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Burgers burgers burgers
October 16, 2009 1:51 PM   Subscribe

The perfect burger starts with the perfect blend of beef.

Of course, not everyone agrees on what that perfect blend is. What is agreed upon is that when coming up with one's own blend, one should aim for a high fat to meat ratio, and that everything should be very cold.

While grinding your own meat is safer than buying commercially ground beef, the risks of E. Coli are still present. You can mitigate these by boiling the cuts of beef for 30-60 seconds before grinding. This will kill surface bacteria while only overcooking a tiny portion of the meat.

Opinions vary on what the best technique for cooking a burger is. Some prefer a fluffier, non-compressed patty, while others prefer the Shake Shack smash technique.

For the ultimate in burger geekdom, you can try the Blumenburger, a 32 ingredient, 30 hour ordeal that may or may not be worth it. If you're just looking to make your burger toppings more interesting, here is some inspiration.

And if you think you've reached burger mastery and are entertaining the notion of opening your own burger joint, check out what goes into such an endeavor.
posted by AceRock (55 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

 
A few years ago my dad gave a calf to our neighbor, to raise. The neighbor had 3 daughters aged 6, 8, and 10. They named the calf 'Daisy' and trotted it around on a leash.

Gradually the calf gained weight, until one day, it was time to take it away. The father took the girls aside and told them, "We gave Daisy back to our neighbor. We traded her for a freezer full of beef."
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 1:58 PM on October 16, 2009 [14 favorites]


.
posted by rainperimeter at 2:02 PM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Nice post, lots to chew on . . .sorry.

I'd really like to get a meat grinder to make my own sausage and ground beef. It would be cool to make some andouille.
posted by nola at 2:07 PM on October 16, 2009


previously, sort of
posted by effbot at 2:09 PM on October 16, 2009


I'm so trying th ox-tail idea.
posted by RavinDave at 2:14 PM on October 16, 2009


HI I'M ON METAFILTER AND I COULD OVERTHINK A PLATE OF BEEFS
posted by dersins at 2:30 PM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Actually the best way to avoid E. coli is to buy from a trusted local co-op rather than from the supermarket. E. coli is entirely caused by the meat packing process and is going to be a lot more rampant in industrialized operations. Media coverage and health fact sheets seem to be perpetuating a pervasive kind of thinking that E. coli lives naturally in meat and that by golly we've just got to cook the stuff a little better. I guess if you live on a small budget you don't have much of a choice, but we should expect better from the USDA and other regulatory overseers.
posted by crapmatic at 2:42 PM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hamburgers made using Alton Brown's method are the best I've ever had.
posted by shadow vector at 2:44 PM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


The perfect burger begins with the perfect blend of beef.

Or not.
posted by cogneuro at 2:47 PM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Not really much to Alton's recipe, is there?
posted by RavinDave at 2:48 PM on October 16, 2009


Actually the best way to avoid E.coli is by not eating meat.
posted by mannequito at 2:49 PM on October 16, 2009


Thanks for this, AceRock. Why do I like reading about food almost as much as eating it?
posted by StickyCarpet at 3:03 PM on October 16, 2009


Hi I'm on Metafilter and I'd much prefer to OVERTHINK A PLATE OF BEEFS than BE PARALYZED FROM HEMOLYTIC UREMIC SYNDROME BROUGHT ON BY E COLI O157:H7 okthx
posted by blucevalo at 3:03 PM on October 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Actually the best way to avoid E.coli is by not eating meat.

Um... were you not paying attention during the spinach food poisoning outbreak a few years ago?
posted by hippybear at 3:05 PM on October 16, 2009 [11 favorites]


The Zuni cafe method of salting before hand then grinding using cold implements works very well. One of the suggestions is to avoid cryovaced meat so getting it from a reliable butcher, co-op or farmer seems the best.

Yeah, one the best scams has been the agri-industry, meat processesors in particular, convincing people that is is the customer's fault for getting food poisoned. Oh not our literally crap methods but because you bought the meat and did not overcook and compensate for the processor's flaws.

Yeah, the only time I buy meat not from a farmer or co-op is from Costco and only because they do their own food quality tests. I take it as an indictment that Tyson will not allow Costco to test their "fresh" poultry.
posted by jadepearl at 3:11 PM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've found that grinding my own meat and seasoning it before cooking (mix salt and pepper into the ground beef) makes for a much tastier burger. Not sure if I'd have the patience to take the meat off the ox tail, but I think I'll add some short ribs to the mix next time. I really don't trust pre-ground beef unless I know know the butcher.
posted by ryoshu at 3:16 PM on October 16, 2009


Blazecock Burgers (serves 3, maybe 4 if you feel like sharing)
---
1 lb ground beef
1 shallot, coarsely diced
1 Tbsp wildflower honey
1 chipotle pepper, coarsely chopped, with 1 Tbsp adobo sauce

1. Bring ingredients together in mixing bowl until evenly distributed, but no more.
2. Form four equally sized patties
3. Place thumb indent in the middle of each patty
4. Place in fridge for 30 min

In the meantime, ready a very hot grill. Sear for 3 min on each side, get some nice caramelized lines going. Turn heat down to medium until patty is cooked evenly and is raised to 155 deg F. Add a thin slice of Gruyere or Emmentaler cheese, if desired, and let sit for five minutes. Serve on toasted sesame seed buns with a thick slice of heirloom tomato and desired condiments.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:17 PM on October 16, 2009 [6 favorites]


The perfect burger begins with the perfect blend of beef.

^Or not.


I really thought that would link to a veggie burger recipe. I'm not a vegetarian, but I love me some veggie burgers. If I were at a barbecue where both beef and veggie burgers were being served, it would be a serious toss up for me.
posted by Demogorgon at 3:20 PM on October 16, 2009


The best way to avoid E. coli is by not having intestines.
posted by mccarty.tim at 3:23 PM on October 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


The perfect burger starts with the right attitude. If you're going to complain and be picky, we're not going to have this barbecue, kids. It's not often the weather is good enough to grill, and I'm not going to sit here listening to you whine. I'm serious, we've got bread and peanut butter indoors. Do you want that? Do your really want that?
posted by mccarty.tim at 3:26 PM on October 16, 2009 [9 favorites]


I've been trying, for years, to make a hamburger equal to those I got as a kid in California in the mid-1940s. I missed seeing how the hamburger was cooked, somehow. Part of the prep, there, was to toast the bun on the griddle, with a press sitting on it -- gave the bun a shiny top. The burger was often served with (pre-supermarket) lettuce and tomato and always speared with a fringed toothpick holding a bread-and-butter-pickle slice, potato chips on the side. (Except at the hole-in-the-wall burger stand near Balboa High School -- just burger and bun.) Closest I've found, at restaurants, excepting the bun, is Wendy's smallest burger. Thank you so much for posting this!
posted by RichardS at 3:41 PM on October 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Anyone know if it's possible to grind meat without a meat grinder—maybe just using a knife?

Given that I'll only ever be making one to two burgers at a time, buying a separate appliance for the purpose seems like a waste.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 4:09 PM on October 16, 2009


nyone know if it's possible to grind meat without a meat grinder—maybe just using a knife?

If you have one of them Cuisinart food processors, do it in there. I've never tried it myself, but I've seen Alton Brown do that on one of his shows.
posted by NoMich at 4:37 PM on October 16, 2009


Step 1: Go to Five Guys
posted by empath at 4:45 PM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Actually the best way to avoid E.coli is by not eating meat touching or eating anything. FTFY.
posted by tybeet at 4:53 PM on October 16, 2009


I recommend cow.
posted by bicyclefish at 5:12 PM on October 16, 2009


If you have one of them Cuisinart food processors, do it in there

This totally works, but you have to be careful (and it takes some practice) not to under-chop (chunks too big = fally-aparty burger) or over-chop (makes for a mushy burger).
posted by dersins at 5:20 PM on October 16, 2009


buying a separate appliance for the purpose seems like a waste....

Appliance schmappliance. Get one of those old hand-crank grinders that real men use. I have one ($9 from a Chinese grocery) that I love very much. Perfect for 3-4 burgers.

I suppose it could make sausages, too, but I'm not that creative.
posted by rokusan at 5:37 PM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Craigie On Main's burger here in Cambridge is incredible. The grass-fed beef is too dry for a good juicy burger on its own, so they add suet and marrow. Expensive, but you've got to try it at least once.
posted by dfan at 6:03 PM on October 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


The grass-fed beef is too dry for a good juicy burger on its own, so they add suet and marrow.

Ha! I've added duck fat to too-lean ground beef, and DAMN that makes for a yummy burger.I've got to try adding marrow some time, but I'd worry that might make it too rich-tasting. Well, only one way to find out...
posted by dersins at 6:09 PM on October 16, 2009


In this world, there are maximizers, and there are satisficers.

Maximizers are the kind of people who will spend 30 hours combining 32 ingredients to make "the ultimate burger" - they will go to extreme lengths in pursuit of what they believe to be the absolute best.

Satisficers are the kind of people who instead seek to find the best burger that can be had with the minimum of fuss & hassle.

In truth, most of us are maximizers when it comes to some things, and satisficers when it comes to others.

When it comes to burgers, I am a satisficer, and for my money & time, I honestly find it really hard to beat Costco's 93% lean ground beef, formed into patty by hand, seasoned with Kosher salt, and cooked for a couple of minutes each side on a medium-hot griddle. Not only is Costco's 93% lean ground beef made from a really tasty blend of cuts, but, as noted elsewhere on the Blue, they test their meat for E. Coli before grinding.
posted by kcds at 6:37 PM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Due to the intense marketing efforts of liquor distributors, most whiskey drinkers in this country (myself included) tend to favor single malts as the pinnacle of expression of the form. But we're doing ourselves a disfavor. Surely blending whiskeys—that careful balancing act to achieve the perfect mix of high notes and low notes, of sweetness and smokiness—is a job equally impressive and intricate if not more delicious than distilling the spirit itself?

Yes yes, how brilliant, now let's all divorce our wives and make collages of the Perfect Woman by cutting out body parts from issues of Cosmo and pasting them together.
posted by Greg Nog at 6:48 PM on October 16, 2009


Well, for the other non-purists like myself

2lbs ground beef,
1/2 a medium onion, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp thyme
salt, pepper.

Toss until mixed thoroughly, don't squeeze too much and overwork. The onions and garlic kind of disappear into the meat, moistening it and flavoring it.
posted by Diablevert at 6:51 PM on October 16, 2009


Yes yes, how brilliant, now let's all divorce our wives and make collages of the Perfect Woman by cutting out body parts from issues of Cosmo and pasting them together.

Yeah, women are just like scotches in that they're made for your enjoyment.

Wait, no, actually what you said makes no sense as a response.
posted by kenko at 6:54 PM on October 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


This was to be an everyman's burger.... For this reason, I set an upper limit of $8 a pound for the cuts in my mix...

WTF, I've never paid that much for steak. If that's the price cutoff, I'd much rather have a lobster.
posted by 445supermag at 7:28 PM on October 16, 2009


Yes yes, how brilliant, now let's all divorce our wives and make collages of the Perfect Woman by cutting out body parts from issues of Cosmo and pasting them together.

Already been done - Frankenhooker
posted by 445supermag at 7:29 PM on October 16, 2009


Once I started grinding my meat at home, I can't ever go back. I pick up whatever cut is on sale (round roast or chuck usually) and cut it into large chunks and grind it in my crappy food processor.

There's nothing like a burger that's burnt on the outside and raw on the inside. Mmmmm.
posted by mek at 7:49 PM on October 16, 2009


The Blumenburger link ended as I expected: Disappointment. I'm not sure of the influence, but lately I've just been into making good food taste like what it is. 30 hours and 32 ingredients on a burger is ridiculous! Buy great beef, cook it safely, and make it taste like great beef, which is to say don't do much at all!
posted by lazaruslong at 8:21 PM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ha! I've added duck fat to too-lean ground beef, and DAMN that makes for a yummy burger.

Pork fat and duck yolks here. Once we get our ducks slaughtered, frozen, rendered, prosciutted, and confited we'll see about a duckfat burger. Actually, I might grind one of them up for burgers.
posted by stet at 8:22 PM on October 16, 2009


Honestly, the perfect beer, for me, is more about the beer and companionship -- the actual burger is secondary, or maybe even tertiary, to that. So I'll take a mediocre burger at a bar with friends every time over something more perfect absent the beer and friends.

But having said that, I'd love to try a burger mixed with duck fat. I recently had a batch of fries cooked in duck fat, and they were heavenly.
posted by Forktine at 8:51 PM on October 16, 2009


Julia Child recommends beating an egg, adding a tablespoon or two of milk, and mixing in cubed stale bread (or fresh if you don't have stale) and letting that sit until it becomes a paste, and then mixing that in to very lean ground beef to help it retain moisture and keep from falling apart while cooking. There's an actual french name for this, but I can't remember what it is. It works like a charm.
posted by hippybear at 8:55 PM on October 16, 2009


Greg Nog, I can't believe that quote even comes from a whisky drinker. Blends and single malts aren't even similar. A blend usually has a very high proportion of grain spirit which has about as much flavor and nuance as tap water. It's like saying that cognac drinkers are doing themselves a disservice because you could get more consistent results by pouring Franzia and Everclear into a bucket instead.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:26 PM on October 16, 2009


A blend usually has a very high proportion of grain spirit which has about as much flavor and nuance as tap water

There are blends like that, and there are blends that aren't; the compass box blends, for instance, aren't.
posted by kenko at 9:33 PM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I did not know that about Costco. Of course, the chances of getting one around here, deep in Wal-Mart country, is slim.
posted by JHarris at 9:39 PM on October 16, 2009


What most cognac drinkers drink is blended, in fact.
posted by kenko at 9:46 PM on October 16, 2009


Hippybear, I believe the name for the bread, egg and milk paste is "panade." I do like that, too. It's pushing meatball territory, but then again, meatballs are delicious.

Cook's Country (Cook's Illustrated's spinoff) has a recipe in that style, which recommends replacing the egg with about 2-4 tablespoons of melted butter, or you can cook some bacon in a skillet and use the grease in place of the butter. It's as good as it sounds, and it's not really extra work, if you think about it. You already have the skillet out (which will now be nice, hot and greased), and now you have fresh-cooked bacon to lay on top of the finished burgers.

Also, I strongly advocate using a cast iron skillet for cooking burgers if you aren't grilling. I'm also an irrational fan of charcoal grilling (just flipping on a grill doesn't feel right), though, so I might just like the more finicky option.
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:53 PM on October 16, 2009


mccarty.tim: Right. Panade. Thank you.

The trick is making sure you don't actually make TOO much of the panade, whichever variety you choose to use. The burgers should be about the meat, and anything you add to them is to help that meat "be all that it can be", not to actually change its qualities too much.

That grease-based panade sounds interesting. Do they still use the milk? Or is it just grease and bread?

Cook's Illustrated / America's Test Kitchen FTW!
posted by hippybear at 10:13 PM on October 16, 2009


I have been a big fan of the bread-and-egg burgers before, but lately I have found it's less important when grinding meat myself. I think it comes down to how you cook them. If you are happy with a rare/medium-rare patty, then a plain patty of meat and fat will work perfectly, and hold together. If you are aiming for something closer to well done, then binders such as "panade" are extremely useful, as otherwise things will collapse. If you are using pre-ground meat, they are pretty much necessary.
posted by mek at 2:20 AM on October 17, 2009


Anyone feel like a hamburger right now? Sweet lord.
posted by flippant at 4:10 AM on October 17, 2009


The Blumenburger link ended as I expected: Disappointment. I'm not sure of the influence, but lately I've just been into making good food taste like what it is. 30 hours and 32 ingredients on a burger is ridiculous! Buy great beef, cook it safely, and make it taste like great beef, which is to say don't do much at all!

This... 1,000 times this.
Neat article at the beginning where he tries quantify and qualify various flavors of some of the cuts of beef. As an added bonus, it was great that he tried to show some forethought in the composition of his burger, but by basically adding a little of everything, he added a whole lot of nothing. I'll agree with the author's intent: buy different cuts and experiment with incorporating their flavor into your food. The burger can be just viewed as a transportation/example from that perspective then. In other words, if he used those same 8 cuts to make meatloaf, I'd wager his beef for meatloaf mix would be effectively identical (hopefully with the addition of shallots, garlic, chopped rosemary and thyme, 1 egg, salt, pepper, and some fresh-bread dried and crumbed).

Now that you know the secret to making ME the best meatloaf. Feel free to ring my doorbell and drop one of on Monday night as it would be super for my wife and I to not have to cook.
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:14 AM on October 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


A fried egg on top of a burger makes a perfect breakfast. Season only with salt.
posted by creasy boy at 7:28 AM on October 17, 2009


Since we're talking about bringing other animals to the burger party, I need to recommend adding a bit of lamb. I usually go home ground chuck with about 20% lamb. The burger ends up tasting so much meatier.

You probably want to supply most of the fat through the beef. A lot of the lamb flavor that some people find off putting resides in the lamb fat.

Since moving to Thailand, I've come to accept that people MSG in Asia like we use salt in The West, but damn if it doesn't add a little bit of something.

Also, I tried miso paste once in a pinch and it seemed to add a good dose of umami.
posted by Telf at 10:18 AM on October 17, 2009


Julia Child recommends beating an egg, adding a tablespoon or two of milk, and mixing in cubed stale bread (or fresh if you don't have stale) and letting that sit until it becomes a paste, and then mixing that in to very lean ground beef to help it retain moisture and keep from falling apart while cooking.

I believe that's called mèatloaf.
posted by ryoshu at 10:21 AM on October 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've been searching high and low, here in Poland, to get a decent burger and the only place that makes anything like I really like is at home. Get some ground beef, use the smash method, flip, put cheese on it and turn the heat down. Get my condiments ready really fast, stack it up and I'm good to go. If I use bacon, I'll fry it up in the pan then do my meat directly in that fat.

What I don't like is people putting stuff in burgers. Julia Child may have introduced America to French Cooking but that doesn't mean she was making burgers. The only thing I'll put into my meat is pepper, salt and worchestire or soy sauce (but just a spoon and then I forgo the salt). That's it, if it falls apart or isn't moist enough it means you need to get fattier meat. Poles are notorious about putting everything into the patty, from bread, milk and eggs to chopped onions and dipping the whole thing in breadcrumbs. That's well and good, but it's a kotlet mielony, and not a burger.
posted by jedrek at 1:32 PM on October 17, 2009


Once I started grinding my meat at home, I can't ever go back

Truer words never spoken. I grind my own burgers once a week, and have a local butcher who's beef is top shelf. He also appreciates that when I order 2 pounds of braising (chuck) steak cut into chunks I also ask for a big chunk of fat as well. Grind the meat in a 70 beef 30 fat ratio, add plenty of salt to the patty and there's really no better burger.

I'm never buying ground anything again.
posted by Hickeystudio at 3:59 PM on October 17, 2009


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