Think of a burger patty as a little black dress. It’s perfect as is, or you can dress it up for a whole new taste. Crispy on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside, that beef patty is the foundation of the perfect burger. Burger fans like Hanibal Yadegar know the truth is in the taste. One bite satisfies.
“I think they’re the best burgers in town,” Yadegar said about the hamburgers at his Barkin’ Dog Grill. He’s been crafting burgers one way for six years at his downtown Modesto, Calf. eatery. He starts with 100 percent organic beef that’s 15 percent fat.
“We hand patty all of our burgers,” he said. A secret blend of seasonings is sprinkled on top, and the beef is charbroiled. “We make ours medium and medium/rare.
“They’re trained on thermometers,” he said of his cooks, “but you get a feel for it. When it comes out of the soft mode into the rubbery mode, you’ll get a feel.” That’s when you can tell the patty is done.
Americans love eating burgers – to the tune of 14 billion a year, according to a 2009 survey by Technomic Information Services. They also love making them. Hamburgers are the No. 1 grilled food, according to the 2011 Weber GrillWatch Survey.
“While 96 percent of all Americans grill burgers outdoors, beef burgers are the country’s favorite at 93 percent,” according to the survey. Onions, tomatoes, lettuce, ketchup, and mustard are favorite toppings.
Seems easy enough. Take ground beef, shape it into a patty, season, cook and set it on a bun. But this simple pleasure has almost morphed into, well, almost meatloaf, with so much “stuff” mixed into the beef. So it’s time to go back to that original ground beef patty sandwich that Fletcher “Old Dave” Davis served up in 1904 at the St. Louis World’s Fair Louisiana Purchase Exhibition.
To guarantee the beefiest flavor, use flavorful ground cuts. Ground sirloin, ground round and ground chuck containing 15 percent to 20 percent beef are preferred choices.
Break up meat with your hands, divide it into equal portions, shape into balls and flatten into patties of even thickness using your fingers. Beef should be formed with a light touch into a uniform shape about 3/4-inch thick; overworking can lead to a dry, compact patty. Yadegar’s cooks place beef between sheets of wax paper and use a plate to flatten.
For extra-thick patties, follow the advice of “Grill It!” from Better Homes and Gardens: Make a deep impression in the center of the patty with your thumb to ensure the burger cooks evenly and doesn’t plump up in the center and lose its shape.
Season the top of the patty with salt and cracked black pepper or a blend of seasonings to suit your taste and grill. Then use the right bread to turn average into amazing.
TOPPINGS to try
Chimichurri: Combine the following in a food processor and pulse until smooth: 2 cups flat leaf parsley, 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves, four cloves garlic, 1 teaspoon smoked sweet Spanish paprika, 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar, half cup extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Let sit at room temperature before serving.
Avocado relish: Combine the following in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper: two ripe Hass avocados, halved, pitted, peeled and chopped, half small onion, diced, one finely diced jalapeno, juice of one lime, quarter cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves. This can be made an hour in advance.
Coleslaw: Combine 3/4 cup mayonnaise, grated half small onion, 1 tablespoon sugar, 2 teaspoons celery seeds and 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar in a large bowl. Add one small head finely shredded cabbage and one large shredded carrot. Season with salt and pepper.
1-1/2 pounds ground chuck (80 percent lean) Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1-1/2 tablespoons canola oil
4 slices cheese (optional)
4 hamburger buns, toasted
Divide the meat into four equal portions and form loosely into a 3/4-inch burger and make a deep depression in the center with your thumb. Season both sides with salt and pepper.
Heat a gas grill to high or heat coals in a charcoal grill until they glow bright orange and ash over. Brush the burgers with the oil. Grill the burgers until golden brown and slightly charred on the first side, about three minutes. Flip the burgers and cook until golden and slightly charred on the second side, about four minutes for medium rare, three minutes if topping with cheese, or until cooked to desired degree of doneness.
Source: “Bobby Flay’s Burgers, Fries & Shakes” (Clarkson Potter, $25.95)