Summer officially begins next week. As far as we’re concerned here at 35 West’s apartments in Moore, the official meal of summer fun in the sun is the hamburger. Awesome amenities and amazing maintenance aren’t the only reasons we’re the apartments Moore prefers. We’re always looking for ways to elevate your quality of life. So as we gear up for summer, we’ve also been looking for ways to elevate our burger game. And now we want to share our findings with you.
We found our favorite list of burger benefiting tips at the Burger Lab, naturally. It’s an offshoot of the FoodLab section on the foodie website Serious Eats, an outstanding stop for recipes and techniques. The article, The Burger Lab’s Top 10 Tips for Making Better Burgers, is a basic handbook for taking your burgers to the next level.
And when it comes to gathering around the grill with friends and family, we feel much better about burgers than the pork products commonly associated with summer BBQ. According to a recent report by the World Health Organization, sausages rank alongside cigarettes as a major cause of cancer. The Guardian recently reported that the WHO went as far as placing cured and processed meats in the same category as asbestos, alcohol, and arsenic. As the health-conscious apartments Moore trusts, we’ll stick with healthy-by-comparison hamburgers, thanks.
“These tips, with very few exceptions, apply universally to all hamburgers, regardless of style,” says Serious Eats. “Thus, one thing you will not find in this list is specific cooking instructions in terms of heat source, strength, and timing. As far as taking a formed patty from raw to cooked, there are no hard and fast rules that apply in every situation.”
And with that, here’s our top 5 from The Burger Lab’s Top Ten Burger-Making Tips, courtesy of the grill gurus at 35 West apartments in Moore.
1. KEEP EVERYTHING REALLY COLD
Until your burgers are fully formed, heat is their mortal enemy. Warm fat is soft and pliable and tends to stick to your hands and work surfaces. And if that fat’s on your hands, then it ain’t in the burger. When grinding your own meat (and I certainly hope you are), make sure that everything—the feed shaft, the grinding blades, the plate, and the meat—is well chilled to avoid fat smearage.
2. WEIGH AND SIZE YOUR PATTIES
Weighing your meat as you divide it and measuring your patties as you form them will ensure that all your burgers will be uniform in shape and size, which in turn will guarantee that they all cook at the same rate. A scale and a good eye are all you need (though the truly OCD like myself will want a ruler as well). Bonus tip: if you’re into big, fat patties (we’re talking 6 ounces or more), you must have experienced the dreaded “meatball syndrome” at some point. You know—when your patty bulges as it cooks, turning it into an impossible to eat football-shaped blob? Form your patties with a slight dimple in the center, and they’ll maintain their shapely disk-form as they cook.
3. USE A THERMOMETER
Sure, you can be all macho and try and gauge a burger’s doneness by poking at it with your finger (if you can do that with 100% accuracy, you are a far better cook than I), or you can suck it up and buy yourself a good instant read thermometer. The Splash-Proof Super-Fast Thermapen by Thermoworks ($96) is the Cadillac of thermometers. But even an inexpensive one will do the job in a pinch, albeit slightly slower. With really large burgers (8 ounces or more), some carryover cooking may occur, so pull them off a few degrees before optimum, and give them some time to rest. I aim for a medium-rare 130°F, but I understand that inexplicably, not everybody prefers optimizing juiciness and beefiness in their burgers.
Here’s a rough temperature guide:
120°F and below for rare (red/raw in the center)
130°F for medium-rare (pink and warm)
140°F for medium (totally pink, starting to dry out)
150°F for medium-well (grayish pink, significantly drier)
160°F and above for well done (completely gray, very little moisture)
4. SEASON LIBERALLY
No matter how carefully you select your meat blend, without salt and pepper, you’re better off dining with the King or the Clown, who, despite their significant shortcomings, at least understand the benefit of a little sodium chloride. Freshly ground black pepper from whole peppercorns is a must—it’s far more flavorful than pre-ground. Whatever people say, kosher salt is not more or less salty by weight than table salt. I like to use it because its large crystals are easy to pick up with your fingers. Take a large pinch of kosher salt and hold it at least eight inches above the patties as you sprinkle to ensure even coverage.
Important Note: Do not salt beef until patties are formed!
I repeat: do not salt your beef until the patties are formed. Salt will dissolve muscle proteins, which subsequently cross-link, turning your burgers from moist and tender to sausage-like and springy. The effect is dramatic. The best time to season your burgers is within minutes of the time their gonna hit the grill or griddle. Salt starts affecting meat—dissolving proteins, drawing out moisture—the moment it comes in contact with it, adversely affecting the exterior texture of your patties. And that’s not a good thing.
5. DON’T MASH THE MEAT BUT FLIP AS OFTEN AS YOU LIKE
Despite outward appearances, ground meat is not dead. From the moment you lay your hands on it, it is changing dynamically, reacting to every knead, every sprinkle of salt, and every change in temperature. Overworking the meat will cause proteins to cross-link with each other like tiny strips of velcro, making your finished burgers denser and tighter with every manhandling of the grind.
And how many times have you read that you should only flip your burgers once while they are cooking? Well, forget about it! We recently proved that the nervous flippers are actually right. Flipping your burger repeatedly (as often as once every 15 seconds) encourages faster and more even internal cooking, shaving off as much as 1/3 of your grill time.
From all of us here at 35 West apartments in Moore, we wish you happy grilling and a summer filled with beautiful burgers!