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The Beautiful Burger

Tips for creating the ultimate burger.

To make juicy, delicious burgers follow these simple guidelines.

1. Select Your Meat. (If you’re a vegetarian then check out this recipe). The best burgers, according to my research come from ground chuck, which is about 20% fat. Meat labeled "ground beef" or "hamburger" can be up to 30 percent fat and you really don’t know what part of the animal the beef is coming from. Also those burgers tend to be too fatty. Higher-end meat, such as sirloin, is often leaner and trimmed of excess fat, which makes for a dry burger. Freshly ground chuck is best. Take a piece of chuck and let your butcher at the market grind it up for you. A coarse setting is best for juicy burgers.

• Ground chuck has about 20 percent fat.
• Ground sirloin has about 15 percent fat.
• Ground round has about 11 percent fat, making it a favorite of dieters, but producing less-juicy burgers.

2. Season Your Meat. Many people just want great beef, straight up with salt and pepper. If you have bought already ground meat then I suggest you do season it with something delicious. It's a good idea to add flavors and fat if you are using leaner cuts of beef. You can add moisture at the same time with finely minced vegetables such as onion, mushrooms, or mild chiles are especially good for this. Adding a pad of butter to leaner meats works really well.

Liquids - Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce are perhaps the two most common
liquids to add to burgers. Most recipes call for about a Tablespoon of liquid per
pound of meat, but I have seen anywhere from a teaspoon to 2 Tablespoons. Wine
is another option. Just plain water is also great. I would use that if using top quality

Spices - Other than salt and pepper, almost any spice in the cabinet is a good addition. Garlic or onion powder are probably the most common.

TIP #1: When adding other ingredients to ground meat, use a spoon or spatula to avoid heating the meat with your hands. See below.

TIP #2: Prior to cooking your burger, taste the meat for desired seasoning. Eat it raw if you're a stud, or fry up a piece of meat about the size of a quarter and eat it. Adjust seasoning to your liking. Remember you can add, but you can't take away!

3. Shape your Meat. Don’t play with your meat too much. If you handle it a lot, the warmth of your hand will melt the fat. The meat should be chilled and you should either wet your hands under cold water or use a spatula. When making the patties, do not compress the meat. Instead, the perfect hamburger patty should have multiple tiny holes to hold the juices released during the grilling process. I like to use a large ring mold and gently add the meat to form the patty. The burger should not be more than 3/4 inch thick. If you have time, it's a good idea to cover and keep your patties in the refrigerator for at least an hour. This will help keep the shape of the burger when cooking and it aids in heightening the seasoning of the meat if any has been added.

4. Cook Your Meat. On a medium high heat, grill your meat turning over once, for about 4-5 minutes total for rare or about 5-6 minutes for medium-rare. (Burgers will continue to cook slightly off the grill.). DO NOT PRESS DOWN on the meat. It will release the juices and dry out your burger. To test to see if the burger is done, touch your meat. Medium-rare is softly yielding, medium is semi-firm, well-done is firm. Also look at the juices. When they start to come out of the top of the burger, it's medium. When the juices that have oozed out of the top get cooked (stop looking red and become a bit more clear), it's medium-well. A combination of the two techniques should work well.

Types of Burgers:

The basic burger (1/4-3/4 pound burger)
Sliders (mini hamburgers)
Juicy Lucy (American cheese stuffed burger)

Trial and Error (years of testing)
America's Test Kitchen


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