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?