GrabOne’s Burger Day means you can afford to eat some of the best burgers from around NZ, created and cooked by the professionals. But if you wanted to make the best burger in town right in your own kitchen, how would you go about it?
You’d follow dozens of different recipes over several years to discover all the best tips and tricks, and compile them to create the ultimate home burger. Well, you might if you were a bit obsessive when it came to food, like me.
Let’s cover this first. Kiwis love a bit of beetroot and avo in our burgers, and even an egg in some cases. Nothing wrong with any of those if that’s your thing, but this is about perfecting the classic. That means we’re going for a bun, beef, cheese, lettuce, onions, tomatoes and pickles. And of course those critical condiments that bring it all together.
Let’s start with the most important element, and the most critical bit to get right. For the patty we’re are going to use a tip from Heston Blumenthal, a chef whose recipes you would not normally ever try at home, but this is easy and definitely worth it. Heston minces his own patty, which most of us ain’t ever going to do, but the genius bit is this: He catches the strands of mince and makes sure they all lay nicely in one direction. Then he seasons, rolls it all up in food wrap to make a log, chills, then slices. Luckily, those packs of mince you buy at the supermarket are similarly laid out with all the strands running in the same direction, so we are just going to open the pack, season the meat with salt (which also helps bind) and then roll the whole thing into a log to set in the fridge, ideally for 2 hours. By doing this we ensure all the fibers in the meat are running in the same direction that we bite, which results in an incredibly tender steak-like patty.
(When choosing the mince, steer clear of the premium or extra lean options. You need a bit of fat in there. Top chef John Torode reckons the “best formula will be up to 40 per cent fat – otherwise it will not be moist.”)
Most chefs and foodies agree on this one – brioche is best. If you’re lucky you might be able to get these at a local bakery, if you’re really committed you might make them yourself, but chances are you’re going to go with whatever you can pick up at the supermarket. Look for soft white rolls (you want the sweetness of white bread) and avoid sourdough, ciabatta or anything too crusty (you want to be able to bite the whole burger, not battle with a brittle bun).
Mature and smoked cheddars can be overpowering, and leave you tasting nothing but the cheese. Your best bet is a good melting, mild cheese like gruyere, Swiss or colby. Although my guilty pleasure here is a plain old shop-bought cheese slice – nothing else melts or feels quite right.
I’ve tried them all – every ketchup, relish, mustard and mayo – but this sauce from Jamie Oliver is simply the best. Shred ¼ of an iceberg lettuce, and combine with 2 heaped tablespoons mayonnaise, 1 heaped tablespoon tomato ketchup, 1 teaspoon Tabasco Chipotle sauce, 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce and (optional) 1 teaspoon brandy or bourbon.
Use the ripest, reddest tomatoes you can find, and slice them no more than half a cm thick. Your pickles should be about the same thickness, and come from a jar. Bonus points if you pickle them yourself.
The onions are a matter of taste. There’s something about fried onions and I’m gonna guess that would be most people’s preference. Heston however uses white onions and simply blanches them for a few seconds to eliminate the raw taste. Personally, I slice red onions very thinly and macerate them in red wine vinegar for a few minutes before serving – just the right amount of crunch and sourness!
Your burger log should’ve been setting in the fridge for at least two hours. If you have less time pop it in the freezer for one hour (enough for it to firm up but not to freeze). Cut it into 2cm thick patties and season with pepper.
Let them come up to room temperature a bit (like you would a steak) while you make the sauce and prep your veg.
George Motz, who made the movie Hamburger America, says a cast iron skillet and beef tallow is best. And it really is, but if you’ve got a decent frying pan that will do. Depending how you feel about cooking in animal fats (lard and duck fat are good alternatives to tallow) you may just want to use a cooking oil with a high smoking point, like rice bran oil. The pan needs to be HOT.
Flip your burgers once a minute for four minutes (medium) to six minutes (well done). If you’re frying your onions, you can cook these with your burgers provided there is room in the pan. If not cook them in their own pan. You’ll notice the patties don’t shrink like a homemade burger normally would if you’d really worked and pressed the meat into shape. Put your burgers on a plate to rest for 2-3 minutes and pop a cheese slice or two on the top – they will just melt with the residual heat while resting. While the the pan is still hot, toast the inside of your burger buns in it until just golden.
The special sauce goes on the bottom bun and if you can’t go without ketchup and mustard (I know I can’t), they can happily go on the top bun. I go with the tomatoes and pickles next as they slide off if you put them on top of the patty. Your rested burger comes next, followed by the crowning glory: the top of your bun.
It should look something like this.
When you taste it, you’ll appreciate the extra effort that’s gone into making it so give it a shot next time you make burgers at home! And you could pair your piece of homemade perfection with a beer from our range of craft beers launching today on GrabOne Bottle: