Sunday, March 21, 2010

Recipe: the best home-made burgers

The beautiful spring equinox weather gave us a chance to grill for the first time since the fall. We decided that burgers would inaugurate the season. We love Cook's Illustrated Magazine, and in the July/August 2006 issue, they ran a recipe designed for well-done burgers on the grill. By best burgers, I mean easy to make and dependable as well as delicious. They're terrific no matter how you cook them, but the panade (milk/bread paste) enables these burgers to stay juicy even in the face of high heat.

Well-done Hamburgers on a Charcoal Grill
Serves 4

1 large slice sandwich bread, crust removed and discarded, bread chopped into 1/4 inch pieces 9about 1/2 cup) we use our standard breadmaker sandwich bread for this - slices on the big side.
2 tablespoons whole milk don't sweat the milkfat; use what you have in what should be a pantry recipe
3/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 medium garlic clove, minced or pressed through garlic press - about 1 teaspoon
2 teaspoons steak sauce, such as A-1 (we use Worcestershire Sauce)
1 1/2 pounds 80 percent lean ground chuck (For our family, we use a pound with all of the other proportions the same. This produces the burgers we need: big one for dad, small one for mom, one to share for the boys, plus a leftover one for the best office lunch ever. Again, don't sweat the fat content, although fatter's better for burgers.)
Vegetable oil for cooking grate
6 ounces sliced cheese, optional
4 rolls or buns
(Pittsburghers, we used Mancini's hamburger buns, bought from the source in the Strip in a dozen bag. Yum!)

1. Using large chimney starter, ignite 6 quarts charcoal (gas grill instructions at end*) (about 100 briquettes) and burn until covered with thin coating of light gray ash, about 20 minutes. Empty coals into grill; build modified two-level fire by arranging coals to cover half of grill. Position cooking grate over coals, cover grill and heat grate for 5 minutes; scrape grate clean with grill brush. Grill is ready when coals are medium hot (you can hold your hand 2 inches above grate for 3 to 4 seconds).
2. Meanwhile, mash bread and milk in large bowl with fork until homogeneous (you should have about 1/4 cup). Stir in salt, pepper, garlic and steak sauce.
3. Break up beef into small pieces over bread mixture. Using fork or hands, lightly mix together until mixture forms cohesive mass. Divide meat into 4 equal (or unequal; see above) portions. Gently toss one portion of meat back and forth between hands to form loose ball. Gently flatten into 3/4-inch-thick patty that measures about 4 1/2 inches in diameter. Press center of patty down with fingertips until it is about 1/2 inch thick, creating slight depression in each patty. Repeat with remaining portions of meat.
4. Lightly dip wad of paper towels in oil; holding wad with tongs, wipe cooking grate. Grill burgers on hot side of grill, uncovered, until well seared on first side, 2 to 4 minutes. Using wide metal spatula, flip burgers and continue grilling, abut 3 minutes for medium-well or 4 minutes for well-done. (Add cheese, if using, about 2 minutes before reaching desired doneness, covering burgers with disposable aluminum pan to melt cheese.)

*Gas grill instructions
Turn all burners to high, close lid and heat until very hot, about 15 minutes. Use grill brush to scrape cooking grate clean.
Lightly dip wad of paper towels in oil; holding wad with tongs, wipe cooking grate. Leave primary burner on high, turn other burner(s) to low. Follow recipe from step 2, grilling patties with lid down.


JFo said...

P.S. I tried desperately to caption that photo of Teddy because I think it's really funny that he is - inexplicably - giving his burger "bunny ears".

Apparently, captioning a photo in blogger depends on using the HTML, and I apparently could not get it right. Experienced help anyone?

Paige said...

Jeff said: "We decided that burgers would inaugurate the season." Why the first person plural, Jeff? I came home from work to find the grill going and the patties already formed! :) Lucky me.

Azure said...

Yum! We had a picnic lunch and a (pretend) tea party in our backyard this weekend. I love spring!

Lauren Jackson said...

Great photo and great burgers. I made this one when the recipe came out, too. You sure go from winter to spring in a hurry over there in the 'burgh. We've been slowly creeping into spring since January.

JFo said...

We're not quite to spring for good here. It's turned decidedly gloomy and cold here today. Experienced Pittsburghers know the storm windows don't come down and the rain barrels don't get turned to collect until we're pretty close to Memorial Day. We could get snow anytime between now and then. We did our best to soak up the nice weather while it was here.

Anne H. said...

Next time you're making those burgers you could, um, call some Sewickley folks to be tasters and give final approval to the recipe.

Teddy is looking so grown up with a regular placemat and non-sippy cup. Nooo, slow both those boys down. I'm already missing my little guys.

JFo said...


Yes, Teddy eats without a tray, but the lidless cup is an anomaly. His attention to detail isn't quite there yet. There were just no sippy cups clean.