Perpetual Plan B

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Building a Better Burger (2009 Version)

There is one thing we all love here - hamburgers.

There is also one thing I don't love to fix - hamburger patties. But I have learned over the years a thing or two and it has evolved and changed along with our family.

Here is the new, improved, convenient version:

First off, I can't stand the plain hamburger patties you buy at the store. BUT, if someone were to invite me over for a hamburger and serve them, I would gladly eat one and not even complain about it. That's one of my good qualities; I never (well, hardly ever, I'm sure I may have done it once or twice) complain about something someone else is doing that makes my life easier, like not having to fix dinner myself that night.

So, it's homemade hamburger patties for us at home. This is also a problem since I can't stand to touch raw meat with my hands. I have this thing about meat germs, like the bad kind of e-coli ones from beef and whatever it is that you can get from chicken (is it salmonella?).

I have recently discovered the joy of using disposable gloves, which makes things so much nicer, especially with ground meat dishes like hamburgers and meat loaf or meatballs. I even unintentionally found a great way to get them for free. You just walk up to the nice man behind the meat counter and ask, "Will you sell me some of those gloves you guys wear when you handle meat?" and, if you're lucky, he will answer, "I can't sell you some, but I can give you some." This is how I ended up with a whole box of 25 pairs of the little beauties. The meat counter guy said they are too small for them, but the small/medium size fits me just great. It will also last at least a year or two, because if you make big batches, how many times a year do you really make hamburger patties or meatloaf or meatballs? (I always make at least a triple batch and freeze the extras.)

Ok, so I used to chop a whole bunch of onions to mix in, but one day, when I was in a hurry, I just used the dehydrated onions you can buy from the dry pack cannery (or food storage places, or wherever). To hurry and reconstitute them and give them some flavor, I soaked them in some Worcestershire sauce. I use maybe 3/4 c. or so, dehydrated onion in a really big bowl, and however much liquid it takes to fully cover it all.

Next, I throw in an egg to hold it together a little better, but you can skip this if you are squeamish about eggs. I happen to like them, or at least the idea of them, but only if I can't taste them. (I know that probably doesn't make any sense but it's true. I like scrambled eggs, but only if I can't taste the egg, so I put lots of cheese, salsa, etc. in them.)

I also throw in some barbecue sauce, maybe 1/2 c. or more, for good measure and a little oatmeal if I feel like the kids need a little more fiber, which is most of the time. Next, if I have any pureed vegetables in the freezer or somewhere I might sneak in about 1/2 cup of either zucchini or chopped carrot or whatever I have. I've even done butternut squash or sweet potato baby food, which is really good in sloppy joes. You really can't taste it at all. You can also leave this out if it freaks you out.

Now, don't forget the salt and pepper! (Add about 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper per pound of meat.) I forgot to add them once and my poor family had to suffer through a meal of hamburgers and two meatloaves. You can NOT fix this later so don't get sidetracked like I did!

Now mix it all together and put on your gloves and add in 4 pounds of lean ground beef. Use your hands and really mix it up as quickly as possible, bringing the good stuff up from the bottom of the mixing bowl. Try to mix and shape them fairly quickly because the more you handle the meat, the more chance it will crumble and fall apart on the grill. (At least I think I read that somewhere and the fresh ones I did today seemed pretty crumbly. I've never had any trouble with ones I've frozen)

Now here's my best tip.

When you are shaping the patties, poke a hole in the middle of them. This helps it get cooked all the way through and it will practically close up as it cooks. I can't remember where I read this, but it really works. I also like to shape my patties pretty thin so they get done all the way through (again, think e-coli). Also, make them fairly big around, like 5 or 5 1/2 inches, because they will shrink up.

You can freeze any extra patties by cutting waxed paper into squares and then lining a big cookie sheet with them. Cover each square with a patty and then more waxed paper. If you use two sheets between patties it's easy to separate them out and get only two or three or however many you need at a time. Freeze on the cookie sheet for a few hours or overnight (or two or three days if you forget, like I do sometimes). Once frozen solid, put in a big freezer Ziploc bag to store until you need them.

Once you are grilling the burgers, (Please don't fry them in a pan. My mom used to do that when I was a kid and I hated hamburgers back then) I like to season mine with Montreal Steak Seasoning. You can just buy it at any grocery store. Mine is McCormick brand. It's also good on chicken and lots of other things.

This is how we do burgers at our house these days. If you have any other suggestions, I'd like to hear them.

(I would have posted a picture here, but we ate them too quickly.)


Katie said...

Your burgers sound yummy!!! Today I was discussing how wonderful a truly good burger is with my family - one of my favorite foods! I love the idea of re-hydrating the onions with Worcestershire sauce! I will be trying that!

Bookaholic said...

These hamburgers sound really good! I also dislike the store-bought hamburger patties--mainly because they all seem to be the high fat version. Adding all these other ingredients would help make the hamburgers flavorful and juicy. And, I could use my new grill! The idea of mixing some pureed veggies in is an interesting one. I have some grated zucchini that I planned on using for my yummy zucchini chocolate chip cookies, but I never get around to that and want to use it up. I could puree it and throw it in the burgers! Who woulda thunk it?!

I love the disposable gloves, too. I got them for another purpose but love using them for messy jobs in the kitchen, as well.