How to make a burger

I know I’m supposed to be one of those over-educated lefties but one thing I love is a good hamburger. Hamburgers and beer. What could be better on a Friday night?

The trouble is, most of the burgers you buy at the big chains are gross. The beef patties are small and thin, the tomato slices (if you get any) are bland and crunchy, the cheese is processed and plastic, the onions are often raw, and the buns are more like cake than bread.

And who knows what’s likely to come off the hot plate at the local milk bar? That hamburger mince could have been sitting there since last week. Or, worse still, they’re using those frozen hamburger patties that are minced so fine that they could be soy bean, cow lung, or bone marrow and you couldn’t tell.

The obvious solution is to make your own. After all, it’s not like making risotto or cassoulet where there are all kinds of rules and a process that seems to take forever. When you make a burger you can make it however you want. Here’s how I like it.

I like to grill my hamburger over an open flame. I have gas barbecue out the back of my rented three bedroom suburban dwelling. It cost a couple of hundred bucks and it grills burgers and t-bones perfectly. I like to use lean beef mince from the supermarket. It doesn’t shrink as much and if you cook it quickly, it doesn’t get too dry. I don’t like to mess with a burger once I put it on the grill. I turn it once and I don’t squeeze it.

Contrary to the advice of leading health professionals I like my burger with grilled bacon. I prefer the streaky end. Grilling the bacon over an open flame makes it taste good. I’m also told that it increases the level of carcinogenic chemicals. Drinking beer helps reduce my level of concern over this issue.

I’m a big fan of fried onions. If your barbecue has a flat plate next to the grill then this is the perfect place to cook them. Make sure they’re well done. If your anything like me, then your barbecue’s hotplate will have accumulated all kinds residues which add to the flavor. If you’re worried about this then drink beer.

Salad is always good on a burger. I like greens which are slightly bitter, but many people prefer a sweet crunchy iceberg lettuce. It’s up to you. When it comes to tomato I’m a bit picky. I like tomatoes which are vine ripened, deep red, and pulpy. The best ones are the ones you grow yourself. But with water restrictions and all, you’ll probably have to buy them from the markets. When I’m in the mood I add some cucumber or pickles.

Some people like cheese on their burger. I don’t. I prefer to save it for toasted ham sandwiches. As for buns I like bread with a bit of chew to it. My favorite is those round turkish rolls. Hamburger chains serve their burgers in buns which are more like cake than proper bread. It’s not the sweetness than bothers me so much as the texture.

Cooking burgers is all about timing. Grilling, frying, and toasting are all simple enough. The real trick is making sure that the beef, bacon, onions, and toasted buns are all ready at the same time. Too much beer can interfere with this so, like everything in life, it’s about balance.

I’m open to readers’ ideas on this issue. What’s the best way to make a burger?

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Zoe
Zoe
2022 years ago

Mix up mince with superfine onion and garlic, and a large handful of whatever’s good in the garden, eg thyme. Bind with an egg. If you’re very keen, slip a little nuggety slice of blue cheese into the middle of the patty. Cook, as directed above, just long enough to start to melt cheese. Put on a toated sourdough roll with beetroot relish (grate, cook v. slowly with currants, palm sugar and a dash of water), fat slices of homegrown tomato and a large quantity of bitey green things.

Drink with beer.

Jim
Jim
2022 years ago

Egg, people, egg! Surely its not a true Australian burger without a fried egg?

Link
2022 years ago

Essence of Greek makes a good burger, I like mine Hawian-style with pineapple. I once had a receipe for burgers that involved throwing cream into the frying onions. It also suggested, bacon, avacado and caviar. Very rich. But at the end of the day, if I wanted something almost instantaneous, it was easier to go and see Pat the Greek Cypriot and get the genuine article from her.

Sedgwick
2022 years ago

Beetroot! Why don’t people think about the beetroots?

James Hamilton
James Hamilton
2022 years ago

Agree with Sedgwick. I put it down to cultural imperialism. I’m all for the FTA but even I admit it ain’t all upside. The beetroot in the burger will be one of the few cultural icons I’ll miss.

Phil
Phil
2022 years ago

My approach is similar, my burgers get lots of mixed ‘erbs, Worcestershire sauce and lemon juice. Once, in my young group house days, I was halfway through making the burgers when I discovered we were out of lemons (well before availability of lemon juice in a squeezy bottle), so I squeezed some orange juice. Interesting result, did not receive universal acclamation. The weird taste was subsequently obliterated with plenty of beer, and I’ve been doing that ever since. Works a treat.

Niall
Niall
2022 years ago

As has no doubt been said a million times……you can root a beet, but you can’t beat a root.

Nicholas Gruen
2022 years ago

I presume the replacement of the Mac Feast with the Mac OZ-Burger in Oz is Macdonalds little tribute to local taste. I presume you can’t beetroot in your Macdonalds hamburger in many other places in the world. I like them.

anthony
2022 years ago

Good onions are gold. Cook them slowly and softly, a little brown sugar towards the end will bring out the colour and make them as sweet as honey.

As for the meat, well hamburgers aren’t like the stews that make good use of cheap cuts, they are simply cheap cuts because people don’t care. Nothing in the cooking of a hamburger will change that. So the obvious solution is to use good beef with some fat through it for flavour. Mince it yourself with a nice sharp knife or cleaver, there’s pleasure and satisfaction to be had. Zoe is right for the mix and it’s here the cheese can come into it’s own rather than as a plasticy square on top. Use free range eggs of course.

The rest is up to you. The bread should be white, the meat is the main act here. I prefer a steak sandwich myself but the hamburger is satisfying because it is so often done badly against. It’s the whore with a heart of gold. Make it your own.

sophie
sophie
2022 years ago

I love two sorts of burgers–one my (French) father makes, with home-minced fillet steak, capers, pepper, salt and finely-chopped onions., cooked rare and eaten with Dijon mustard on a slice of baguette–the other the good old Aussie milkbar style one, huge patty, puffy roll, with the overflowing works, including beetroot, egg, bacon and pineapple! The best ones I’ve had of that kind have been when we’re travelling: in truck stops in rural Queensland, for instance, or in a milk bar in Gloucester, on our way to Sydney.

Factory
Factory
2022 years ago

A few words of advice:
Avoid the dreaded ‘Sausage meat’ hamburgers they sell at some supermarkets.
Kangaroo mince actually makes quite nice hamburgers.

tony
2022 years ago

You forgot the beetroot! The essential ingredient for the Aussie hamburger.

We often have them when SWMBO has been working, and the kids are hungry, and time’s short.

With the demise of the suburban milk bar, then only way to get a decent one is to make your own.

Don
Don
2022 years ago

Beetroot. I’m not as big a fan of tinned root as some people. I’d never put pineapple or egg on a burger, but that’s just me.

I like the sound of Anthony’s hand minced beef. Can I come over to your place next Friday Anthony? Maybe we could have some of that cheap Semillon when the beer runs out?

And Sophie’s dad’s French-style burger sounds sublime.

Naturally I agree with Factory about supermarket sausage meat burgers. And roo mince sounds interesting. It’s pretty lean but I’m sure there’s a way of dealing with that.

Roo steaks on the barbie are surprisingly good. With the price of beef and lamb these days kangaroo is great value don’t you think?

yobbo
2022 years ago

Back to Don’s point on the sweet bread used by major hamburger chains…My time in the states suggests that this is actually “normal” bread over there.

If you want what we consider normal, you have to ask for “sourdough”.

Vee
Vee
2022 years ago

It is not a burger without pineapple and beetroot.

At those horrid cardboard tasting food chains ask for the burger without something then they have to make it fresh.

Vee
Vee
2022 years ago

It is not a burger without pineapple and beetroot.

At those horrid cardboard tasting food chains ask for the burger without something then they have to make it fresh.

Vee
Vee
2022 years ago

It is not a burger without pineapple and beetroot.

At those horrid cardboard tasting food chains ask for the burger without something then they have to make it fresh.

Vee
Vee
2022 years ago

Please delete my multiple posts, I was having computer trouble at the time.

saint
2022 years ago

Yeah, there’s something to be said for a ‘burger with the lot’ down at your local ‘sloppy Joes’.
But how come no-one’s mentioned sauce? Is a burger a burger without sauce?

I agree with Anthony though, hand minced steak makes a discernible differnce. I cheat and cut it in cubes and pulse it for a bit in a food processor. Helps if your food processor isn’t some ancient Woolworths generic brand you bought when you first left home and the blades are not blunt.

I don’t bother binding it with an egg. If there is a little marbled fat in the steak it binds itself quite well. And I usually cook it plain and season afterwards. I have learnt that if I start adding onions and herbs and spices to the mixture before cooking, I invariably end up with something more akin to Morrocan kofta than hamburger. Something subliminal I think.

anthony
2022 years ago

I’d be quick, that Semillon is down to four and my beer supply is back down to the can of Emu Export and the stubbie of Mid-strength.

Saint is a careful man but others out there using a food processer (and you can just buy two cheap cleavers instead), do it in small batches so you can keep an eye on the consistency. Paste = bad.

Sugar does have a role in baking but I’ve never been able to work out exactly what but it’s role in bread at hamburger chains, like salt and fat, is to give a cheap flavour hit to compensate for poor product.

For something different, a tablespoon of red miso and chopped spring onions produces some interesting results.

TimT
2022 years ago

I once tried spicing up the meat-patties with diced chilli peppers. That worked well.

michael o'r
michael o'r
2022 years ago

At age 53, I can remember burgers before McDonalds. Fortunately this is captured on film for all eterniity: – check out the ‘bikie’ movie “Stone” [?1974], where our hero goes into a takeaway food place – back then they often/usually did fish’n’chips and hamburgers in the same place .. Ou, a la francaise: .>>nostalgie de la boue<< ..

Scott Wickstein
2022 years ago

Url Test to see if urls get posted now.

David Tiley
2022 years ago

I hope you are eating a burger, Scott…

Fat in the mince is vital IMHO. Sparing use of sauce because it is too sweet. Worcestershire in the meat can help, if you are a barbarian like me.

I too prefer steak sandwiches. If you start with good meat, why mince it up? Just slices, cooked till the juices ooze, resting on the lettuce.

Makes me think of the domestic mincer clamped to the tabletop and me as a child watching horrified to see if the cook’s fingers got sucked in. Bugger to clean though.

What else do people use tinned beetroot for? There seems to be a lot of it about. Sandwiches of course, but does that account for the national output?

Gaby
Gaby
2022 years ago

A mouth watering post!

Re the criticality of good onions: rather than adding brown sugar, try finishing them off with a splash of beer.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

I think to avoid the supersize me phenomenon, a rule may be necessary to avoid reading Don’s posts around lunchtime…

James Farrell
James Farrell
2022 years ago

I made Big Dons for the family last night. I followed the recipe to the letter except that, lacking a barbecue, I used a skillet on the indoor gas stove (but we ate outside for a barbecue feel). The boys loved the burgers, electing to include sliced fresh pineapple along with the tomato and non-negotiable onions. I used focaccia buns from Woolies, but next time I won’t get the ones that are reduced for quick sale. I will also try to make the bugers a bit flatter so the other items stay on top: a bit of pressure caused the pineapple slices in particular to squirt out.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Walked past Chooka’s on Merthyr Road this arvo, and noticed that they do burgers with an 100% beef pattie, and options of pineapple, bacon and beetroot. For about 5 bucks. Might just try one with the works for lunch tomorrow!

saint
2022 years ago

James – scoop out some of the inside of the bread rolls. Problem solved.

James Farrell
James Farrell
2022 years ago

That seems a promising idea, Saint, but we’ll need to run it past Don first.

James Farrell
James Farrell
2022 years ago

That seems a promising idea, Saint, but we’ll need to run it past Don first.

James Farrell
James Farrell
2022 years ago

That seems a promising idea, Saint, but we’ll need to run it past Don first.

James Farrell
James Farrell
2022 years ago

Aaagh. I always thought people who posted duplicate comments were mentally defective. Not that this falsifies the theory.

BigBob
2022 years ago

Whatever you do, NEVER buy a burger in country WA.

They are all made with those frozen patties and are revolting.

I don’t know why it was so, where I lived had wonderful beef.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Positive report on the Chooka’s burger – huge beef pattie, excellent pineapple and beetroot – if you’re passing through Indooroopilly or New Farm in Brissie, try one!

Don
Don
2022 years ago

James,

Personally I like to have the meat about the same diameter as the bun. I tend to make mine pretty wide and flat.

My mum, on the other hand, likes to make rounder, thicker burgers. I wouldn’t try to stack too much extra stuff on my mum’s burgers – unless I scooped out some of the bun like Saint suggests.

Do you ever do burritos or tacos with the boys?

michael mubin
michael mubin
2022 years ago

please send me the recipe to make a delicious

CHEESE BURGER !!!!!

Pleaseeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee !!!!!!!

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

I’m blaming Don for a dangerous re-addiction to burgers.

trackback
2022 years ago

speaking of bait

Annie at Maud’s reminds us of Lilek’s Gallery of Regrettable Food.