Easy Homemade Burgers [Recipe]
In recent weeks we have seen the slow, steady demise of a faithful friend, a sizzling companion who asks nothing more of us than to be enveloped in a soft, squishy bun, smothered in a piquant or spicy relish and devoured with gusto. A friend who has been with us through everything – family gatherings, summer barbecues, late night munchies and lazy-day lunches. The humble burger.
For me, the shocker of the horsemeat scandal is not that we’ve been eating horsemeat, but that we’ve unknowingly been doing so. As long as it hasn’t been created in a science lab and isn’t detrimental to my health I’m open to eating just about anything. However, I always want the choice to be mine – I want to know what I’m eating. I was quite taken aback when I read earlier this month that sales of ready-made vegetarian meals are soaring in the wake of the horsemeat scandal. Surely the response to finding dubious, unlisted ingredients in one processed food it not to switch to an alternative processed food but to switch to a non-processed food?
In most aspects of life we all know instinctively when an offer is too good to be true. If you see petrol for 50 cent a litre you know that it’s likely to damage your engine. If you see a Chanel handbag for €50 you know it’s a knock-off. However, our innate ability to spot a dud seems to go out the window when it comes to food. If you see beer for 50 cent a litre you know it’s probably out of date, but you might buy it anyway – how bad can it be? And if you see 8 frozen beef burgers for €1.40 you will allow yourself to believe that they contain a decent proportion of beef. Now that we’ve been informed unequivocally that this is not the case – that unlisted ingredients lurk in the frozen food aisle – we need to adopt more stringent rules for selecting our foods.
But this does not mean the death of the beautiful burger. We simply need to find an alternative, trust-worthy source.
Short of rearing and butchering a cow yourself you are never going to be 100% guaranteed of its provenance. We have to trust that our farmers and butchers are producing what they say they are. Find a butcher that you trust and start there. Many butchers produce their own burgers. They may even have a range of burgers from regular to premium, depending on the cut of meat used to make the mince. The main difference between these is often the fat content. The juiciness & succulence of a burger relies on a proportion of the meat being fatty. Personally I find that a fat content of about 10% is perfect for burgers. However, choose according to your preference. As long as your butcher is using good quality beef (by which I mean well reared, slaughtered, hung and butchered), their burgers will be delicious.
If you prefer, make your own burgers. Buy good quality mince (again, I refer to the quality of the beef itself and not to the particular cuts of beef used), add some seasoning and you’ll have a delicious and wholesome burger at very low-cost.
Easy Homemade Burgers
This recipe makes four quarter-pounders, six standard burgers or eight family burgers. It is tempting when making your own burgers to make them quite large. Bear in mind that the classic quarter-pounder contains about 112g. If you make the burgers much bigger than this they will be difficult to cook, particularly if barbecuing. You will likely end up with burgers that are charred to perfection on the outside but still raw in the middle. If you do make larger burgers, try to keep them no more than 1-1.5cm (1/2 inch) deep to ensure even cooking.
At their most basic, burgers contain just two ingredients – beef and a pinch of salt. I have also added some garlic powder as I think it adds a lovely depth to the flavour. I don’t recommend adding much more than this, though. You will likely be adding some toppings of your preference, so it’s best to let the burger itself just sing with the beautiful taste of beef.
I don’t recommend using chopped onion or garlic in burgers as they tend to make the burger fall apart in cooking. If you wish to add these flavours, use a powdered version. Make sure it’s a pure powder with no added salt or MSG.
Easy Homemade Burgers
450g | 1 lb fresh minced (ground) beef (use organic if you can stretch to it)
1/2 tsp salt (my preference is for sea salt)
1 tsp garlic powder
- Mix the salt & garlic powder in a pestle and mortar to form a very fine powder. If you don’t have a pestle and mortar, choose a very fine salt and mix together with the garlic powder. This just enables better distribution through the beef.
- Place the beef in a mixing bowl and sprinkle with one teaspoon of the seasoning powder, spreading as widely and finely as possible.
- Mix the seasoning well into the beef. Repeat the process spoon-by-spoon until all the seasoning has been used. Spend a few minutes doing this as it’s very easy for pockets of seasoning to collect in the mince – you want the flavours to be well distributed.
- Divide the mixture into 4, 6 or 8 even-sized pieces.
- Squeeze each piece tightly with your hands before flattening into a round. Squeezing helps to prevent the burger from falling apart in cooking. Regardless of the size of burger the round should be no more than 1-1.5 cm (1/2 inch) high.
- Cook your burgers over a low-medium heat. Using higher temperatures may result in a burger that’s burnt on the outside but still raw in the middle. It will also result in a dry burger by the time the burger is fully cooked through. Using a low-medium heat will maximise the juiciness of your final burger. Allow your burgers to brown slowly on the outside to ensure they are thoroughly cooked in the middle. You can always add a little extra charring at the end of cooking if that’s what you fancy.
- Note that I don’t use any oil when frying my burgers – I find there is enough fat in the meat to prevent the from sticking. However, if you have used very lean meat you may want to add a little oil to the pan as it warms.
- Serve in a lightly toasted bun with your preferred adornments – lettuce, tomato, avocado, onion, pickle, chillies, cheese, ketchup, mayonnaise, hot sauce – the list is endless and bound only by your imagination!