Tuesday, August 5, 2008


I normally cook burgers in a cast iron pan. My technique is to:

1) Heat up the pan on medium-high
2) Make 5oz patties
3) Season and oil the outside of the patties
4) Put them in the pan for 4 1/2 to 5 minutes per side (with a splatter guard)

It works pretty good. The burgers are nicely browned on the outside and juicy on the inside.

But a couple of weeks ago, I decided that I wanted to cook them on the Weber. I cooked them pretty much the same way as when I do them in the cast iron pan. The results were not nearly as good. The burgers were overcooked and not juicy at all.

That afternoon (seriously, a few hours after I had made the burgers), I watched them make burgers on an episode of America's Test Kitchen. They used a paste made of bread and milk, called a panade, to keep the burgers juicy. The idea is that they want to cook the meat to well done (for safety reasons), but still have a juicy burger. The panade soaks in the juices that are released from the meat and keeps them in the burger. The panade also makes the burgers taste a little more bland, so they added some seasoning to it to add some flavor back into the burger.

I tried the burgers again, but this time with the panade. I also cut down the cooking time a little bit. It worked pretty good! The burgers were juicy and tasted pretty good. But they were not fantastic.

Yesterday, I tried the burgers once again, but with a twist. Instead of using ground beef, I bought a chuck steak and ground it myself in the food processor (something I learned from Alton Brown on Good Eats). I used the panade again (which I call my 'Burger Insurance') with some garlic, steak sauce, salt, and pepper. I also put some of my Raising the Steaks rub on the outside of the patty.

These were the best burgers yet! We invited some friends over for lunch and they said that these were the best burgers they've had in years. I think grinding the meat myself really made a difference.

Now, I suppose that I could have left out the panade and cooked the burgers to medium rare/medium, since I ground my own meat and was not using pre-ground hamburger. But I'm still getting used to the Weber and the hot spots (I really haven't used the Weber much at all since I got my ceramic cookers), and I felt that I needed the Burger Insurance, especially since we had guests over.

Anyhow, here is how I made my burgers:

2 pounds chuck steak
2 pieces of bread
3 tbl milk
2 tsp smashed and diced garlic
2 tbl steak sauce
1 tsp kosher salt
fresh ground pepper
Raising the Steaks rub (could be any rub you like that does NOT contain sugar)

(Note: All of the measurements are approximate, I just eyeballed them)

1) Get your grill going. I used a chimney starter full of lump charcoal (I don't use briquettes) that was nice and hot. I had the bottom vent all the way opened. I only put the coals on one half of the grill. The burgers go on the side with the coals and the buns (if you want them toasted) can go on the other side.
2) Trim your steak of large hunks of fat. Cut up steak into chunks. Put in food processor and give about 10 pulses, until it looks like hamburger.
3) Cut the bread up into small cubes. Put in a large bowl with the milk. Mix with a fork until it becomes a paste. Add in the steak sauce, garlic, salt, and pepper. Mix everything up.
4) Add the meat. Mix with your hands until thoroughly combined.
5) Make 6 patties. Don't pack them too tight. Make a little dent in the middle of the patties, so they don't ball up when you cook them.
6) Shake some rub on the outside of the patties and pat them in.
7) Put the patties on the hot grill. Cook for about 3 minutes on one side, flip and cook another 3 minutes. My patties had some structural integrity problems (maybe packed the too lightly?), so I couldn't move them around a lot when I flipped them.
8) If you want cheese, put it on after the first flip (obviously). I made a little foil tent that I put over the patties with cheese. This helped the cheese melt and brown up a little.
9) Before you put the burger on the bun, put some mayo on the bottom bun. Then grind a little pepper on it. Then put the burger on and let it sit for a minute or two. The juices mix with the mayo and pepper to make a kind of sauce on the bottom.
10) Put whatever else you want on your burger.
11) Eat the best burger you've had in years!

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