Light and bright summer burger
Confession time: Years ago, my summer burger ventures resulted in foot-high flames, broken burgers and apologies on a bun. I was a patty-squishing, fast-flipping, burger-poking menace. No wonder I ended up relegated to dessert.
Since then, I’ve learned the secret to compliment-inducing burgers starts with the right meat and is followed by a gentle touch, not acrobatics with a spatula.
Selecting the right fat content for a burger is a little like Goldilocks’ quest for porridge. Regular ground has so much fat your burger will shrink to the size of a slider. Excess fat can also cause dramatic flames on a grill or leave a puddle of grease in the skillet.
On the other end of the spectrum, extra lean ground yields burgers that are dry and crumbly.
Fortunately, lean beef is just right. For lean meats like ground poultry, smaller patties and lower cooking temperatures will help keep your burger juicy.
Overworking your meat mixture will leave you with a dense burger that’s more like a hockey puck than a patty. Wet or oiled hands can help you handle the meat as little as possible. For light patties that will keep their shape, remember these points: Less is more: When it comes to burgers, don’t overwork or compact the meat. You want to mix not mash, form not force. Unity is stregtn: Whether you're making full-sized burgers or two-bite sliders, a uniform patty is key. Divide the mixed meat into equal portions before forming the patties. Once the meat is divided, roll each portion gently into a ball, resisting the urge to squeeze it into formation. Thin is in: While mile-high patties look enticing, they will dry out before they’re safely cooked all the way through. To form a patty that retains its juices, gently flatten the meat ball, aiming for 2 cm to 2.5 cm (¾ inch to 1 inch) thick for burgers and 1.25 cm (½ inch) for sliders. Leave a dent: To prevent the dreaded “burger bubble,” gently make an indentation in the middle of each patty with your thumb or a spoon.
Burgers can be as simple as ground meat seasoned with a sprinkle of salt and a few grinds of black pepper or be filled with a dozen Indian spices.
No matter what you are – or aren’t – putting in your burger, don’t salt the formed patties until just before you put them on the heat. Salting too early will leave you with a dry burger since salt draws moisture from the meat.
Whether you cook over flames, in a skillet, or under the broiler, what you don’t do can be the difference between a delicious, juicy burger and a bun full of disappointment. Don't fiddle: Once you've placed your patty on the cooking surface, leave it alone to form a crust. This crust adds flavour and forms a barrier to help keep moisture inside. Flip at the half-way point only. It’s a burger, not a coin toss. Don't flatten: For most of us it's almost second nature to flatten the burger with the spatula to "help things along." - nately, pressing doesn’t speed up cooking. However, it does speed up drying by forcing the juices out of the patty. Don't poke and prod: If you pull the patty apart to check for doneness, you’re going to break the burger and release juices. Instead, use a meat thermometer.
Insert it into the centre of the patty from the side, not the top, to ensure a more accurate reading. Cook the burger until the internal temperature reaches the “safe zone.”
For ground beef, pork, veal and lamb, the internal temperature should be 71°C (160°F). For ground chicken and turkey, the internal temperature is 74°C (165°F). Don't rush: Once cooked, place the patties on a clean cutting board or platter to rest for five minutes.
Resting gives the proteins time to relax and allows the juices to redistribute evenly within the burger. The result is a most burger, not a soggy bun.