Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Why That Burger Sucks

"What's done cannot be undone"

I think Shakespeare said that somewhere, and it's very true of cooking. You can't unsalt that dressing once you've oversalted it. Once you've roasted your chicken to the moisture point of the Mohave, that's it.

Likewise, I recently discovered that I was ruining every hamburger I made, just by doing one stupid thing that can't be undone.

I'd flip the burger, once or twice, then press it down with the spatula so it makes a nice sizzling sound. It always seemed like the chefy thing to do... Don't you see the guys at the stainless steel grill at the local diner put some sort of weight on the burger patties?

Yes, you do. And that's why most burgers you get are flat, grey, dry and knobby. I have been pressing all the nice juicyness and airyness out of my burgers just to hear them sizzle. Duh.

I'll be brief:
1. When you make your patty, don't massage or sculpt the damn thing, just tear off a hunk and squash it a bit. Make it just a big flatter than you want it to look like on the bun, (but no frisbees) and with your thumb, make a nice little dimple in the center on one side. Get the pan really hot.

2. Plop it in the pan, on either side. Gently turn when the first side is nice and browned. A nice caramelly crust helps to keep those juices in.

3. Let it be for god's sake, no pressing. The biggest cooking mistake people make at the stove is bothering the food too much. You'll notice it's puffing up a bit, why? Lot's of nice juiciness, that's why.

4. Optional.. At this point I take a little tin foil and make an incomplete top or seal for the pan. I don't want to steam it and end up with that greenish thing from your college cafeteria, I just want it to cook through a bit without burning the crust. I just give the burger a little hat. Adding your thin cheese slice is a good idea now.

5. Is it done? Well you could hack into it and give it a big scar while you let some juice out, or give it the finger test I learned at Kitchen on Fire. Press the center with your finger. Mushy? then it's pretty rare. Gives back a little bounce? Then it's done.

Respect the meat.

Be gentle. Just because it's a burger, it still came from the same steer as the Filet Mignon or Crown Roast, don't go crushing it, and don't put it on a cutting board or any other holding station. Your animal spent a few years eating grass (hopefully) so you could enjoy and be nourished by this experience; why let those juices go to waste when they could soak nicely into the bun?

Once you've made a juicy burger like this for yourself or your friends, you'll forget all about sizzle, because you've got steak.

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