There seemed to be quite a craze about home made burgers a few years back. I'm not sure if it was actually a national thing, or just a craze when I was younger/a student that students go through. Anyways, the craze back then was for non-burger burgers. By which I mean, they never actually resembled burgers you might be in a restaurant or burger place. They were typically big oval-ish balls of supermarket mincemeat with, at the very least, chopped onions, eggs and flour added, often lots of other things (herbs, cheese, etc).
Now I have nothing against this brand of home-made burgers, but really, as my tastes (and I suppose my understanding) has evolved, I am more inclined to make burger-burgers. The type that burger joints make, the type that I guess you could say burger-snobs prefer (if you can truly be a snob about something as dirty as a burger?).
There are lots of these burger purists about, on the internet, or in the aforementioned Hamburger Gourmet book, who focus on three things:
- The only ingredients in your patties should be: beef & salt
- Everyone has their own "secret" blend of three beef cuts that they use (for some reason, three is the magic number). Kenji over at the FoodLab has a great run down of different beef cuts for burgers along with tasting notes and fat content.
- Cooking technique is very important - They need to be seared at a high temperature (for the maillard reaction and to hold the patty together)
So I decided to have a pop. Due to a fairly limited choice at my local Waitrose meat counter, and on the basis that I was just testing out the technique, on Kenji's recommendation, I went with the standard chuck mince (no blend here!), which is more commonly braising steak in the UK.
I found it took quite a while to get my pan up to a high enough temperature to effectively sear the patties, I pre-heat for about 10 minutes but still didn't seem as hot as it should be. I will try a different pan next time. Applying pressure whilst cooking also helps sear quicker (and also helps for a more "smashed" effect burger)
In the end, it tasted pretty good. The problem I have with burgers, is that for all the effort, they just taste like burgers. Now this isn't a bad thing, they are satisfying, warm, soft and definitely fill a need, but they rarely blow you away. Great burgers are great, but run of the mill burgers from half-decent fast food burger places can taste pretty great too.. For me, the magic really lies in the combination of cheese, relish (maybe mustard) and meat wrapped in soft bread soaking up the juices. So for all the effort you put in, I'm not sure you really a proportional increase in return on your effort.
That said, its actually pretty low effort required, so I will do it again soon. Who knows, maybe this weekend..