Over the weekend, the weather in Chicago finally stopped being frosty. As temperatures continue to rise into the mid-80s, all the
Over the weekend, the weather in Chicago finally stopped being frosty. As temperatures continue to rise into the mid-80s, all the grills in the park across my street are in constant use. Every time I go outside, I see new groups of people huddled around grills fiddling with charcoal and snapping sets of tongs. Most of them make hamburgers and I can’t wait to take them outside.
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However, as common as burgers are, it’s sometimes difficult to make a homemade version that matches the restaurant variety. That’s why Salon Food put together this list of 5 tips for making the best burgers at home.
Get ready to impress your family and friends when it’s your turn to grill this summer. No commercial kitchen needed.
Make sure you buy good meat (and handle it properly).
Sometimes when you make hamburgers at home, you open your mouth in anticipation of a juicy piece of umami, but end up feeling disappointed when you chew. The patty is tasteless and perhaps a bit gristly. What gives? This is probably the quality of the meat used.
It’s no secret that it’s better for our personal health and the health of our planet to eat less meat. Part of that means buying better quality meat from more reputable suppliers when you decide to include it on your shopping list. Do a little research to see if farmers markets or local butchers stock organic beef in your area. It might be a bit more expensive than the supermarket but it’s worth it.
Note that grass-fed beef tends to have a more “mineral” flavor, which people usually associate with the spiciness of the beef, while grain-fed beef is sweeter and has a slightly more marbled taste. Follow your personal preferences. Be sure to purchase a mix with at least 25% fat, especially if you are cooking your burgers to a done or medium rare. After all, fat is taste.
One of the most common mistakes when making burgers (and I’m definitely guilty of this!) Is overcooking the patty. Think of it like bread dough, in a way. While it can be nice to get your hands dirty and bump into the ground beef mixture, it can dry out the burger.
To that end, try to avoid these preformed patties in the supermarket. Instead, form your own patties at home, making sure they’re seasoned enough with salt, pepper, and a little garlic powder if you’re feeling spicy. Then place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet in the refrigerator until you’re ready to cook.
Place the chilled meat directly onto the flaming grill or hot skillet, then press down quickly with a spatula to ensure the patties are well cooked and also retain moisture.
Invest in a few simple tools
Instead of frying hamburgers directly on the grill, most restaurants use a flat lid pan because they are great for batch cooking and maintaining a constant temperature. You can simulate this at home by using a heavy cast iron skillet with a flat bottom and heating it on the grill or on the stovetop.
Also, a good metal spatula really works wonders. Instead of the flat plastic or silicone options you use to lift hot cookies off the pan, use something with a sharp metal edge. This helps to flip the patties without losing the nice caramelized bits you got from frying them.
Melt the cheese properly
Another benefit of using a cast iron hamburger skillet is that it can actually help you melt the cheese properly. You might be wondering how many ways there are to melt cheese, but think about what happens when you put a cold slice of cheese on a grilled burger. It never reaches such a creamy, melting consistency.
Instead, once your burger is almost done, top it with cheese, add some water to the pan, and cover it with a lid. The steam from the water entering the hot pan collects under the lid and quickly melts the cheese.
Toast those buns
This is a simple tip, but it has a lot of value. Add butter, non-dairy butter, or a little vegetable oil to the hamburger buns, then toast them in the same pan you cooked the hamburgers. Once they are golden brown and slightly crispy, they can be removed from the heat.
When it comes to toppings, balance is key.
You have a delicious cutlet, perfectly melted cheese and a toasted bun. Now it’s time to add some toppings. When I make burgers at home, I like to keep it pretty simple: sliced tomato, shredded iceberg lettuce, a couple of pickle slices, white onions, and homemade burger sauce. Whatever you do, remember the idea of balance.
You may need something cool and sour to counter the fat content of the cheese and burger, like a sliced avocado or some giardiniera. Or you might want to play up the caramelized beef flavors by topping your burger with smoked barbecue sauce or brown sugar bacon. Take note of topping combinations from your favorite restaurant burgers and use them as a template for experimenting at home.
Our other favorite summer meals: