The Great American Hamburger
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What makes a great hamburger? First there’s the meat. You want to use a flavorful cut, like sirloin (for uptown burgers), or chuck or round (if you’re feeling more democratic). The meat should be ground twice-first through the coarse plate of the grinder, then through the fine plate. And it shouldn’t be too lean. Fifteen to 20 percent fat is ideal.
I adhere to the "less is more" school when it comes to making hamburgers. Namely, the fewer ingredients you add to the meat, the better. Oh, I know how tempting it is for cooks to want to season the meat with onion, garlic, spices, and condiments. But to taste a burger at its best, keep it utterly simple. The garnishes will add all the flavor you need.
One final bit of advice: Handle the meat as little as possible: a few pats to form it into a patty. Anything more will rob the burger of its juiciness and primal flavor.
FOR THE BURGERS:
2 1/4 pounds ground beef chuck, round or sirloin
2 tablespoons butter, unsalted, melted or olive oil
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, freshly ground, to taste
6 hamburger buns
6 slices sweet onions, Vidalia or other sweet onion (1/2 inch thick); optional
FOR THE TOPPINGS (ANY OR ALL):
Iceburg lettuce leaves
Tomato, sliced fresh, ripe
Dill pickle, sliced or sweet pickles
Bacon, cooked (2 strips per hamburger)
1. Preheat the grill to high.
2. Divide the meat into 6 equal portions. Lightly wet your hands with cold water, then form each portion of meat into a round patty, 4 inches across and of even thickness (see Note).
3. When ready to cook, oil the grill grate.
4. Brush one side of the patties and the onion slices (if using) lightly with melted butter and season with salt and pepper. Arrange both the burgers and onion slices, butter side down, on the hot grate and grill until nicely browned, about 4 minutes. Brush the other side lightly with more melted butter and season with more salt and pepper. Turn with a spatula and continue grilling until nicely browned and cooked to taste, about 4 minutes for medium. Brush the cut sides of the buns with the remaining melted butter and place, cut sides down, on the grill the last 2 minutes.
5. Set out the toppings. Place the burgers and onion slices on the buns and serve.
In addition to the ingredients in the main recipe, you’ll need:
6 slices (1/4 inch thick) sharp Cheddar cheese, Swiss cheese, or 6 pieces Roquefort
Follow the instructions through cooking the first side of the burgers in step 4. After you flip them, place a piece of cheese on top. Cover the grill and cook the burgers until the cheese is melted and the meat is done to taste. Check after 3 minutes.
Bacon and Smoked-Cheese Burger
In addition to the ingredients in the main recipe you’ll need:
12 thin slices bacon
6 slices (1/4 inch thick) smoked mozzarella or other smoked cheese
In step 2, wrap each patty with 2 strips of bacon. The bacon strips should be placed perpendicular to each other. Cook the burgers as described in the main recipe. Place on buns and top with the cheese. The heat of the burgers will melt the cheese.
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