Oct 27, 2014

Better Burgers

No barbecue is complete without burgers.  In a bun, layered with onions and pickles, stuffed or skewered, ground beef plays a significant role in our summertime cooking.   They are simple to prepare and very forgiving.  It’s very difficult to ruin a grilled burger—unless of course, you burn it!

Questions about "ground meat" or "hamburger" have always been in the top five food topics of calls to the USDA's Meat and Poultry Hotline.  The most popular questions are about the fat content in ground beef.  A maximum of 30% fat by weight is allowed in either hamburger or ground beef.  Both hamburger and ground beef can have seasonings, but no water, fillers or binding agents added.  Most ground beef is ground and packaged in local stores rather than in food processing plants under USDA inspection. Most states and cities set standards for store-packaged ground beef which must follow Federal standards.

In making ground beef, some butchers grind the meat while it is still frozen. Ice crystals in the frozen meat break down the cell walls, permitting the release of meat juices during cooking.  The same thing happens after ground meat is frozen at home.   As a result, your burgers may lose a lot of moisture during cooking. 
All meat will shrink in size and weight during cooking. The amount of shrinkage will depend on its fat and moisture content, the temperature at which the meat is cooked, and how long it is cooked.  The higher the cooking temperature, the more it will shrink. Cooking ground beef at moderate temperatures will keep it from shrinking too much and help retain juices and flavor. Overcooking results in a dry, crumbly burger.  Generally, ground beef is made from the less tender cuts of beef. When purchasing beef for homemade burgers or patties, choose fattier meat rather than extra lean.  The marbleized fat in the meat will yield a more tender burger.   Gentle mixing is the key to keeping your burgers tender.

When meat is ground, more of the meat is exposed to the harmful bacteria. Bacteria multiply rapidly in temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees. To keep bacterial levels low, store ground beef at 40 degrees or less and use within 2 days, or freeze. To destroy harmful bacteria, cook ground beef to at least 160 degrees.

If you always buy prepackaged burgers you are missing out! The best burgers contain a mix of spices, seasonings and even added vegetables. Chopped peppers or onions and chopped and sautéed mushrooms work great.  Diced spicy olives or diced jalapeno peppers add amazing flavor to ground beef. Adding a cup of panko crumbs lightens the meat and makes the burger less dense. Always add a bit of kosher salt and black pepper to ground beef—it brings out other flavors. Fresh garlic is an excellent addition as well. Anything you add to your ground can be mixed in or stuffed in the center of the burger. Either method gives you fantastic flavor and tender results.

1½ pounds ground beef
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 ¼ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground, divided
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon olive oil
¾ pound fresh mushrooms, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ cup sliced scallions

4 large burger buns
4 large slice tomato

for mayonnaise:

½ cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon mustard

prepare the stuffing:

In a medium skillet heat oil until very hot.  Add mushrooms.  Cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add garlic; cook 8 to 10 minutes until lightly browned and liquid has evaporated.  Stir in scallions and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper.  Set aside and let cool.

In a mixing bowl, gently mix together beef, soy sauce, ¾ teaspoon pepper and.  Using 1/3 cup of mixture, shape into eight 4 ½” patties approximately 3/8” thick. 

Preheat your grill until hot. Turn down the burners to medium.  Mound ¼ cup filing in the center of 4 patties. Cover with remaining patties.  Seal edges by pressing firmly with fingers.  Gently press center to flatten the burger slightly.

Preheat grill on high.  Reduce heat to medium and gently place burgers on the rack.  On a charcoal grill place the burgers 4 to 6 inches from coals.  Cover grill.  Grill 10-12 minutes or until cooked through and no longer pink in the center.

prepare mayonnaise:

Whisk together mayonnaise, soy sauce and mustard.  Place buns on grill; grill 1 minute or until lightly toasted.  Spread each bun with 2 tablespoons mayonnaise.  Top with burgers and a tomato slice.

4 ounces green pitted olives, chopped
1 1/4 lbs ground beef
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
3 tablespoons bread crumbs or panko crumbs
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cloves garlic, crushed

Pita bread

Combine olives, meat, onion, breadcrumb, salt and garlic. Mix well.  Shape to form four one inch thick patties.

Preheat grill to medium.  Grill burgers 6 minutes per side or until no longer pink in center.
Heat pita bread on the grill for 2-3 minutes until warm.  Split pitas and spread chummus on each side. Place the burgers inside pitas and enjoy.

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