Netflix & grill: how to make the perfect burger
Ben White-Hamilton, founder of online farmers’ market Harvest Bundle, shares his expert tips for making a truly sensational burger when grilling at home during lockdown
As a self confessed connoisseur of the BBQ, I am going to run through my thoughts on the perfect burger. The most important part of any burger is the meat. This sounds ridiculously obvious, but it really is true. A lot of so-called burger experts will try and dazzle with fancy burger blends. Cheaper beef cuts actually work much better in burgers to give maximum flavour. The key is getting the optimal beef-to-fat ratio for your palette and personal taste. That’s what butcher’s spend years and years perfecting…
Cheaper cuts tend to make the best burgers. Fact. Much of it comes down to personal preference, but in general, you want to be looking for harder working muscles like chuck or flank steak. Cuts like this tend to have more myoglobin in them, which is the iron-oxygen binding protein that’s responsible for giving beef its red colour and ‘beefy’ flavour. More importantly, they also have a naturally optimal meat to fat ratio for burger making. More luxurious cuts like rump or ribeye, can undoubtedly be used, but you’ll have to play around with fat ratios.
FREE RANGE, GRASS FED
100% - no deviation.
While dry-aged meat is undoubtedly the best it comes with a word of warning when being used in burgers. If the aged layer on the outside of the beef (it’s actually mold, but we didn’t want to say that!) hasn’t been properly removed and gets into the burger mix, it won’t taste nice. At all. As beef dry-ages it loses moisture, but moisture in a burger isn’t a bad thing. Again it comes down to personal taste, and the butcher’s experience and opinion. Dry-aged meat will undoubtedly give a stronger beefier flavour, but drying meat to be used in the burger for too long is minimal gain.
The texture of the burger will almost certainly come from the grind. I believe the best grind is when the meat goes through a medium plate on the mincer - twice! A cheap burger from a big retailer or supermarket will try and hide the amount of fat used by mincing it over and over, until it becomes mush and paste (urgh). Make sure you look on the label - there should be no hiding.
While you don’t want too much (see above), in general, when it comes to burgers - fat is your friend. It gives juiciness, it gives flavour, and that is why the beef-to-fat ratio in the minced grind is so important. You want to be looking for around the 80/20 or 70/30 ratio. Depending on how you like to cook and serve, the standard rule is that more meat is better for medium-rare to medium, and more fat for medium-well and well-done. If you like a rare burger, you’re definitely better making them yourself with a high meat and low fat content of 90/10.
Seasoning is essential to getting a ‘burger’ taste rather than just mince. At a minimum you’ll need some salt and pepper, but you can include pretty much anything and everything you want depending on your creativity. There are some great ‘off-the-shelf’ dry-mixes out there now too if you’re looking for an easy place to start. If you prefer a more freestyle approach, wet ingredients such as finely chopped onion, ketchup, mustard and Worcester sauce will also make for a juicier burger. It’s really important to make sure the seasonings are dispersed throughout the meat, not just on the surface. To do this, you’re best off rolling your sleeves up and mixing the burger mix by hand. Ideally you only want to use your fingertips mixing things in gently so as not to compress the texture or work the meat too much at this stage.
While brioche was all the rage a few years back, personally they’re just a bit too sweet. A classic white bap from a good local baker is your best bet. You want to match the bun to the size of your burger. If it’s too small, it’s difficult to eat when you’ve added salad and condiments. At the same time, too big and you taste too much bread each bite. Toasting the buns on the grill is again personal preference, but easy to burn, so we give it a miss.
You need to preheat the grill. If you put burgers on a cold grill they will stick to the grate, and you can forget about getting those lovely grill marks we all aim for. You want the grill on the hot coals or burners for at least 10-15 before you start cooking. You have to treat a good burger on the BBQ with a bit more love and attention, and be patient. For a juicy, medium cooked burger, you want to cook them for about 4-5 minutes each side (8-10 minutes in total), on a hot grill. It is best not to constantly flip the burger. You just want to turn them once or twice otherwise you run the risk of ripping the burger surface before it has formed a tasty crust.
If adding cheese, do this once cooked, and when on cover the BBQ with the lid for about 30 seconds, (or use a heatproof bowl) to allow the cheese to melt over the burger. Take off the grill and pop the patty into the bun. C’est bon!
To check out some of the farmers who are producing awesome meat for your free-range, burgers – beef, lamb, pork and even chicken! - visit: Harvest Bundle at harvestbundle.co.uk