All National Cheeseburger Day coverage
On Labor Day weekend, what better way to say goodbye to summer than with one last barbecue, and what says summer better than hamburgers? (Even for those of us who still use our grills deep into winter).
I’m not talking about those pre-made, pre-packaged, frozen-thawed-refrozen meat discs. I mean a real, honest-to-goodness, freshly-ground burger, the way nature intended.
Okay, I can hear you now: they’re too much work, they make too much of a mess, I don’t have the fancy equipment you need and besides, they taste as good as the burgers I make with that big lump of pre-ground meat.
Let me dispel a few of those myths.
2. You do not need fancy equipment like a meat grinder. If you have a food processor with a metal blade, you are good to go.
3. They are not nearly as difficult to make as you think. You just need to do a little planning and a little organization.
4. See #1.
Let’s talk equipment first. Yes, you can use a meat grinder to make your own burgers at home. There are stand-alone varieties as well as ones that attach to certain types of mixers. But as I mentioned above, if you have a food processor with a metal blade, that will do the trick. I have both and have been pleased with the results no matter which one I use.
You’re also going to need a cookie sheet, a cutting board, a knife and a plate. In fact, take all of these items as well as your meat grinder attachment (or your Cuisinart bowl and blade) and put them all in the freezer. We’ll get back to this later.
Like with any cooking adventure, you need to do some planning and organization first. Let’s start with the meat itself. The nice thing about grinding your own burgers is that you can choose the cut of meat you are going to use as well as the fat content.
In one of my first attempts at making my own burgers, I chose a beautiful cut of sirloin thinking that a fancy cut of meat like that would make great burgers. The feedback I got from my daughter: “It tastes like steak”. She was right it did. Not that that’s bad or anything.
I love nothing more than a good steak off the grill, but burgers don’t taste like steak. They taste like burgers. I recommend a cut like chuck. It’s not something you would choose for the grill, but grind it up and form it into patties, and you have the best tasting burgers you have ever made.
Let's take a minute to talk about fat. It’s an ugly word. And when it comes to food, some people are fanatical about avoiding it. Burgers need fat. This is so important, I’m going to repeat it.
Burgers need fat.
Ask anyone to describe the best burger they ever ate and I bet you most of them will say it was juicy. You need fat in your meat to make a good, juicy burger.
Don’t go overboard. When you buy pre-ground meat, a good ratio is 80% meat to 20% fat. Some people go as high as 30% fat. When you’re grinding your own burgers, look for cuts of meat that are well-marbled, but not too much. After a few attempts, you’ll know what to look for.
Now that you’ve got your nicely-marbled cut of beef with just the right amount of fat, let’s go back to the freezer. You want everything cold so that if your meat gets too warm before you grind it, it can smear. That just makes for a burger with the wrong consistency. So, try to keep every surface the meat is going to touch cold. I also cut the meat into cubes and throw that in the freezer too for about 20 minutes. This just makes it a little easier to grind and get that great texture you’re looking for without smearing.
Once the hamburger is done, try not to handle it too much. Quickly form it into a patty with a little finger depression in the middle. This is a little trick I learned that helps keep your burgers flat when you grill them. Otherwise, you wind up with grilled meatballs.
Heat the grill to high and put your beautiful, home-made burgers on. One important thing to remember: don’t touch them! The tendency is to poke, prod, press and flip them while they’re cooking. This just forces all the juices out and you’ll end up with tough, dry, grilled hockey pucks. Leave ‘em alone! Just a quick flip is all they need, then let them cook on the other side. I like to top mine with a little cheese, maybe some caramelized onions and finish it off with a nice, chewy bun that can hold it all together.
Making your own burgers from scratch can be easy and the results are totally worth it. Plus, you can brag to your guests about all the hard work you put into making them. They don’t have to know the truth.
Give it a whirl and have a great weekend.
Photos by Michael Milhaven
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All National Cheeseburger Day coverage
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