If my body could handle it, I would subsist entirely on burgers and beer. Believe me, I try. The problem, though, is the difficulty of finding a good burger and high quality craft beer in the same establishment. I have experienced either mediocrity or full-on disappointment at most of the places I have tried in recent memory. The burgers are usually overcooked, or too dense, or dry, or under-seasoned.
The solution? Make ’em my dang self.
Here’s a simple method that will be as good, or more likely a lot better, than any burger you will find in most restaurants. This is not about a recipe, it’s about technique. The results we have enjoyed will quite literally bring tears to your eyes.
First, start with the right kind of beef — I like to use Angus chuck because it has the right amount of fat to make it flavorful and juicy. If you’re feeling extra ambitious, grind it yourself. Then add NOTHING to it. That’s it, just pure beef. No salt, no steak sauce, no chopped onion or egg — for the love of Pete, this is not a meatloaf — just beef.
Second, shape it gently into patties, about 6 to 8 ounces of meat each. When you have a patty formed, make an indentation in the center. This will help hold the shape because the outer part of the patty will cook faster than the middle. The trick in all this is not to overwork the meat, because the more you handle it the more you run the risk of prematurely breaking down the proteins in the beef — which, by the way, is why we don’t salt it yet. When those proteins break down in the raw meat, they have a nasty habit of relinking in unhappy ways during cooking, which will leave your finished product tougher and dryer.
Third, when the patties are formed, and only then, season them with a little kosher salt and coat them top and bottom with your favorite dry steak rub.
Now, we’re going to cook these puppies just like a steak. Because what is a hamburger, chopped ham? No, it’s chopped steak — and if you recognized that old A-1 steak sauce ad you’re really dating yourself. Preheat your oven to 400. Heat up a heavy skillet (cast iron will give you the best result) over medium-high heat with just a little vegetable oil, enough to lightly coat the bottom. When both oven and skillet are hot, commit your patties to their fiery fate.
You will hear that beautiful telltale sizzle on first contact, and you want to let them cook for a few minutes to form a nice crust on the bottom — the exact time will depend on the size and thickness of your patties, but usually about 4-5 minutes will do it. Turn them and repeat on the other side, then toss the skillet into the oven for about 5 minutes to finish. I do this because often the outer edges of the patties haven’t cooked yet. This step solves that little problem. Remove the patties from the oven, transfer them to a plate, and tent loosely with foil to rest for about 5 minutes.
While your burgers are resting, it’s a good idea to butter the insides of the buns, top and bottom, and brown them in a medium heat skillet. This warms them and, importantly, creates a nice moisture barrier for all the juices that are about to come oozing out of your perfectly mid-rare to medium finished patties. Crunchy on the outside, pink and juicy on the inside — yeah, baby!
Lastly, it’s time to finish constructing your savory masterpiece. Add your favorite veggies, sauces and toppings. I like mine without cheese, with some cold crunchy vegetables to contrast with the hot, juicy patty, and maybe some mayo or another tasty sauce. In the pictures today we have a “secret sauce” made of mayo, ketchup, Dijon mustard, sugar, cayenne pepper and pickle juice. Just do whatever makes your little heart flutter. When you’re ready, munch that bad boy down with a big happy grin on your face, and wipe away the tears of joy. After all, this is the best burger you’ve had in a long time. Until next time: Eat well, my friends!