussina
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Hi,

I really like the incomparable flavor of beef brisket. It seems to work better in a processor than in a grinder. I also prefer to find a cut with the fat cap, which I freeze and process in advance of the meat. If you have lean cut you have to be careful not to cook beyond medium rare.

Tim

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"taste is close to the best I ate as a kid in the 1950's-1960's."

Have to agree, we just don't have the same beef we had then.

I'm more from the 70's. You could literally tell where your steak was raised by taste. Now most are born in Argentina and fattened here in the US.

They all get the same "scientific diet" so they all pretty much taste the same.

I shall have to cosult me butcher and see what he wants to charge for aged chuck. Three weeks seemed to be the magic number and I'll bet it comes to $8 a pound when it's all said and done.

Oh look girl friends birthday is in three weeks. I'll let you know how that goes.

"And in the meantime, listen to your appetite and play with your food."

Alton Brown, Good Eats

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my current favorite burger recipe i make is:

1lb ground beef

1 egg

1 tsp ground black pepper

1 tbsp salt

1/2 cup bread crumbs (i like the plain breadcrumbs but you could use italian style for a little extra oomph if you want)

in one bowl, whisk the egg, pepper, and salt together

in another bowl, mix the ground beef and breadcrumbs

then combine both bowls

shape into burger of any size you want (i usually make them large enough so that 1lb comes out to about 4 burgers)

i usually find that cooking them 6-8 minutes on each side make the perfect burger!

(i LOVE cheeseburgers so i usually add **gasp** a slice of american cheese after the burger's cooked)

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  • 3 weeks later...

Quick bump - just a few questions for the resident burger experts :-)

This is in regards to making pure beef burgers (just beef, salt and pepper, nothing else)

1.) Could someone please post a picture of the chuck steak they are using in their burgers before and after trimming please? I assume people are making burgers quite regularly so hopefully this won't be a problem :-).

2.) What cut of chuck is everyone using? (there seem to be different types + shapes... bone in, bone out, roll, shoulder, steaks, chops, etc)

3.) When grinding, does everyone just trim the chuck to remove the silverskin and gristle, but leave in the hard fat? or is everything trimmed just leaving the natural marbling?

4.) What courseness is everyone grinding their meat to? e.g. grinding plate sizes, number of passes through the grinder etc.

5.) After grinding, before grilling/cooking, does everyone mix salt into the meat or just sprinkle it on the outer surface before/during cooking and leave the insides unseasoned?

6.) Does everyone usually just grind once, leaving the meat in that sort of long stringy form? or they break it up before shaping it (I have noticed a lot of people emphasise not playing around with it too much and just gently forming a patty)

7.) Thick or thin patty?

8.) When grilling, what kind of oil does everyone use? Even if you only lightly oil the grill.

9.) Flip just once?

10.) (VERY controversial, yet seen by many experienced burger cooks and cooks in local favourite burger joints) - Press down with spatula? (most often seen on flat plate grills)

11.) Rest before serving or straight onto the bun?

Thanks!

Edited by infernooo (log)
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  • 1 year later...

Mu burgers are horribly inconsistent. I use seasoned 80/20 ground chuck. Sometimes they are of a nice consistency and others they swell on the grill and become rounded while cooking and end up tough and dense. What am I doing wrong?

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Lots of possible issues here (temp, working the meat or not, size) but I think that you should try the old "poke a hole" method: just create a deep indentation in the center of the meat patty to allow for expansion in the middle.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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There are several other changes I'd suggest before grinding your own beef. (It is very good, but time consuming -- and I don't think buying preground meat is the problem.)

When you say you use "seasoned" meat, do you mean you form the patties then salt them? Or do you mix seasoning into the meat and then form the patties?

In my experience and from what I've read, mixing and compressing the ground meat is a major cause of tough, dense burgers. Compressing the meat might also account for the swelling, although I'm not sure about that.

When you form the burgers, try just taking a handful of meat and patting it loosely together into a patty, then salting both sides 15 minutes or so before cooking. And Chris's suggestion of an indentation in the middle of the burger will probably help keep them flatter as they cook.

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Though grinding your own beef is "time conusming," (I'd like to know of cooking techniques that aren't) it is without a doubt the best way to make sure that what you see is what you get, and will also give you the best tasting burgers. Fat Guy and slkinsey tested that theory.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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I agree with JAZ that the number one reason for dense burgers is overworking the meat. If you want to add any kind of seasonings, sprinkle them over and then lightly toss the meat around with a fork. Try to 'work' it as little as possible.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Though grinding your own beef is "time conusming," (I'd like to know of cooking techniques that aren't) it is without a doubt the best way to make sure that what you see is what you get, and will also give you the best tasting burgers.  Fat Guy and slkinsey tested that theory.

I'm not disagreeing that it produces a great tasting burger. But if you grind your own meat and then overwork it and compress it into a dense patty, you're still going to get a dense, tough burger. And that was the question here -- not about the taste.

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I didn't think I was overworking the meat. I salt and pepper it and form it into burgers about 5/8ths inch thick, about 1/4 lb per burger.

I've noticed that many restaurant burgers are two layer affairs. They look like a one piece thing but in reality they have been made from two thinner layers. Any idea why?

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I've noticed that many restaurant burgers are two layer affairs.  They look like a one piece thing but in reality they have been made from two thinner layers.  Any idea why?

So they can serve single, double or triple burgers without having to form additional patties upon request. Stack 'em up, send 'em out...

So we finish the eighteenth and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money. But when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness."

So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.

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Though grinding your own beef is "time conusming," (I'd like to know of cooking techniques that aren't) it is without a doubt the best way to make sure that what you see is what you get, and will also give you the best tasting burgers.  Fat Guy and slkinsey tested that theory.

I'm not disagreeing that it produces a great tasting burger. But if you grind your own meat and then overwork it and compress it into a dense patty, you're still going to get a dense, tough burger. And that was the question here -- not about the taste.

Absolutely, but when grinding your own, you also have control over the grind. And that can help with the denseness of the burger as well.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Absolutely, but when grinding your own, you also have control over the grind.  And that can help with the denseness of the burger as well.

I agree, Store bought is ground very fine, when you grind your own and grind it much coarser it doesnt pack into a "hockey puck".

And its easier to dust it with a bit of salt and pepper before the forming

Bud

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Some meat in the US has water added to it, and that water exudes when the meat is cooked. Could the ground beef you are buying be of that sort? If so I suppose this could happen even if you ground your own.

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When I buy ground beef I try to look for the distinct 'strands' the the meat forms when coming out of the grinder. A lot of places take it away from the grinder and mash it into some shape that starts the process of overworking. I love the ground beef I get at, of all places, Trader Joes. Their beef comes in very distinct strands like they held the plastic tray up to the grinder and ground right in to that with no handling in between. If you mix anything into the beef before you form patties then consider that folding rather than mixing. I try to turn the meat over with my hands rather than mixing with a spoon or something else. Be very gentle with it.

Anyone who says I'm hard to shop for doesn't know where to buy beer.

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Some meat in the US has water added to it, and that water exudes when the meat is cooked. 

This is a great opportunity to segue into my own stupid question: some people swear by gently folding a small about of water into the meat (I forget the exact ration) before grilling, taking care not to compress the ground meat. Is there any factual basis for this? It is rumored to make the burgers lighter, but I would also worry about the meat tasting streamed.

"There's nothing like a pork belly to steady the nerves."

Fergus Henderson

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After grinding, I'd bet that the butter would be so malleable that overworking would still produce a dense texture. Added moisture could be a benefit, depending on the temperature to which you cook your burgers (if it were me, the butter would still be frozen in the middle). I agree with others that this sounds like an issue of overworking rather than home- vs store-ground meat.

If you do get store-ground meat, try to lighten the texture by carefully separating the strands from the package into a bowl before forming patties. It's especially easy with the kind of grind that BRM recommends. After that, gentleness is key, as Alton Brown reiterates over and over in a Good Eats hamburger episode. There isn't much I've seen on that show that I haven't eventually been able to improve upon, but Brown's method of forming patties - taking a quantity of ground beef and basically tossing it back and forth between your hands, letting the patty more or less form itself - consistently yields a nice texture.

 

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I always grind my own hamburger. You don't know what you're really getting from the supermarket, and thats one reason they finely grind it.

I use the fine grind attachment on my professional Kitchen Aid, but I never double grind. Since I trimmed the meat, I make sure that gristle, tendons, etc. are not in the meat so mechanically tenderizing it doesn't require extra grinds.

Yes, water in the meat is common. Cyrovac wet aging is part of where the excess moisture is coming.

When I trim my chuck, sirloin, tenderloin strap, I let the chunks sit in a bowl for a while. You'd be surprised how much bloody water collects in the bottom of the bowl. I drain it, and then grind. My grind is drier. The moisture in cooking comes from the fat content. I like a 75-25 to 80-20 ratio, but its hard to be sure unless you separate all the fat from the meat and weigh each separately, and frankly, I don't know how one would actually do that with the marbling and all. After doing for years, you just sort of get an idea what you're going to end up with.

Also, I sear the hamburger on one side first, and then turn down the griddle, and let it slow cook on the other side. I salt and pepper the top immediately after the first flip. And then much later, when I see that the other side is getting to color, I salt & pepper that side too.

FOr a change of pace, sometimes I will mix the S&P and some worcestershire sauce into the meat, make the patties and cook them. They usually fall apart much easier, and sometimes are a hassle to eat. BUt tasty!

doc

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I do think that overworking is likely the culprit. Unfortunately, if you're buying pre-ground there is very little you can do about this, because it might already be overworked before you even get the meat. Do you ever notice that this characteristic problem is particular to burgers made from a particular batch of meat and not from another? Anyway, if you're salting the ground meat and then mixing it with your hands to incorporate the salt, I would think that overworking might be a problem. Better to incorporate the salt when the meat is ground, or only on the surface of the burgers. One thing you might consider doing if you have to stick with preground meat is salting the meat and adding whatever else you might like to add (a little extra fat in the form of butter or bacon fat is a good idea, I think) and then running this all through the grinder again. After that, the ground meat should be sufficiently loosened up and you should work it as little as possible.

One thing that you might consider doing if you make a lot of burgers is creating a form. This would be something like an open ring with the diameter and thickness that you want for your burger. Then you put in the proper weight of ground beef, press down from the top with something flat that's larger than the form, and you end up with just the amount of compression that you want (preferably just enough to hold the burger together) with minimal working of the meat.

--

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Overworking was the culprit. I did the Alton Brown hand toss with store ground meat and got perfect consistency. They were clearly underseasoned, but this can be remedied.

Thanks!

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One thing you might consider doing if you have to stick with preground meat is salting the meat and adding whatever else you might like to add (a little extra fat in the form of butter or bacon fat is a good idea, I think) and then running this all through the grinder again.  After that, the ground meat should be sufficiently loosened up and you should work it as little as possible.

I just grind the meat once, but I like to add the salt (1% by weight or a bit less) to the meat before grinding. the grinder mixes it up nicely.

Just be sure to wash the grinder immediately afterwards. Salt is corrosive to carbon steel and aluminum and other metals used in most grinders.

Notes from the underbelly

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