Many people would choose the hamburger as the food item they would choose if they could eat only one thing for the rest of their lives.
It is really hard to mess up a hamburger, but at the same time it is very easy to cook a great hamburger. There are thousands of thoughts on what constitutes a great hamburger. Some of the most popular beliefs concerning a great hamburger are:
1. Use very lean meat, for example, a blend of 80/20. That ratio is a blend of 80% lean blended with 20% fat.
2. Never mash or flatten a hamburger patty and make a loosely formed patty.
3. A hamburger must be cooked medium to be good, otherwise, it will be too dry and have less taste.
After ten years operating a family owned restaurant, in my opinion, all three of those assumptions are bunk. Let us look at each belief separately:
1. When experts describe a great steak, often the most important factor is a good marbling to lean ratio. Marbling is a polite word for fat. The school of thought is that the more marbling a steak has, the more flavor the steak will have. In my opinion, the same holds true for hamburger meat; a higher ratio of fat to lean will yield a better tasting hamburger. Following that reasoning, we use a 73/27 or 75/25 ratio hamburger meat.
2. Hamburger meat is ground and therefore, unlike a steak, the connective tissues have been cut. There are two facts in play with ground hamburger meat which are not in play with a steak.
A. Ground lean mean, without any fat, will be very difficult to form and maintain in patty form because there is nothing to bind the meat. Fat is used for this purpose as it acts as a binding agent. Steaks maintain their shape because the connective tissues have not been cut.
B. Hamburger meat, once formed into a patty, when placed on heat has a tendency to contract or draw-up. To counter this tendency and to also expel excess liquid fat, after two minutes of cooking, we flip the patty and mash it with a spatula. This mashing of the patty counters the contraction tendency and also eliminates some of the fat from the patty. Expelling liquid fat does not expel the fat cell walls which impart tons of flavor to the meat. Our patties are tightly formed to allow for mashing without being squashed. We continue flipping the patty every two minutes until the desired doneness is reached.
C. Using our suggested lean to fat ratio, you can cook moist and tender hamburgers regardless your desired degree of doneness. A done hamburger will be just as moist as a medium hamburger.
We cook our hamburgers on a flat-top grill set to 350degrees F. If you cook on an outdoors grill with a grate, we suggest you start with hamburgers patties no more than 3/8 inches thick as mashing the patty will be more difficult than on a flat-top. To ensure a correct degree of doneness, the use of a thermometer is suggested. The following cooking temperatures will give you the perfect hamburger, just remember, meat will continue to cook for 3 to 5 degrees more once removed from the heat source.
Rare - remove from heat source at 135 degrees
Medium rare - remove from heat source at 140 degrees
Medium - remove from heat source at 145 degrees
Medium well - remove from heat source at 150 degrees
Done - remove from heat source at 170 degrees
If you don't have a thermometer, take the following steps to cook your hamburger to rare, medium, or done.
1. Rare - with the hand in an open, relaxed state, press the fleshy part of the hand between the thumb and the index finger. That is the feel of a rare hamburger.
2. Medium - stretch out your hand. Press the same part of the hand. That is the feel of a medium hamburger.
3. Done - clench a tight fist. Press the same part of the hand. That is the feel of a done hamburger.
We break the rules, but sometimes breaking the right rules ends with the right results. The old saying, "What's good for the goose is good for the gander", applies to "What's good for a steak is good for a burger." Enjoy!