It’s All About the Patty
by Tom Herndon
This month’s article is about how to make a great beef patty, inspired by the master chef of The French Laundry himself, Thomas Keller. I’ve also listed a number of HK-safe toppings, a link to get some delicious gluten-free brioche-style hamburger buns, and, for inspiration, some burger-fantasy websites.
As a bonus, I’ve included a delicious vanilla milkshake recipe without dairy or soy, and with almost now sugar. Like a burger patty, a vanilla shake is a rich but neutral backdrop. You can customize it with chocolate, strawberries, peaches, maple syrup, vodka…well, you get the picture.
First some basic rules for great burgers:
1. Grind Your Own
A good rule of thumb is 80% meat to 20% fat for a succulent, juicy burger. If possible, grind your own, as you have more control over which cuts to include and you can better prevent bacterial contamination (a risk with all ground meat). Season the cuts before your grind them and be careful to not overwork the mix. Start with a coarse-grind (sometimes called chili-grind), then run it through once again with a ground beef grind. Keep both the meat and the grinder as cold as possible (grind the meat into a bowl place in a larger bowl filled with ice). For more advice about healthy meat selection see Willie’s article this month called Hamburger Help.
2. Play it Safe
Choose a package of meat that is not leaking, bag it separately at the grocery store to prevent it from contaminating your other purchases, and put it in the refrigerator as soon as you get home. Refrigerators should be set at 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celcius) or lower, and the meat should be consumed within two days. Always wash your hands before and after handling raw meat, and clean the grill thoroughly before each use.
3. Season It
The most important thing is to let the flavor of the meat dominate the taste of the burger. Again, season the meat before you grind it, or at least before you grill it. Seasonings that enhance and not overpower the flavor include salt, black pepper, finely minced garlic and onion, and Worcestershire sauce. Worcestershire sauce made in the U.S. is gluten-free; if it’s made in Canada it’s not. Check the labels carefully on bottled or packaged rubs and sauces for gluten in the form of barley malt, modified food starch, teriyaki sauce, etc. Also check for soy in the form of guar gum, lecithin, or liquid smoke. Any that contain processed sweeteners such as corn syrup or dextrose are also to be avoided.
4. Easy Does It
The patty should be as light and juicy as possible. Do not overmix the grind, as this will make your burgers dry and flat - the meat strands should be kept intact and not mashed together. Form the patties loosely. Right before grilling dent the top of your patty with your thumb, so that when the center bubbles up during cooking, the burger will come out level and even.
5. Make it Hot
About 45 minutes ahead of time, heat your grill to medium-high. When you can hold your hand about six inches over the grill for only three to four seconds the grill is ready. You want it hot enough to ensure a good crust on the patty as that will seal the flavorful juices in. Whatever you do, don’t flatten your patty by pressing it down with a spatula. All of those juices will end up in the coals!
Basic Burger Patty Recipe
1 ½ pounds beef sirloin
¾ pound beef brisket
¾ pound beef chuck
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- Trim excess fat, leaving about ¼ inch of fat. Slice the meats into one-inch chunks and place in a bowl. Season the cut-up meat with the sea salt and pepper.
- Set up your meat grinder with a ¾-inch die. Grind the meat, alternating kinds of cuts as you go.
- Put the meat through one more time at the next finer blade level.
- Form the patties gently with your hands into ¾-inch or 1-inch thick burgers.
- Prepare your grill a good 45 minutes ahead of cooking time for medium-high heat. Cook each side for four minutes for a medium-cooked patty, and only flip once. You want to keep the burger cooking long enough so it won’t stick to the grill. Optionally, you can gently pick the burger up after two minutes and rotate it 90 degrees to create cross-hatch patterns. After grilling both sides, move the patties to a platter and let them rest for a good ten minutes. The meat relaxes and the juices re-distribute them throughout the burger.
If you don’t have a grill you can use a combination of pan-frying and the oven to get the perfect texture and level of doneness. First, mold the patties BIG – at least one inch thick and about a bun’s diameter around. The burger needs to be plump and juicy!
- Preheat a cast iron skillet over the stove at about medium-high heat.
- Add just a touch of olive oil.
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
- Place the patty in your skillet until the bottom has browned and you can see the juices emerging from the top of the patty.
- Then, flip the burger over once (do not mash!!).
- Place the skillet with the flipped burger in it into the heated oven for about 5 minutes for a medium temperature.
For good, if expensive, brioch-style hamburger buns, check out GF Meals click here.
Regular, less expensive buns can be found at GlutenFree.com.
Katz Bakery has Kaiser rolls, oat-challah rolls and sandwich rolls that would work as hamburger buns as well.
- Avocado, roasted red peppers, and thinly-sliced onions
- Grilled pineapple, grilled onions, bacon
- Fresh romaine lettuce, sliced tomatoes, and cucumber spears
- Seasoned garlic and Italian Verde sauce (parsley, onions and capers)
- White onions, tomatoes,and plain coconut yogurt-cucumber tsatsiki
- Grilled mushrooms, grilled onion, and bacon
- Sweet relish, chopped onion, ketchup, mustard, and hot peppers
- Pan-fried in sweet-and-sour chutney made from sautéed white onions, raisins, mustard seed and marsala wine
Great Burger Sites
Go wild, but note not all recipes on these sites will be HK-safe:
Simply Delicious Vanilla Shake
1 1/2 cups of So Delicious Coconut Milk (not the canned stuff)
1 quart of So Delicious Purely Decadent Coconut Vanilla Ice Cream
Place the well-chilled coconut milk into a blender. Scoop out the frozen ice cream into the blender. Blend on high speed for 1 1/2 minutes or until well blended. You can add more milk for thinner shakes. Add the flavorings you love.