By Mario Fiorucci, Co-Founder of The Healthy Butcher
Such a brilliant idea—lightly pressing together some good minced beef with a little seasoning, grilling it for five minutes and serving it on a fresh bun with a few choice toppings. I can’t think of many dishes that are so easy to make yet completely transcend the sum of their parts. Although cheap, mass-produced burgers are horrible, good burgers are culinary works of art.
The following are my rules for making the best burger.
A great burger begins with great beef. If you start with a properly raised animal that has roamed around on pasture and been well-fed without added antibiotics or industry by-products, the end result will be excellent. It doesn’t really matter what cut you use; the key is that you have the right amount of fat—somewhere around 20% (up to 25%, no less than 15%). It just so happens that meat from the chuck (shoulder) of the beef will have the proper amount of fat, but so will brisket, and skirt, and flank, and rib… all great cuts for burger. Proper dry ageing of the beef by your butcher will also vastly improve the taste.
As to the proper texture, opt for beef that’s been freshly ground only once through a fine or medium-size grinder plate. Or, for a true steak burger, get a cut of meat from your butcher and chop it finely by hand.
Go easy on the seasonings. Good quality sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper are all you need. Feel free to add other ingredients but don’t go overboard; you want to complement the flavour of the meat, not completely overtake it.
Most “experts” will adamantly argue that eggs and breadcrumbs have no part in the making of a patty. But I’m on the opposite side of the fence. A beaten egg acts as a natural binder, and fresh breadcrumbs absorb the juices that would otherwise melt onto your barbeque and also help maintain the shape and size of your burger. Use just enough for them to do their respective jobs—about 1 egg per 2 or 3 lbs. of meat, and about 1 cup of breadcrumbs to 5 lbs. of meat.
When mixing and forming your burgers, do not overwork the meat. Mix it only by hand, not with a machine, and only to the point where the proteins are binding together firmly. If you under-mix, the burger may fall apart when cooking. Mix until you think it will be easy to form the patties, and not a second more.
Finally, grill to pink. Lightly brush the grill with oil if you’re using a barbeque or heat a little oil in a skillet. Cook the patty for 3 minutes over medium heat, flip using a sharp spatula, and cook for another 2½ minutes over medium-low heat to achieve medium rare, an extra minute for medium. Fight the urge to be a flipping maniac, no good can result from flipping fifty times.
A fresh bun and a few choice toppings are all you need to complete perfection. Personally, I’m a fan of caramelized onions, tomato, mayo, ketchup and piece of Romaine lettuce, but I’ll leave you to finish your own masterpiece.