Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Handmade Burger

Prepare to treat your tastebuds to a feast of epic proportions. A burger formed by your own hands...with meat ground only by you...carefully grilled over a charcoal fire. This will taste like no store-bought burger. This will not be a meal. This will be an astonishing experience.

Let's start with the meat. First of all, the meat you select should have a 20-25% fat content. Fat is what gives the burger it's extraordinary taste, so that's the last place you want to scrimp. While chuck roast or well-marbled sirloin will certainly do, I like to use beef short ribs. Short ribs certainly make the cut (excuse the pun) in the fat department and possesses what is certainly the most robust and pronounced beef flavor in the universe.

Next comes the grind. A meat grinder is no longer standard kitchen equipment, so we'll just pass on that altogether. Grab your food processor, one of the handiest tools in the kitchen. It's not a big'll be able to grind enough meat for four burgers in just a minute or two. You are simply going to pulse the meat with your standard steel blade. Don't overprocess the meat. You want to end up with coarsely chopped meat...not meat soup. And do it in small batches, perhaps a third at a time. That makes it easy to see that you are producing a coarse grind.

Put your coarsely ground meat into a bowl and then add Worcestershire sauce and generous amounts of salt and pepper. Please, refrain from any other ingredients. This is essentially a ground steak you are going to eat and you don't screw up a steak by adorning it with half of your friggin' pantry. Restraint is the order of the day. Once seasoned, loosely form the burgers by hand. Do not pack them overly tight. When you have them formed, they should look like the burgers in the picture above.

The beauty of these burgers is that because you ground the meat yourself, you can eat it raw (this is how they make steak tartare). Unlike the mystery meat that shows up in supermarket ground beef, you have used a quality cut and you have controlled all of the handling. It's not that you want to eat it raw, but you certainly could without worry. (I always taste it raw after seasoning to make sure the seasoning levels are perfect.) It also means that unlike store bought hamburger, you can cook your burgers to rare or medium rare without any health concerns. (This will greatly please my friend, "The King of the Bloody Carnivores", Jim Arnost.) This makes for a much juicier and tasty burger.

You want to cook these burgers over a good, hot fire. When you place them on the grill, let them sit. Do not press on them and force all of that wonderful juice onto the coals. You will only need about 3-4 minutes per side to give you a nice rare to medium-rare burger. This recipe serves four.

1 1/2 pounds of  boneless beef short ribs, coarsely ground (or another fatty cut of beef)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (Lea & Perrins recommended)
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
4 hamburger buns


  1. Combine coarsely ground beef, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper in a bowl. Gently form into four patties.
  2. Fill a charcoal chimney with charcoal and ignite. When coals are hot, spread over them charcoal grate and place cooking grate on top.
  3. Place burgers on grill and grill for 3-4 minutes. Flip burgers and grill for 3-4 minutes more (times are for rare to medium-rare).
  4. Remove burgers from grill, place on buns and serve.

Wine pairing: Cabernet Sauvignon

Costco sells delicious, boneless short ribs for $3.99 per pound.
Make sure to buy the ones with the most marbling.

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