If the last burger you ate was in a fast food joint, then you short-changed yourself. A well-made homemade burger is not only far superior to what you can buy, but it's a great choice when cooking for two. They're easy to make and, because burgers freeze well, you can make up half a dozen and freeze four for a later meal. Here are a few tips for creating better burgers.
- Your meat mixture needs to be at least 20 percent fat. Ground meat readily gives up it's juices and by the time a burger hits 160 degrees F inside it will be dry as a bone unless it has adequate fat.
- If you're using something other than ground chuck (which is typically 20 percent fat) you can add moisture in two ways.
- First, you can add a slice of bread soaked in milk and mashed into a paste. This won't affect the flavor but will retain moisture.
- Second, you can add a tablespoon of oil for every pound of meat to the mixture.
- If you want your burger less than well-done, the safest course is to grind your own meat. Meat is contaminated at the slaughter house and it's the surface of the meat that is contaminated. Grinding mixes the surface into the interior. And commercial processing combines the meat from multiple cows. So it's possible that a single contaminated piece of chuck can contaminate hundreds of pounds of ground beef. If you grind your own meat the odds of food poisoning go way down.
- Add a teaspoon of soy sauce to a pound of ground meat. This will boost the meat flavor but won't be noticeable as a flavor itself.
- Form patties that are about 3/4 inch thick and the diameter of your buns, then, using your thumb, form a depression 1/4 inch deep and 2/3 of the width in the center. The depression will reduce shrinkage and will help avoid hamburgers that swell in the center during cooking.
- Mix and form burgers gently to avoid overworking the meat, which makes it tough and contributes to dryness. I gently spread the ground meat on a large cutting board, sprinkle any ingredients evenly over the meat, then knead the mixture gently before forming patties by hand.