As the grilling season reaches its climax with Labor Day next week, we thought it might be fun to take an in-depth look atone of our favorite cook-out foods. We think the humble hamburger is just about a perfect... and perfectly satisfying food. Jerry has thought a lot about the perfect hamburger. Here are his thoughts.
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1. Use 80/20 ground chuck
An 80-percent lean, 20-percent fat ratio may not be the most diet conscious choice for burger patties, because of the relatively high fat content but it guarantees you'll get a juicy burger.
2. Season with salt and pepper ONLY
Do sprinkle the outside of the burger liberally with salt and pepper. But do not season the meat mixture itself or add herbs, onions or garlic to it. That is meatloaf and we want to make hamburgers.
3. Cooking Choices:
Grilling – grilling your burger adds the extra dimension of that smoky charred taste. Use a medium high heat with the grilling surface as far away from the coals as possible. Cook the burger for anywhere from 5 to 8 minutes on a side, depending on the temperature you want and then flip it, only once. Continue cooking until cooked as you like it.
On the stove top - Cast iron has excellent heat diffusion and retention and produces evenly cooked burgers with a really great crust. Heat a cast iron pan or griddle on high heat until it begins to slightly smoke. Then, add a few teaspoons of canola oil, which has a neutral flavor, put the burgers in the pan or on the griddle and do not touch them until it’s time to flip. Once a crust has formed on the bottom, which takes at least 3 minutes, use a metal spatula and then flip over. Do not even start flipping the burger until a crust has formed or the meat will fall apart, and you will lose that perfect round shape. Continue cooking until a crust has formed on the bottom once again, and the burger is cooked to your desired doneness, about 4 more minutes for medium.
4. Keep the accompaniments simple, contrasting and flavorful.
If you’re going to add cheese, make it something spectacular. American cheese works but it will be lost in the mix. Try an aged gouda, a smoked cheddar or some blue cheese. Use a few leaves of crispy iceberg lettuce, whole, placed on the bottom of the bun to keep it safe from the dripping juices of the burger. This will provide a crunch to contrast with the soft burger. If you’re going to add tomato, use a large one the size of the burger so one thick slice will do the job. Trying to fit two or three smaller slices of tomato makes eating the burger a challenge. And season the tomato with salt and pepper before placing the burger on it. Pickles are great but again, make the stacking difficult. If you want that sweet and sour taste, go with a great relish.
5. Choose a study flavorful bun and toast it.
I think brioche or potato bread makes the perfect roll for a burger. Pretzel rolls, large English muffins and Ciabatta rolls also work and make it interesting. But please, you have to toast the roll!