Saturday, June 20, 2009

Hamburgers - And Happy Father's Day

Maybe it was my dad? Though I don't really have any Proustian hamburger of my youth - like the one that made you sit up and go "wow - I need burgers!" My dad, on the other hand, probably had something to do with my love of Martinis, thought he tended to drink his Beefeater on the rocks, with an olive. For that, I'll always have him to thank.

Back to the burger...and really, seriously, for the best hamburger you can possibly make at home, you need to grind (or finely mince) your own beef. For purposes of this discussion, it's beef I'm talking about. Sure, you can use pork, chicken, turkey, veal, lamb, salmon, tuna, tofu, beans, whatever...not that any of them were used by my dad...but here we're talking beef.

It interests me a little bit that whenever you use any of those non-beef options, the burger is called by what you've used - that is, grind up some salmon and you have salmon burgers; grind up some black beans - you have black bean burgers, and so on. Now, grind up some beef and you've got - that's right, the hamburger. What if you grind up ham...

For the second best burger your money can buy, get a nice big fat chuck roast and have your butcher grind it for you - once (you have a butcher, don't you?). Because for the best tasting burger, it's really important that the meat be as freshly ground as possible - and there have been scientific tests to support that fact.

Back to the beef. Over the past 5 years or so, burger places have proliferated in New York. Maybe it was Shake Shack that got everyone so excited (a good burger, if you're looking for that style). Significant Eater and I always had and have a fondness for J.G. Melon's, on the upper east side. To each his own, and burger fanatics will support their faves till the end. Along with the burger places, the beef and blend of cuts has lately become the plat du Jour. Is it Pat LaFrieda's black iron blend, city blend, country blend or what? Aged, prime - hey, just gimme a steak! Really, if you're gonna take the trouble to age beef, why then grind it up? It's enough to make one mad - though hopefully they're keeping that cow out of the mix.

I recently bought a couple of pounds of chuck and a skirt steak from my butcher and ground them together...something no self-respecting dad of mine would have done. Once the meat is ground, you don't want to work it to much - just pat it into shape, and it should look something like this (a little indent with the thumb in the middle helps it keep it's shape while cooking)...

You see, there's actually some fat in there. Fat = flavor. Indoor cooks, get a cast-iron frying pan pretty damn hot - let it heat up over medium heat for 7 - 10 minutes. If you're using your grill, same thing - hot! Although that crappy propane grill will never get as hot as a cast iron pan properly heated, it's a start (charcoal's better). Salt and pepper that burger well, and put it into the pan - it will hiss and spit a lot; it should. Get a splatter shield, you wuss. Flip that baby after 3, 4, 5 minutes - whatever, of course depending on the thickness, and how well you like it done...when you flip it, it should look like this...

Let it finish cooking while you're toasting your bun - the classic being a Martin's potato roll, and they are (trust me on this) much better toasted.

Sit back, make yourself a Martini or crack a beer, and admire your handiwork. Go ahead - it's your day. To all the dads, here and not - Happy Father's Day. Thanks for the burgers...and the memories.


  1. Beautiful post, Tasty. Keep the faith!

  2. thanks to my pseudo-vegetarian sweetheart (fish & chicken is ok), my belly doesn't get a lot of beef these days. the drool on my keyboard tells me i'm due.

    btw, i imagine such a fine quality burger would be insulted if smothered in onions, mushrooms, spinach, and the like. also, what's with the mustard? i thought they only do that in CA.

  3. Yeah, I'm not a big fan of the smothering. Lettuce and tomato and onion are all fine.

    Mustard - I learned that in Paris.

  4. Yeah, mustard, lettuce, and onion. Forget the tomato part.

    Thanks for the tips Mitch