The Perfect Burger, Part 1

For Christmas I received a new book that has changed my life: The Science of Good Cooking by The Editors of America’s Test Kitchen.  Being a nerd this book appeals on every level.  The Cook’s Illustrated staff experiment, taking no previous wisdom at face value, question dogma, repeat trials, and confirm or refute old cooking wisdom.  I LOVE IT.

Cooks-Science-of-Good-CookingConcept 14 in the book regards grinding meat at home for tender burgers.  In the US, most preground beef comes from any of about a dozen processing plants, which means that preground beef can contain meat from hundreds of different cattle and meat scraps from processing.  The grind is typically a poor caliber, causing a homogenous, rubbery, dense result.  When you grind your meat fresh you can control the type of meat used, the size of the grind, and how tightly you pack the meat together before cooking.

Enter Uncle Steve’s Kitchen Aid Meat Grinder attachment:

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Catalina, age 3, going to town on the grinder.

For the first trial run last weekend we got a little carried away and tried four different blends of meat.

#1 The Cooks Illustrated: 10 oz Sirloin Tip / 6 oz Boneless Beef Short Ribs  x2lbs
#2 The Bobby Flay: 80% Round / 20% Sirloin  x2lbs
#3 The Rich Man: 50% Angus Dry-Aged / 50% Round   x1lbs
#4 The Fat Kid: 70% Sirloin / 30% Maple Bacon   x1lbs
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Boneless beef short ribs top left, Angus dry-age NY strip top right. I wasn’t planning on trying a dry age steak blend but they had it on sale for half price.

I followed the Cooks Illustrated instructions for cubing the meat beforehand and placing in the freezer for 30-60 minutes to get the meat cold.  This makes for a much easier grind. I placed my 4 mixes in separate sacks.

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The next vital step in the process is to form the meat in a patty as gently as possible with no over shaping or compression.  I also placed a dimple in the middle of each patty to keep the burgers from getting thick in the middle when they contract while cooking.  You want the patty to be loosely packed with nooks and crannies that allow juices to bubble up through the porous surface and drip back down, basting the burgers as they cook.

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The end result is a juicy burger with a substantial crisp crust.  To be continued ….

– JB –

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