"A Piece of Meat and a Bun with Something On It."
August 14, 2015 8:52 AM   Subscribe

First We Feast: An Illustrated History of Hamburgers in America. "The rise, fall, and resurgence of America's greatest cultural export." posted by zarq (30 comments total) 48 users marked this as a favorite
I haven't seen this covered in any of the links I've read so far, but a cast iron pan will up your hamburger game immensely if you're not already using one. It's also good for building up pan seasoning.

Pro tip: salt the pan, not the patty.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:27 AM on August 14, 2015 [5 favorites]

Which link makes my mince not fall apart?
posted by Mezentian at 9:29 AM on August 14, 2015

Mezentian: Try adding an egg to the ground beef, and maybe knead it a little more or pack the patties a little tighter. You don't want to overwork the meat, but if yours are falling apart, you don't seem to be in danger of that.
posted by Aizkolari at 9:34 AM on August 14, 2015

There are few finer smells in the world than ground beef browning.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:35 AM on August 14, 2015 [3 favorites]

Hamburgers are America's greatest cultural export? I thought that was rock and roll. HAMBURGER
posted by monospace at 9:37 AM on August 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

I can't believe I never put two and two together vis-a-vis White Castle and the Water Tower. That's a great piece of local trivia.
posted by capricorn at 9:42 AM on August 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Try adding an egg to the ground beef

Them's fightingmeatloaf words.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:47 AM on August 14, 2015 [14 favorites]

Favorited with great favor. This looks like it's going to make amazing weekend reading. Thanks, zarq!
posted by MonkeyToes at 9:48 AM on August 14, 2015

Mezentian, my primary tips are make sure you've got some fat content (20% is recommended) and while every single article makes a point of saying "don't overwork the meat" you do have to work it some. Work with very cold meat and wet hands, make a loose ball (I weigh mine on a food scale, I like a 5oz patty for indoor cooking), and then mash that ball pretty good 5-8 times until it's slightly flatter than your desired finished burger.

Then do a sort of hand-spider gesture around the edges with your fingers to pull the shaggy parts, which I find are prone to turning into cross-patty fault lines. You want your patty thinner in the middle than on the outside anyway, so it's fine to draw that stuff in fairly thick compared to the middle of the patty.

Once your patties are all made, put them on a cutting board or baking sheet on parchment paper and put the whole rig in the freezer for 10-15 minutes so the fat firms up, then take out only as many as you can cook at one time. (If you like a rarer burger and are prone to overcooking, go 30-45 minutes in the freezer first.)

Don't salt the meat mixture, salt the hot pan and set the meat down on it, or sprinkle immediately before putting on the grill.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:52 AM on August 14, 2015 [16 favorites]

The main hamburger mistakes I see are 1. people don't peper the meat squarely, and 2. they don't make sure the meat sizzles. It must sizzle.

Also, stop eating your hamburgers with french fries. Fries just slow you down.
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:06 AM on August 14, 2015 [4 favorites]

There are few finer smells in the world than ground beef browning.

Absolutely. If only smells could be put on the Voyager Golden Record, the aliens could truly get a sense of the accomplishments of humankind.

Pity it doesn't seem to translate well to scented candle form.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 10:14 AM on August 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

There are few finer smells in the world than ground beef browning.

one of them is definitely ground bison browning! i tried going back to beef and it feels like a cruel betrayal being practiced upon me by an uncaring universe.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:23 AM on August 14, 2015 [3 favorites]

My grandmother, rest her soul, would never let anyone eat a hamburger in front of her because everybody knows hamburger meat is like, made from poor children and/or cats
posted by The Whelk at 10:32 AM on August 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

The linked article won my heart with this:
With the standardized bun still a few decades away, the Hamburg steak was presented on whatever was available to a particular vendor, such as the toast still served at New Haven’s Louis’ Lunch, a 115-year-old establishment that boasts the title of oldest continually operating hamburger restaurant in the country.
Louis’ Lunch forever! Last time I was there I think I had to wait an hour to get served, but those are the perils of eating at a one-of-a-kind institution; it's still a great burger. (And no, you can't have that on your burger. Toast, butter, meat, that's it.)
posted by languagehat at 10:34 AM on August 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

after you form your patty, take your thumb and make a small depression in the center of the patty. Don't know how this works but it prevents the meat from shrinking in diameter and rising up.

also, i use medium ground chuck for a nice juicy burger
posted by bitteroldman at 10:37 AM on August 14, 2015

If you've never been to Chicago and eaten one of the burgers from Kuma's Corner, your existence is hollow and sad and I pity you. Behold the menu. I recommend The Lair of the Minotaur: topped with caramelized onions, pancetta, brie, and bourbon-soaked pears.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:11 AM on August 14, 2015

I agree with Dave Chang
posted by bruceo at 11:21 AM on August 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Anybody else remember Hippo Burger in San Francisco?

I think I may actually have ordered the Hamburger Sundae once as a child.
posted by dnash at 11:34 AM on August 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

I vehemently disagree with Dave Chang, but the explosive diarrhea he will get from his White Castle fixation is punishment enough for being wrong, so I wish him no additional ill will.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:04 PM on August 14, 2015

I totally recommend going to Louis' Lunch once; wash it down with a Foxon Park soda of your choice. It's like having studied World War I tanks in high school, and then getting to take a ride in one. Living history.

But boy, hamburgers have come a long way in 100 years.
posted by kurumi at 1:09 PM on August 14, 2015

For anyone wishing to reproduce White Castles in a place where none are available, after numerous experiments, I have discovered that the secret is onion soup powder.

The real question is how do I get drunk or high enough to want White Castles, but still be able to make them.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:23 PM on August 14, 2015 [5 favorites]

Onion soup powder is also the key to making Popeye's style fried chicken.
posted by The Whelk at 2:38 PM on August 14, 2015

I have had many hamburgers, most reasonably good and a few very good. Roadside hamburger stands in Mexico are invariably fantastic (in part because they often mix bacon into the ground beef, I think), while around here every small town has one local drive in or diner with amazing burgers that is of course indistinguishable from the places with mediocre burgers. Forgetting and stopping at the wrong place while on a trip is one of those cruel karmic moments that makes you wonder what you did wrong.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:19 PM on August 14, 2015

imthink my wife and I have gone off the deep end a little bit because our hamburgers are now almost entirely made from scratch. She makes the buns, I buy whole cuts and grind them myself. Most of the vegetable toppings come from the garden. I even made my own ketchup, mustard, and pickle relish last time we had a cookout.

Now my wife wants me to grow her some grain so she can mill the flour for the buns herself. This probably won't stop until I find myself ankle-deep in cow viscera, happily hacking away at a still-warm carcass in order to grill up some patties.
posted by backseatpilot at 7:10 AM on August 15, 2015 [4 favorites]

you say that like it's a bad thing
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:21 AM on August 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

From Kenji & The Burger Lab: The Ins-n-Outs of an In-N-Out Double-Double, Animal-Style
posted by Room 641-A at 1:09 PM on August 15, 2015

This thread has me looking at my duck prosciutto slab and THINKING
posted by The Whelk at 3:12 PM on August 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

dave chang's opinion is bad and he should feel bad. onions are not a salad. they are just a crucial part of the the experience.

smashed onion style el reno burgers are the the best thing ever. and it's not just because i grew up there, although it also is.
posted by lescour at 2:49 AM on August 16, 2015

For the D.C./Baltimore/Frederick, Md. contingent: Vintage, in New Market, Md. has the BEST DAMN BURGERS (half-price once a week). You are forgiven in advance for making inappropriate noises at the table as you eat. They are THAT GOOD.
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:12 AM on August 16, 2015

Even better use of onion - buffalo burger with a red onion and duck prosciutto confit -- the butter and duck fat from the confit keep the buffalo from getting too dry and the whole thing is suffused with a tangy red onion taste and the vinegar in the confit removes the need for ketchup.
posted by The Whelk at 8:42 AM on August 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

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