Posts Tagged ‘burger recipe’

How To Prepare The Meat For Your Burger

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

But the key to the recipe is the meat. You should not just get the nearest pack of mince that you can find, but should go to a proper butcher and get the mince made for you using the right types of meat.  The best beef for a burger comes from the top, so you are looking for neck, chuck & blade (in the US, this is chuck), rump (in the US, this is sirloin), silverside and topside (in the US, this is top round, i.e. from the top of the hind leg rather than towards the base); for UK cuts, you can see the attached website or in the US.  Each cut has different characteristics and pricing, but they are all great for burgers.   If you are going to buy your meat from the supermarket or preminced, try and get minced steak rather than minced beef, and organic or free range beef over factory farmed, so you are more likely to get a better quality cut and more ageing.  However, good mince and braising steak often comes straight from chuck so you could just go straight for these, then mince the braising steak yourself, but check with your butcher if you can. 

What you are looking for is a beef from the top of the cattle with a good level of marbling of 15% – 20% of the total meat.  A good level of marbling (the little veins of fat running through the beef) is vital as it melts as you cook, helping the beef to baste itself while cooking, so keeping the beef succulent and flavoursome.  Then you are looking for muscles that are worked and so have good flavour as in the hind leg or neck, rather than the soft, but less flavoursome cuts from the ribcage area, which are forerib and sirloin in the UK and rib and short loin in the US, however on the other side you do not want the overly tough meat from the lower round or brisket.  Then you are after an aged beef as this overcomes any possible issues from extra collagen from being worked hard.

As for breeds, the best beef comes from hardy Border and Scottish breeds, like the Aberdeen Angus and Galloway lines or Blue Grey, which is a Whitebred Shorthorn crossed with a Galloway.  Then for global beef afficionadoes there is Wagyu beef from the Japanese Wagyu cattle, which has intense marbling.  One thing I feel is that the best beef comes from hardy cattle that have been farmed in tough conditions where the beef has been grown properly rather than becoming flaccid and dull from easy living.

Heston Blumenthal goes into some detail and consideration of the types of beef to use in the perfect burger.  He uses a mix of chuck, aged short rib and brisket in a ratio of 1:2:1, with a 6 hour presalting of the chuck before grinding.  Personally, I think this is too complex, but agree that a mix of chuck and short rib (or rib eye) or rump, using 21+ day aged beef if you can get it, is a great idea, but you must still look for the right fat:meat ratio, i.e. marbling.  The idea of presalting the beef at this stage is interesting, but does not actually make any difference as I always suggest that you season the minced beef for at least an hour before you grill the burgers, so you draw the moisture out at that stage.  Some blog views on his burger can be found at http://www.mrmenu.net/discus/messages/18/61023.html and http://aht.seriouseats.com/archives/2008/05/the-blumenburger-the-most-laborintensive-hamburger-in-the-world.html.

Cutting through all this, I go for a 1:1 ratio of chuck steak to either ribeye steak or rump steak, with the picanha cut being a great rump cut to use.

Chuck Steak (left) And Rib Eye Steak (right)

Chuck Steak (left) And Rib Eye Steak (right)

No 8 Stainless Steel Hand Mincer

No 8 Stainless Steel Hand Mincer

The next thing to consider is the grind size for the beef.  The best way is to get your butcher to do this as they have the right equipment and good hygiene.  You should ask for the beef to be minced through a medium (4.5mm; 3/16 inch) setting, not finer like industrial pre-ground mince.  At home, I grind the meat once with the 4.5mm blade then again either with the same blade or a 6mm blade, as I find the double mince creates a smoother and less tough beef.  If you are going to do this at home, you must ensure that all the equipment is really, really clean and should scald the blades in boiling water to kill all the bacteria or use food grade cleaners and rinse off afterwards thoroughly; then refrigerate the equipment for 30 minutes to help to prevent the meat from sticking to it.  Once again, I would recommend Weschenfelder for a manual mincer and would plump for either the No 8 or No 10 stainless steel mincers on their site.  Heston Blumenthal suggests that you grind the meat then align the strands in parallel, but this is not worth the effort and also means that the burger has much less bindability and can easily fall apart.  The key is the quality of the meat, not in being overtly particular to align the strands of minced beef this way, i.e. don’t bother as it is a pain in the butt.

Mincing Beef Steak At Home

Mincing Beef Steak At Home

Maldon Sea Salt

Maldon Sea Salt

Having minced the meat, you should season it right through.  To do this, grind the salt to a fine powder in a mortar and pestle as you want this to be all the way through the beef.  You must use a sea salt for this and not an industrial salt.  For this, I would suggest either our fleur de sel, or be more British about it and use one of the wonderful crystal salts from Anglesey, Cornwall or Maldon.  The salt draws out some of the moisture in the beef creating a greater succulence and binding the beef together more, while subtly enhancing the umami tones within great beef.  Next get some coarsely ground good quality black peppercorns, which you can either do with your grinder on a coarse setting or buy a cracked black pepper (called crushed black pepper in the US and butcher’s cut in Germany).  This brings the characteristic warm, piperine flavour that wonderfully offsets the richness of the beef.  I think that you want bursts of flavour in this case rather than an even heat throughout, which would come from a ground pepper, essentially the opposite flavouring style to the sea salt.  I think our Steenbergs TGSEB from Kerala is the best pepper you could want, so that is what I use.  Finally, I add a small amount of fried grated onion, which is really my own personal preference – it is only a small amount and complements the meat nicely with a hint of sweetness.  For really good beef, you can, and I often do, drop this and rely on the salt and pepper, but I do like a little bit of fried onion in the burger mix, but this is optional.

Put the minced beef into a stainless steel bowl.  Having prepared the fine ground sea salt, the coarse ground black pepper and the grated onion, you should sprinkle these then mix through the ground beef as well as you can.  Use your hands here, making sure they are scrupulously clean.  Then cover the stainless steel bowl with a clingfilm and leave in refrigerator for at least one hour.

To make the patties, you should either shape them with clean hands or use a burger press like the ones I suggested from Weschenfelder or Scobies in East Kilbride.  If doing them by hand, shape them to 10-12cm (4 – 5 inches) in diameter and 4cm high (1½ inches), which is roughly palm-sized and about two fingers thick.  Place these burgers into the fridge until you are ready to fry or grill them.

Shaping The Ground Beef In A Burger Press

Shaping The Ground Beef In A Burger Press

Having explained the basics for making a burger and some of the kit to use, I will review some possible sources for where you can get great meat for making your burger at home, both through the supermarkets, local to the North East, some online speciality stores and a few other great places that are worth tracking down if you have the time and money to reach for greatness.  From there, we will go to ideas for sauces, burger buns and so on.

Starting Out – The Basics For A Simple Homemade Burger

Friday, July 8th, 2011

Some time ago, I started a quest for a great burger, then stopped that search as things at Steenbergs gave me less time than I had needed.  But I think I am ready to start that hunt again.

In the meantime, I have not been completely idle..well, a little perhaps…and have tweaked my core simple burger recipe, reducing the seasoning to let the flavour of the meat come through more.  However, it is completely a matter of taste as to how much seasoning you want to complement the beef flavours, plus an element of how good the meat itself is, where the better the flavours in the meat, the less seasoning you should be adding.

So here is my amended Simple Burger recipe:

450g / 1lb ground chuck, rib eye, rump, silverside or topside beef
1tbsp grated or minced onion (optional especially for top notch 21+ days’ beef, but ideal for shop bought mince), lightly fried then cooled
½tsp sea salt
¼tsp cracked black pepper

If doing the onion, fry gently in ½tbsp of sunflower oil until clear, then cool until chilled in the fridge. 

Next, clean your hands.  Then, in a clean stainless steel bowl, mix together all the ingredients using your hands, making sure all the ingredients are spread evenly through the mix.  Leave in the fridge for at least an hour and ideally overnight (or 6 hours).  Form the burger mix into patties that are 2cm (¾ inch) thick with your hands or in a burger press.

Season With Mince With Salt & Pepper

Season With Mince With Salt & Pepper

Shape The Burgers In A Pattie Press Or By Hand

Shape The Burgers In A Pattie Press Or By Hand

Homemade Burger Patties

Burger Patties Made At Home

Lightly brush with sunflower oil on each side, then either grill them over a barbecue or in a good cast-iron frying pan over a medium-high heat to the desired degree of doneness – around 4 – 5 minutes per side for medium rare; 5 – 6 minutes for medium.  However, the degree of doneness is not an exact science and depends a lot on the actual temperatures used and the meat, so be flexible rather than rigid in these guides.

Burger Press From Weschenfelder

Burger Press From Weschenfelder

To shape the burgers, I just use my hands.  However, Lakeland have a burger press that would do the job if you do not like the feel of meat, or you could try Twenga where there seem to be loads of alternatives over a wide price bracket.  Better still there is a range of burger presses from £7 – £300 at one of my favourite web secrets, Weschenfelder.

If you find that your burgers are falling apart, you may find that the meat you are using is not moist enough.  Alternatively, you could add some breadcrumbs, which will help to bind the meat together more.  In my homemade burger recipe via the main Steenbergs website, I use these in a more involved burger recipe.  The other possibility is that the burger is being turned too much or you are pressing it down, so releasing the juices that would bind the meat together, as below.

If you wish to barbecue them, a charcoal fire is much better rather than a gas grill, but obviously comes with more of a hassle factor.  Here are some basic burger cooking rules:

  1. Turn the burger only once – flipping might make the burger fall apart, while turning it back and forth will dry it out without letting the burger cook through.
  2. Don’t squash down the burger while it is cooking.  It does not speed up the cooking time much and squeezes out the juices, so ensuring your burger will become dry and solid rather than succulent & delicious.
  3. Finally, make sure your frying pan or grill is hot before you start cooking, but you don’t want a mega hot flame that chars the burgers to a crisp, cinder, better to be white hot charcoals than big flickering flames.  Impatience will not help the best flavours to develop.

But the key to any burger recipe is the meat.

Simple Burger Recipe – Part 1

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Saturday, a cold Saturday a few weekends ago that felt like winter but was meant to be almost midsummer.  It felt like a good day to start trying to find the Steenberg family’s favourite burger recipe.  We tried three recipes which we taste tested simultaneously and our favourite of these is one that’s been flavoured with red onion, salt and pepper.  I will give you the recipe below, as well as the other ones that we decided weren’t as good.  It’s a start, but I don’t feel that we have got much further than a first step on this quest – we like a burger flavoured with onion and some salt and pepper which is not much different from our standard family recipe for a homemade burger.

Our first cut of a burger recipe:

225g  Beef mince
½ Small red onion, finely chopped
½ tsp Finely ground sea salt
¼ tsp Coarsely ground black pepper

Caramelising Red Onions

Caramelising Red Onions

Take a frying pan, then put in a decent piece of butter and heat this up.  Add the chopped up red onion and gently fry for 10 – 15 minutes to lightly caramelise.  Remove caramelised red onion with fork or slotted spoon and leave to cool.  Add the sea salt and Steenbergs cracked black pepper until well mixed up, and cool down in fridge.

Burger Mix Rolled Into Ball

Burger Mix Rolled Into Ball

Put the beef mince into a mixing bowl and then add the red onion and seasonings.  With washed hands, mix the mince up thoroughly until all the flavours are well interspersed.  Roll up into ball, then cover bowl in clingfilm and put back into the fridge for about 1 hour. 

Remove from the fridge, then divide the burger mix into three and shape each half into round flat burgers; I actually found a 8cm / 3 inch metal pastry circle that we had and put the meat into that to 2cm / 1 inch depth.  These were then covered with clingfilm and left in fridge again for 1 hour.

Red Onion Burgers

Red Onion Burgers Ready To Fry

Leaving the burger mix in the fridge allows the flavours to infuse and spread through the beef mince.  You can skip or reduce the time that I took in this section by going straight to the shaped burgers and putting these into the fridge.  I would ask that you give the mix at least 30 minutes to let the flavours develop.

In a good, heavy frying pan, heat some sunflower oil until piping hot, then reduce the heat a bit.  Put in the burgers and fry until lightly browned on each side, or your perfect level of doneness.  For me, this takes about 3 – 4 minutes for each side.  Even though it’s a health worker’s nightmare, I am trying to leave the centre warmed but still red in the middle!  Leave to settle for about 2 minutes before serving.

We ate these plain as we were trialling the flavours, but serve with your favourite sauces and bread rolls.

Where to next, I think I will vary the level of red onion down a bit and see whether that’s better; perhaps to more like 1 tablespoon of caramelised red onion to 225g meat.  After that, I will look at the seasonings in more detail as to whether I can add some flair to them over and above these basic flavours.

For information, the other burger recipes that we tried were the following mixes:

Very basic burger: 337g beef mince, ½ tsp Steenbergs cracked black pepper, ½ tsp finely ground sea salt (too boring in our opinion, but the kids preferred these plainer flavourings)

Alternative onion version: 175g beef mince, ¼ medium white onion,½ tsp finely ground sea salt, ¼ tsp Steenbergs coarsely ground black pepper (tasted a bit sweeter, and perhaps the spice/salt level was better than the red onion burger)

Quest For The Best Burger In The North

Friday, June 18th, 2010

I have decided, like many before me, to go on a quest; a quest for the perfect burger

I want to do this in part to find something close to perfection, but also it will give me an opportunity to find some of the best local producers of breads and beef and other ingredients.  But here’s the downside, I have to put limits on my search, otherwise I will need to travel the world – I will let others do that for me and I would welcome your input for other great producers or recipes.  My rules for producers are that they must be located north of the Humber and south of the Tweed and on the east coast of England; those rules will seem arbitrary to most, but for me they are logical – I am a born and bred Northumbrian who lives in North Yorkshire.

So how to start this quest.  Well, I can only think about doing it very systematically, almost like a science project.  I am firstly going to do two things in parallel – I am going to test a number of recipes to find the best (in my family’s opinion) burger recipe, while simultaneously looking for the best local burger bun and/or recipe.  I have decided to do these together as I expect my wife and kids to get sick of very similar tasting burger recipes, so I will need to mix up what I am doing to keep this quest moving forwards rather than getting stuck in the culinary doldrums.  I will then run on into cuts of meat, proportions of fat and best local sources of beef etc etc.

As for recipes, I am going to stick only to beef, but we will be hunting for two recipes – one the best simple burger recipe, and the other, the best more complex recipe.  The former will be able to showcase the best beef when we get there, letting the meat do the talking, while the second can be a bit more showy.  I completely expect to change the rules as I go along, so don’t expect me to be overly strict.