Have you ever shrugged your shoulders and served a meal that flopped?
I'd have to raise my hand in answer to that question. I served my entire extended family dry hamburgers at a family BBQ several years ago at my parents house. Aren't I nice? It wasn't completely my fault. My brother finished a two year mission for our church and had just come home, so my parents put together a big BBQ to celebrate. My mom and I made a bunch of salads the day before and my mom planned on making the burgers the next day right before everyone got there.
It was a great plan except that it turned out the next day my mom had to spend the morning at the hospital with a friend. She told us to go ahead with the BBQ and that she'd try to be back as soon as possible.
At the point people started arriving for the BBQ (which, in the tradition of my mom's side of the family means 15 minutes early) I started to realize that I was going to have to make the burgers myself. I had only occasionally watched my mom make burgers and never tried them on my own. I plopped the meat in a bowl, mixed in some garlic and worcestershire sauce, shaped it into patties and gave them to my dad to grill.
Well, it's a good thing my whole family is great because those burgers were pretty dry and didn't taste like much. While I sat there forever chewing my slightly bland first bite I thought, "I should really learn how to make good hamburgers." (Wouldn't you know, my wonderful family ate them and didn't say a thing. And in all reality, they probably didn't mind a bit even if they did notice. They're really wonderful people.)
Many years and many recipes later, I now can make a pretty darn good burger. My favorite recipe for them is the one I'm sharing today, and I love it because it's easy, fast, doesn't use crazy ingredients, stays juicy when cooked and tastes delicious. My brother gave me the recipe and if he tells you a grilled recipe is good, you listen to him because he's about as good as they come. He's probably made just about every other hamburger recipe you can find, including ones where you grind your own meat. The key to the burger staying moist is to use meat with a higher fat percentage (20-25% fat) and mix in a bread/milk paste. I have to admit, the paste threw me off at first but it works amazingly well to hold to burgers together and help them stay juicy. What you get in the end is a perfect, juicy, flavorful, good old-fashioned beef burger.
I'm ready for the next family BBQ.
Good Old-Fashioned Hamburgers
1 large slice high quality white sandwich breat, crust removed and discarded, bread chopped into 1/4-inch pieces (about 1/2 cups)
2 tablespoons whole milk
3/4 teaspoon table salt
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 medium clove garlic , minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 teaspoon)
2 teaspoons steak sauce , such as A-1
1 1/2 pounds 80 percent lean ground chuck
Vegetable oil for cooking grate
6 ounces cheese, sliced, (optional)
4 hamburger buns or rolls
1. Turn all burners to high, close lid, and heat until very hot, about 15 minutes. Use grill brush to scrape cooking grate clean. Lightly dip wad of paper towels in vegetable oil; holding wad with tongs, wipe cooking grate. Leave primary burner on high, turn other burner(s) to low.
2. Meanwhile, mash bread and milk in large bowl with fork until homogeneous (you should have about 1/4 cup). Stir in salt, pepper, garlic, and steak sauce.
3. Break up beef into small pieces over bread mixture. Using fork or hands, lightly mix together until mixture forms cohesive mass. Divide meat into 4 equal portions. Gently toss one portion of meat back and forth between hands to form loose ball. Gently flatten into 3/4-inch-thick patty that measures about 4 1/2 inches in diameter. Press center of patty down with fingertips until it is about 1/2 inch thick, creating a slight depression in each patty. Repeat with remaining portions of meat.
4. Lightly dip wad of paper towels in vegetable oil; holding wad with tongs, wipe cooking grate. Grill burgers on hot side of grill, covered, until well seared on first side, 2 to 4 minutes. Using wide metal spatula, flip burgers and continue grilling, about 3 minutes for medium-well or 4 minutes for well-done. Distribute equal portions of cheese (if using) on burgers about 2 minutes before they reach desired doneness, covering burgers with disposable aluminum pan to melt cheese. While burgers grill, toast buns on cooler side of grill, rotating buns as necessary to toast evenly. Serve burgers on toasted buns.
Recipe Source: Cook's Illustrated