Citizens – just in time for your 4th of July cookout, I give you the secrets to burger nirvana! Specfically, those communicated from on-high by legendary Vogue food critic, Jeffrey Steingarten!
He is the *true* Master!
Without further ado, I give you Jeffrey Steingarten’s 8 Steps to Hamburger Perfection!
Battle on – The Generalissimo
1. Chill Out: “Before grinding chunks of beef, before forming a hamburger, and before cooking a hamburger, make sure that the beef is ice cold. Otherwise, the fat may melt and separate from the lean.”
2. Grind or Else: Steingarten concludes you must either grind your own meat or have a trusted butcher grind it for you, for reasons of taste and safety (or, perish the thought, be sentenced to a life of consuming well-done burgers). “Never buy supermarket ground beef unless the butcher there grinds it specially for you.”
He explains in painstaking detail all of the ways supermarket ground beef can be contaminated. His solution, if you have any questions about the chopped meat you’ve just bought: “Drop the meat into a pot of boiling water for a minute, fish it out, and pat it dry. Yes, it’ll turn gray, but only on the outside, and this will get ground into the rest of the meat and vanish.”
3. Fluff that Stuff: “When forming a hamburger, don’t compress the meat. The fluffier, the better. A raw burger should be airy and full of tiny holes that can hold the juices released during cooking, when the fat melts and water is squeezed out from between the proteins.”
Steingarten quotes Harold McGee on this issue: “The gently gathered ground beef in a good hamburger has a delicate quality quite unlike even a tender steak.” Steingarten decides that one of the many reasons much of his hamburger experiments had gone awry is that “I don’t think I had ever gently gathered!”
4. Just Add Water: Adding the liquid is literally the secret sauce that will make any burger sing. Here is Steingarten’s eureka hamburger moment. Forty-eight hours before the Vogue article was due, he discovers that adding a tablespoon and a half of liquid to the ground meat immeasurably improved the burger. He tried cream and water, and they both produced a superior, succulent, juicy, crumbly (which, Steingarten discovered, is a good thing) burger.
5. Season Well: “Don’t salt hamburger meat either before or after it is ground. Just before you cook the burger, liberally sprinkle salt on both sides of each patty, and press it lightly. After they’re cooked, sprinkle with freshly ground pepper.”
6. Flip Side: Searching for the proper and most delicious burger-cooking technique, Steingarten ends up asking for advice from Kyle Connaughton, the head chef of development at Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck in England.
Connaughton follows Harold McGee’s finding that if you flip a burger or a steak every fifteen to 30 seconds, the outside surface will get nicely browned while the inside stays relatively cool.
7. No Pressure: “While cooking your hamburger never press down on the patty with your spatula or with anything else.” An esteemed New York City chef, Lee Hanson, of Balthazar, Pastis, and Schiller’s Liquor Bar, further advises Steingarten that broiling from above is much less likely to dry out the burger.
8. Buns and Brains: In searching for the perfect bun, Steingarten notes that “An article in Cook’s Illustrated said the best hamburger buns are Pepperidge Farm’s Farmhouse Sandwich Rolls (not the company’s classic hamburger buns).
He tries them and finds them to his liking, though he says “they do need to be compressed a bit before using.” He does not tell us if he has found a hamburger bun compressor, though I am sure if I had 15 minutes to go through his kitchen, I would find a reasonable facsimile.