Continuing our quest on making foods that will appeal to your stereotypical MMA fan (male ages 18-39), we're going with possibly the greatest sandwich ever invented. While some of you folks may be heathen vegetarians, most of us still prefer the most glorious and quintessential American food of all: the hamburger. For many burger eaters however, their knowledge of burgers is relegated to 24-packs of frozen patties and McDonalds and the meatloaf-y burgers their baby boomer parents made. These inferior meats are common, and everyone grew up on them, so it isn't like anyone should be embarrassed about eating these - just about everyone did. Eventually, through the magic of the internet and the popularization of the Food Network, I learned better, and now wish to pass this on to more people.
This article is going to lean heavily upon the excellent food blog A Hamburger Today with a bit of Food Network thrown in - mostly because Alton Brown is kinda awesome. Something interesting about Alton actually, is that as HE got older, he seems to have changed his burger making choices, too. Fairly early in his Food Network career (early 2000 in season 2; the show ended in season 14), he did an episode of Good Eats on how to make a hamburger. In it, he did a few things that he later changed completely when doing a 2009 episode of Dear Food Network - he contradicted himself and seemingly changed to what is more in line with what I prefer doing. I'll cover those later.
The first step is meat. Despite this possibly eliciting a "duh" out of you, this step is usually overlooked - tons of people just buy pre-formed patties or regular ground beef. Buying pre-formed frozen patties is almost always the wrong way to go. Almost all food is just better when it's fresh, and commercially ground beef and beef trimmings are no exception. Buying plain ground beef is fine, and for the general reward:work ratio, there's nothing wrong with it. Really, we're looking for a mixture of meats, and while you can usually buy the individual ground Chuck and ground Sirloin or whatever and mix those together, if, however, you can spare some extra work time and cleanup time, grinding your own is superior.
If you don't have a grinder, and let's face it, almost no one does (I don't), you can use a food processor. Use a low setting and pulse it on and off in quick bursts. In fact, in that Good Eats episode I was telling you about, Alton does exactly that (see the end for the link). Don't do too many or you'll turn your meat into paste. Again, Brown uses ten, but each food processor is different, so do a couple and then look to see if it's at the right consistency. Repeat as often as necessary.
As you'll see if you click on the source material, at the end of this article, you want fat. At least 80/20 and you get that almost always through Chuck. Whatever other beef you want to add to the mix is up to you, but Chuck is as close to mandatory as it gets.
Next up is seasoning. Don't. Do not salt your meat before cooking unless you want a dense patty over a tender one. This is quite possibly the first major deviation that most people have with the burger they're used to. There is a very extensive article from AHT linked below that goes into detail why this is superior than seasoning ahead of time. I will simply use a couple of the pictures as a demonstration:
Let me ask you folks... Which of these burgers would you rather eat? Because that top one has salt on the outside only, applied just before cooking. The bottom one had salt mixed into it before forming into patties. Look, salt dissolves protein. The longer you apply it for, the more it will dissolve. This is one of those things that Mr. Brown changed his mind on from his old episode to the new one a decade later. Again, please check out that article. It's a real eye-opener. I've tried a ton of different seasonings on top of burgers, but nothing seems to beat plain old fresh-cracked black pepper and kosher salt. Don't use table salt, the crystals are too small. They'll fall into the cracks of a loosely packed burger and not give you the crust you're looking for.
Check out the rest of the article at Gals Guide