Wednesday, August 22, 2012

More Burger Talk

Let's start with what type of meat do we want for our burgers?  Remember yesterday we talked about not limiting ourselves when it comes to everything we put our burgers in not to mention on them too.  So why would we limit the type of meat we want to cook and eat?

Tradition has the huge majority of them being made from beef.  So we will start with beef.  Most agree that you want a good meat to fat ratio because that is where the flavor comes from in the taste.  Again the majority of experts agree that using ground beef of a 70/30 to 80/20 is the range you want to be in for good burgers.  I tend towards the 80/20 blend because it still has a good taste and is a little healthier for you (my dietitians are cringing on that statement).  The fat side of the ratio also helps in the juiciness of the burger.  You can use the leaner ratio meats (85/15, 90/10 93/7) but you really need to pay attention to the cooking process.  Don't over cook them or they will end up like hockey pucks when you try to eat them.  More about the cooking process later.

I prefer to use 100% ground chuck for my burgers.  Regular ground beef, ground round or even ground sirloin will work well but I just think (and many others) there is more flavor in the chuck.  I also prefer to buy what my meat department grinds instead of the boxes of ground beef they just bring in to sell.  That way I know what they are putting in my ground beef.  There are some packaged ground beef sold that include heart or some other organs in the grind.  If in doubt, ask your butcher at your favorite store.  They can help you make the choice that meets your desires.

These days there are many other choices of meat when in comes to burgers.  Some of the more popular ones on the list include lamb, pork, chicken and turkey.  The lamb with Feta cheese and some mint make a terrific burger.  When it comes to pork you even have choices.  Some like to go with just plain ground pork while others enjoy using pork sausage of one type or another.  Italian sausage or brats (casings removed) make for great burgers too.  As I mentioned earlier with the fried egg on a burger, some will use breakfast sausage.  Especially those early morning tailgaters trying to combine all their meals into one on game day.

I tend to use more chicken than turkey for burgers because I like to grind my own chicken breasts.  Again I'm in control of what is going into my ground meat and I can go a little courser on the grind.  Chicken and turkey are very lean so you may want to add some moisture to the patties.

Buffalo is another up and coming ingredient for those burgers.  It is much leaner than beef so be careful cooking and don't over do it.

In making your burger patties there are 3 different ways to give you some variety.  Just plain ground meat patties is one but another way to go is mixing in ingredients and flavors.  An example would be the Lipton Dry Soup mix recipe where you combine the soup mix and water to the ground meat for an oniony flavored burger.  The third way is to stuff them.  This requires making two thinner patties and then placing a filling in the middle of one patty topped by the other.  Here you want to make sure the two patties are well sealed together before you cook them.  There are many ingredients you can use to stuff a burger.  I believe that cheese and mushrooms top the list though.

Forming burgers takes a little practice but it is easy to pick up.  It usually helps to moisten your hands a bit before you start.  It helps to portion out the meat into balls or piles to make sure all are about the same size and that you get the quantity you desire.  Then take one in both hands and form into a patty normally about 4 inches in diameter and about 3/4 inch thick.  Be careful not to over work the meat as it can change the texture and make them tough.  Once you have it formed be sure to make an indentation in the middle of the patty.  This will help keep it from ballooning in the middle while it cooks.

If you watch much cooking on TV, most of them only use salt and pepper on their burgers.  I'm a little different when I grill my burgers.  If I'm just using plain ground beef, I like to season my patties on both sides with 4 items.  I use Lawry's Seasoned Salt, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder and Black Pepper.  I use them generously too.  Not to brag but I do receive many comments on how tasty my burgers are as they are being consumed.  I use those same 4 ingredients on my steaks too.  Give it a try and let me know your thoughts.

Lastly, with burgers no matter what type of meat you are using - DON'T OVERCOOK THEM!  Take them off the grill a little before they are done as they continue to cook and who wants to eat a hockey pucks?  Not even a hockey player.

Have a great day and remember to check out the burger recipes for Thursday and Friday.

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