Cooking for multiple people is always challenging, especially if some diners are picky eaters. But no matter who’s sitting at your table, I bet they can appreciate a good burger! Today we are going to look at the easiest way to make a burger that will satisfy picky and adventurous eaters alike, and we’ll also conduct an experiment on the best additives to ensure your burgers are juicy and flavorful.
Procuring the Meat
The best thing about burgers is their adaptability. You can dress them up or down. They can also accommodate almost any dietary restrictions. Black bean burgers and chickpea patties are useful recipes to learn, but today we are going to focus on meat-based burgers, and more particularly: beef.
Now, very talented chefs have done the work to specify the best cuts of beef, or combinations of types of meat, to use if you’re grinding it yourself. Let us assume today that we have but one type of meat accessible… the plain ‘ole ground beef on sale at the grocery store across the street.
For our experiment with burger additives, I purchased 1.5 pounds of ground beef, and then diced a 1/2 cup of onions, brought out the Worcestershire sauce, and grabbed the salt and pepper.
Preparing the Patties
When forming the patties, try to handle the meat as little as possible. The more you press on and “exercise” the ground beef, the less texture your final patties will have. That means when you are adding ingredients to the ground beef mixture, you should try to incorporate them lightly, without stirring vigorously. Also refrain from adding any salt prior to forming the burgers, because this will make the meat more condensed and the patties flatter.
Since I purchased 1.5 lbs of meat, I made six quarter-pound patties, pictured above. You’ll want to form a circular patty about 4 inches in diameter, and then create a small divot in the center with your thumb. This will prevent the meat from bubbling up, giving you more of a meatball than a burger. Once the patties are formed, salt and pepper both sides.
You can cook the patties in a cast iron or regular skillet. Spray or spread a tiny amount of vegetable oil on the skillet before putting it on the stove on medium-high heat. Depending on how well done you want your burger cooked, let each patty cook three to four minutes on each side, flipping halfway through. Voila!
In the experiment between diced onions, Worcestershire, and no-additive burgers, the onion patties were a clear winner. While the burgers with no additive were still juicy when cooked to the specifications laid out above, the onions just pair so well with ground beef! Even better than adding onion slices to the final product. Unfortunately, it seems adding liquid (Worcestershire sauce) to the ground meat deflated the patty and gave it an unpleasant texture, though the complex umami notes gave the burger a very nice flavor.
Building the Burger
Now that your beef patties are cooked, it is time to build the burger. The staples of a good burger are white buns (maybe with sesame seeds), ketchup, mustard, tomato, onion, pickles, and lettuce. Dress it up or down according to your preference. For instance, I prefer potato buns and spicy mustard. Uncle Joe likes mayonnaise and pickles on his burger. And you might prefer some fancier toppings like bacon, blue cheese, sauteed mushrooms, or avocado. Here are a few toppings suggestions:
- The Food Baby: American cheese, bacon, avocado, ketchup, mayonnaise, tomato, and onion.
- Black and Bleu: sauteed mushrooms, onions, bleu cheese crumbles, bleu cheese dressing or mayonnaise.
- Cali Burger: avocado, sriracha, lettuce, red onion, tomato.
- Hamburg-er: spicy mustard, sauteed mushrooms, onion, pickles, bacon.
- Firebreather: jalapenos, pepper jack cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise, and ketchup or hot sauce (try mixing some of these sauces together beforehand!).
- Brunch Burger: sunny-side up egg, bacon, tomato, ketchup, a bit of maple syrup.
So there you have it, an easy way to make burgers and some suggestions for dressing them up to your liking. Do you have a favorite or unique combination of burger toppings? Let me know in the comments!