Hamburgers are the perfect summertime meal! There is nothing like sinking your teeth through a toasty bun, a crispy layer of vegetables, and then finally into the thick, succulent juicy burger!
I love the versatility and the ease of preparing a burger; they can be dressed up or down, depending on the occasion.
But how do you flip the plain old backyard burger into the “ultimate gourmet hamburger?” After a lot of burger-making experiments, I have discovered that if you consider all the options for the types of meat, flavourings, and toppings you can easily dress up this plain conventional fast food into a lusciously delectable dish.
At the heart of every hamburger is the patty. Most typically people think of a hamburger patty as beef. This is a great place to start, but any type of ground meat can be used.
Health conscious individuals lean towards chicken and turkey, while those seeking different taste may select pork and lamb burgers. Bison or buffalo burgers are also gaining ground. Bison provides a low-fat alternative to beef because it is lower in calories and is slightly lower in cholesterol than other meats. For more flavour, you can also mix together different ground meats. Try mixing pork with beef, chicken with lamb, or even buffalo with beef. You can even chop up some bacon or minced sausage and mix it with the meat.
Though we resist fats, the flavour of meat is in the fat. The sad reality is that the lower the fat content, the less flavourful and drier the burger will be. If you are using a leaner cut meat, boost up the juiciness by adding a little liquid to keep it moist. Consider adding a small amount of wine, perhaps a flavourful broth or a little barbecue sauce to keep the burgers succulent .
You can also take a lean cut of meat and add some olive oil for good fat. But be careful, doing this tends to cook the meat faster.
Another way to add flavour and moisture to your burger is to add finely minced vegetables. Incorporating onions, garlic, and green chillies adds juiciness to the burger while giving another burst of flavour.
Finally, great burgers are created by piling innovative dressings and ingredients on top. Give your same-old condiments a rest and shake it up with inventive combinations.
Instead of the usual mustard, ketchup and relish, offer salsa, guacamole, chutney, wasabi mayonnaise, pesto mayonnaise, and tzatziki sauces. As a replacement for tomatoes consider green or yellow sweet peppers, fresh or grilled mushrooms, grilled zucchini slices. Replace the lettuce with fresh basil, or mint. Finally instead of the traditional processed cheese slice switch to mozzarella, brie, Monterey Jack, or a blue cheese for a more robust flavour.
Another out of the ordinary topping is a fried egg on top of the patty! This not only has a beautiful presentation but something sensual happens when you bite into this burger . The egg yolk breaks and coats the burger in a creamy, warm flavor blanket. Elegant, but still never forgetting it’s a burger.
Barbecue a better burger
• Don’t handle the ground meat too much. The heat from your hands begins to melt the fat and makes the patty too dense. Move it lightly from hand to hand and loosely make a patty three-quarters to one-inch thick (no thicker, or you will have to cook it too long). Handle the meat as delicately and quickly as you can.
• Never poke your cooking burger patties with a fork or other pointy object. It’s a guaranteed trip to hockey puck hamburger land when all those delicious juices pour out through that hole.
• Resist the temptation to flatten a burger with a spatula while cooking. You are squeezing out the juices and drying it out.
• Starting with clean, oiled grill grates/grids, sear your patties on each side over a high heat until a crust forms. This should take about one to one-and-a-half minutes. If you try to loosen the hamburger patties before they’re properly seared, they’ll stick to the grate. Move your patties to a cooler part of the grill and cook to desired doneness flipping once during cook time.
• To avoid rounded tops from forming while grilling, when forming patties, push down slightly in the center, creating a round area about ¼ inch lower than the surrounding meat. This also ensures even cooking of the burger.
1 pound ground lean meat
1/4 cup bottled mango chutney, chopped
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup onion, finely chopped
In a medium bowl, place beef, chutney, curry powder, garlic powder and salt. Mix just until combined. Shape into patties and grill.
1 1/4 pounds ground meat
6 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons sour cream
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
4 teaspoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons fresh coriander, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 hamburger buns
4 lettuce leaves
Combine peanut butter, sour cream, 1 tablespoon of lime juice and 2 teaspoons soy sauce. Mix until smooth. In a separate bowl combine ground meat, 2 teaspoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon lime juice, coriander, ginger and red pepper flakes. Gently mix and form into patties. Preheat grill. Place patties on grill and cook until done. Remove from grill, place on buns, and top with peanut sauce and lettuce.
1 pound ground meat
3/4 cup teriyaki sauce
1 small can pineapple slices
1 large onion, sliced
4 lettuce leaves
4 slices Swiss cheese
4 strips bacon, fully cooked
Drain pineapple juice in a bowl. Add teriyaki sauce and mix. Place pineapple slices and 3 tablespoons of pineapple teriyaki mixture in a re-sealable plastic bag. Turn to coat and set aside. Shape hamburger into 4 patties and spoon remaining pineapple teriyaki sauce over top. Preheat grill. Place burger patties on hot grill until done. Place buns on grill cut side down to toast lightly. Remove pineapple slices from bag and place on grill and cook until slightly browned and warmed through. Assemble burgers with patty, pineapple slices, lettuce, onion slices, Swiss cheese and bacon.
Madhu Badoni is a Red Deer-based freelance food writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Watch for Madhu’s Masala-Mix blog on www.reddeeradvocate.com.