Whether you’re cooking on a gas or charcoal grill or in a fry pan on the stovetop, here are tips on making the perfect burger that is meaty and satisfying, yet never dense and bricklike. To make the best burgers, use a light touch with the meat.
DON’T FEAR THE FAT For the juiciest beef burgers, use ground chuck (80% lean/20% fat) or sirloin (85% lean/15% fat). Leaner cuts and grass-fed beef will yield a drier burger. When buying chicken or turkey, opt for dark meat. It’s still lower in fat than beef and will result in a much tastier burger than white meat.
FRESH IS BEST Keep in mind that you don’t need to buy ground meat. You can choose any boneless cut and then ask your butcher to grind it for you or grind it yourself. Use a coarser grind to avoid a mushy texture. For a special treat add some freshly ground short ribs, dry-aged steak, brisket or a combination.
MAKE AN IMPRESSION The edges of a burger cook faster than the center, which can cause the burger to puff up into a sphere. To avoid this, when shaping the patty, press your thumb into the center to make a dimple about the size of a quarter.
HOLD THE SALT Wait to add salt until after the patties are formed and just before cooking, and then season generously. Salt inside a patty will start to dissolve the protein strands, which will adversely affect the texture of the burger.
GRILL OR GRIDDLE Burger lovers are divided about the best cooking method. Grilling adds terrific smoky flavor, but some insist that a griddle or fry pan allows the flavorful fat to stay with the burger during cooking. Whichever method you choose, DO NOT press down on the meat with the spatula because it will release the juices and fat. Resist that urge!
DON’T FLIP OUT Flip the burgers only once, and only after they have formed a nice brown seal. Don’t flip too soon, and don’t move the burgers around. When the burgers are ready to be flipped, they should dislodge from the cooking surface easily. If they stick, let them cook for a few moments more.
COOKED TO PERFECTION The surest way to measure a burger’s doneness is to check the internal temperature with an instant-read thermometer. The thickest part of a beef burger should register 130 degrees for medium-rare, 140 degrees for medium, and 150 degrees for well done. Let your burgers rest for a couple of minutes before serving to allow the internal juices to redistribute evenly through the meat.
“Work With What You Got!”
© Victoria Hart Glavin Tiny New York Kitchen © 2015 All Rights Reserved
Spreadable sausage from Norwalk, Iowa? The culinary creativity across the country never ceases to amaze me. Nduja is a spreadable sausage that comes from Calabria in southern Italy. My husband is Calabrian so it goes without saying that I love all things from Calabria. La Quercia, the cured meat producer in Iowa has introduced its American-made version, which is a mix of prosciutto, speck, and red chili peppers. It comes in five ounce links and is extremely versatile. Use it in pasta sauce, grilled cheese, BLTs, egg salad, burgers, pizza, crostini, or tacos. It’s also wonderful slathered on warm bread or crackers.
If you’re in New York City you may find it at Fairway, Amish Market, or Murray’s Cheese. If you’re in other parts of the country then go to La Quercia’s website for store locations. http://laquercia.us
“Work With What You Got!”
© Victoria Hart Glavin Tiny New York Kitchen
Season With Worcestershire Sauce
Think of Worcestershire sauce as the “Fish Sauce” of American cooking. Worcestershire sauce is probably one of the most underused condiments. The sauce is a fermented mix of vinegar, molasses, anchovies, and other seasonings that adds great flavor to a dish without adding many calories. I often add a splash to salad dressings, marinades, and sauces, or use it to season ground meat for meatloaf or burgers. Just go easy because it’s high in sodium.
"Work With What You Got!"
© Victoria Hart Glavin Tiny New York Kitchen
Salt, spray, sea air, and warm sand underfoot are all the pleasant sensations of a day at the beach which stir cravings for good and hearty food. A perfect refreshment is a traditional beach-blanket banquet, complete with charcoal-grilled corn on the cob. You can prepare this picnic to feed a crowd or simply the family on any summertime trip to the beach. For a small group, you may want to take only half of the salad and leave the rest at home for a midweek supper.
Crunchy Egg Dip
Red Onion Slices
Barbecued Corn on the Cob
Mixed Bean & Artichoke Salad
Honey Applesauce Cupcakes
Beverages of Your Choice
Bake the cupcakes on the day of the picnic or bake them ahead of time and then freeze them. If they are frozen then let them thaw to room temperature on the morning of the outing. Frost them after they have thawed (if you are frosting them). Prepare the bean salad a day ahead and refrigerate it so the vegetables have time to marinate. Hard-cook the eggs for the salad garnish and the egg dip at the same time. On the morning of departure, slice the onions and tomatoes, and prepare the lettuce leaves; seal them in individual plastic bags or in small containers. Then prepare the egg dip and get the corn ready. Refrigerate the food that needs to be kept cold before packing it in the cooler. Have ready one or more large bags of potato chips and enough hamburger patties and French rolls for your picnicking party. You’ll also need a portable barbecue; potholders, a spatula, and tongs; and charcoal, charcoal starter, and fireplace matches.
Packing Your Picnic: Place the chilled beverages in the bottom of a roomy cooler. On top, pack the ears of corn and the egg dip. Tuck in the parcels containing the hamburger patties, garnishes for the salad, hamburger condiments, and butter for the corn. Carry all of the barbecue equipment in a sturdy box. In a roomy basket, pack the unbreakable items first, including serving spoons for the salad, a bottle opener, salt and pepper, and a knife for the rolls (unless they’re presliced). Fit in the cupcakes and the salad. Place the rolls and potato chips on top. For a sandy picnic, it’s always wise to carry extra paper plates, napkins, and pre-moistened towelettes.
At the Site: Start the charcoal about half an hour before you want to begin cooking; wait until the coals turn gray before grilling the meat and corn. Meanwhile, spread the blanket and let people nibble on potato chips and dip. If your site is very sandy or some of your guests are quite young, you may prefer to wait until the hamburgers and corn are almost ready before you unpack the rest of the food. Before serving the salad, stir it well; then garnish it with the egg slices, if desired, and artichokes.
A couple of weeks ago I was driving back from Pennsylvania and couldn’t decide where to go for dinner. I had a real hankering for a burger and immediately remembered how much I love the gourmet burgers at The Whelk. I called the restaurant and of course they were totally booked, but the hostess said that I could eat at the bar. It was about 6:45pm on a Friday night and the place was packed when I pulled up. I decided to park anyway and try my luck. After checking in I was immediately seated at the bar and given a menu. Of course I knew that I had to have that delicious burger, but saw the muscles on the appetizer column. I ordered the muscles to start and the burger for my main course. The muscles were absolutely delicious and the broth was to die for. The server asked me if I was done, and I was, but I just couldn’t let her take that delicious broth away. I told her I wanted to hang on to the broth. My burger came right up and I dug immediately dup in. Patrons at the bar were super friendly as well as the staff. I was having such a good time talking with Massimo and everyone around me. Suddenly I decided to dip my fries into the leftover muscle broth. It was so unbelievably delicious that I ended up dumping all of my fries into the broth and fishing them out by the handfuls. Eating the burger and fries soaked in muscle broth. My God I needed a shower! Patrons and the staff were still chatting away with me and I have to admit I was having the best time. Chef Bill Taibe came out of the kitchen to say hello and admitted that his muscle broth has become the condiment of choice for the fries. I have decided that The Whelk has become the Cheers of Fairfield County. Even if they don’t know your name they will welcome you with open arms anyway.
575 Riverside Avenue
Westport, CT 06880
LeFarm, Westport, CT
The Whelk, Westport, CT
Chef de Cuisine