I always try to eat delicious food. Unfortunately I don't have that much money, so I have to cook a lot of it at home. But thats OK because I love cooking and I love eating at home with my wife. This is a website with my favorite recipes and a little bit of commentary.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

The Perfect Hamburger

My wife got hungry for hamburgers so this is the perfect time to give my thoughts on the hamburger. A lot of people don't like to make hamburgers at home because they don't seem to taste as good as the ones they get in restaurants. Everyone remembers when their mom would tell them that they were going to have hamburgers for supper. Everyone got all excited the first time. Typically what you got was a big thick ball of bland tasting meat smushed between 2 slices of white bread and a glass of milk. That is not a burger it is torture. That is a common mistake that mothers make - no bun.

Rule #1) Its not a hamburger if you don't have a bun. A package of buns costs $0.49!

The other thing that mothers tend to do to ruin home made burgers is when you ask for a cheeseburger they put a huge thick slice of moldy cheese from the fridge that doesn't melt.

Rule #2) If you are making cheeseburgers, use thin slices (preferably of velveta or some other cheap, easy melting cheese) and make sure they melt.

When you are making burgers at home you should get the right meat. If you are a crazy health nut you shouldn't be eating burgers anyway, and buying 98% lean hamburger isn't going to make it any healthier. What you will end up doing with your compromise is eating a not so tasty burger that falls apart when you are cooking it. Do yourself a favor and just eat the carrot sticks and tofu.

Rule #3) Use 80% ground chuck.

Now we come to one old problem and a new problem that is not so obvious. Here is the solution to both. The first problem that mothers have is that they either make the patties too thin and you end up with White-Castle mini wafers that are all dry and nasty. The other problem that they have is that the burgers are not really burgers, they are meatballs. To fix this problem we come to the next rule.

Rule #4) Make your patties nice and thick, about 1/2 inch and create a little hollow in the center so that the edges are thicker than the center.

The hollow will allow you to make nice thick burgers. The center will still swell but it will swell up to make a uniformly sized burger. To make a more interesting texture in the burger we come to the next rule.

Rule #5) Don't pack the burger. Shape it as gently as possible so that you don't lose all of the ground texture.

Here is a picture of a properly made patty.

This next point harkens back to what I was saying about Thanksgiving dinner. You may be the world's most fabulous chef, but if you whip out sushi for Thanksgiving, people are going to be pissed. People come to expect certain things from certain meals. Nothing makes people angrier than biting into a cherished food, the hamburger, and finding something as ridiculous as green peppers and onions. Don't do it, period. Don't get all fancy adding curry or some other crazy spices.

Rule #6) You are only allowed salt and pepper as additions to your patty.

Now we come to the cooking part. You should use a cast iron skillet. They cost $7 for Chrissake. Why don't you have one? They aren't that hard to take care of, just a little drop of oil after you wash them. After a while they become perfectly non stick. They heat things evenly and you can use real spatulas on them. No need for the foo foo $300 pan that you have to use plastic spatulas on. Who wants to taste melted plastic?

Rule #7) Use a cast iron skillet.

Heat your cast iron skillet up to about medium heat. Add a little cooking oil or 1 T butter. Drop in your patties and let them cook for a while on one side. You are allowed one flip so make sure you cook it long enough on the one side. Flip it and finish the other side.

Rule #8) You get one flip and no pressing the burger to squeeze out all the juice.

Now we come to the cheese part. This is easy. Slap your slice of velveta on the top of the patty and put a lid over the pan for 30 seconds. Viola - melted cheese and everything.

You should have a little spread of toppings out for people to choose from. Some don't like any, others like a lot. Just let them choose.

And here it is the perfect hamburger: