What's one of your favorite summer pastimes? Most Americans will answer cook outs or barbecues. What is the number one food served at these types of gatherings? Some would argue hotdogs, some ribs, and some chicken but I feel it would most certainly be hamburgers.
I'm not talking about those pre-made patties you buy from the freezer section at the grocery store either. I mean restaurant quality burgers straight from your back yard (or kitchen for that matter).
The only other thing she did better was cook meat. All kinds of meat: steaks, burgers, roast, ribs, tenderloin... you name it she could cook the crap out of it.
I always loved getting my hands dirty when she would make hamburgers. After a good hand washing I got to stick my hands in the raw ground beef and squish it until all the spices were mixed together. I had so much fun with it.
Though the burgers that Grandmother used to make tasted great, they were always tiny. They came out very small and very dense. I could never understand why something that she put so much time and love into would come out tasting great but feeling like cement. Well here I am, 20 years later, to share a recipe with you that has taken me 20 years to get it right.
These burgers don't shrink much, and taste even better than they look. Because we are in a small apartment in Germany for the time being, I had to put everything together in my kitchen (no grill) but they still taste better than ever.
Restaurant Style Hamburgers That Don't Shrink
2 lbs Ground Sirloin (Yea, it's more expensive, but sooooo worth the end result!!!!)
2 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
2 Tbsp Teriyaki Marinade (The one with the sesame seeds in the bottle)
2 Tbsp Soy Sauce (Any will do)
4 tsp Liquid Smoke (Hickory. You can instead use smoke chips on your grill if you have any)
Salt and Pepper
Whatever toppings you like (Lettuce, tomato, onion, mayo, ketchup, mustard...etc.
First off, you may notice that I don't use egg in my burgers. That's because of my choice of meat. Ground sirloin is a balanced ratio of fat to lean meat, so you don't really need anything extra to stick it together.
Let's start by preparing the patties. This is easily the most important part of the process as this will ensure the proper texture and density, while also evenly distributing your other ingredients throughout the meat.
Set your meat out the night before to thaw. Prepare your patties just 30 minutes or so before you are ready to cook. Start by emptying the ground beef into a mixing bowl. Add the Worcestershire Sauce, Teriyaki Marinade, Soy Sauce and liquid smoke to the bowl.
To spice it up you can also chop up a few habaneros and throw them into the bowl as well. (If you do so you may want to wear rubber gloves while you chop the peppers and mix the meat. Some people can have topical reactions to capsaicin. And if you happen to touch any other part of your body such as your eyes you will certainly regret it.)
Once you have added all the listed ingredients, you can now mix the meat.
At this point you need to understand that less is more. You want to mix the meat just enough to distribute the other ingredients and then stop. Continuing to mix the meat will cause a very dense texture. You want your meat to maintain as much as possible of its ground texture. The thicker the grind the better.
Once you have your meat mixed, it's time to make the patties. Lay out some wax paper on a tray. I often use a large serving plate and will do multiple layers of patties with a layer of wax paper between each. We are going to shoot for 1/4 pound burgers. You should get roughly 8 patties from 2 pounds of ground beef.
Pinch off enough of the meat mixture to make approximately 1/4 pound patties. You can make 8 balls of meat to ensure that each patty is close to the same size. I roll the meat between my hands to form a rough ball shape. Then I toss them back and forth between my hands to start to form the patty. Then holding the meat in one palm I use my other palm to shape it the rest of the way. I like to keep my patties within the size limits of whatever bun I am using at the time. But you want to keep them fairly thick.
Once you have a layer of patties laid out on your wax paper, it's time to add the salt and pepper. I use a sea salt and black pepper grinder for the freshest flavor possible taste. Grind up your salt and pepper and dust the tops of your patties. Lightly press your fingers across the tops of each patty to set the spices into the meat. Then turn them and repeat.
Now comes the trick. Using you thumb, press into the center of each patty to create a divot. This divot will stop the patties from shrinking as the cook. This eliminates the need to press the patties with a spatula and keeps those delicious juices locked inside.
Once all the patties are shaped, set your tray aside to give the meat time to settle.
If you're grilling, now is the time to get your fire going properly. As I mentioned, we don't currently have the means to grill, so I'll be explaining how to pan fry the burgers.
Preheat your pan over medium to medium high heat (it depends on your stove and the pan you are using). While the pan is preheating you can add just a touch of olive oil to keep the first few burgers from sticking. After the first few cook, there will be enough juice in the pan to keep it going.
As your pan is heating, you can use this time to prepare your toppings. I like thinly sliced tomato, cheddar cheese, romaine lettuce, and mayo on mine, but set out a variety for those eating to select from.
Once your pan is hot, throw a few burgers in and cook them for 4 -7 minutes per side for a medium burger. The time will vary depending mostly on the thickness of your patties and the type of pan you are using. You may also want to cook them a little longer if your like your burgers well done. I like mine to be a little pink in the middle.
What you are looking for is to sear the outside of the patties to lock in the juices. So you want to only turn them once. Let the meat sit in the pan until the the sides of the patty are completely brown and then turn it.
One of the most important things to remember at this point is to NOT press the patties with the spatula. By making the divot in the center of the patties you stop them from shrinking. So the only thing you are doing by pressing the patties is squishing out all the juices and ruining the density and texture. You want those juices locked in. Trust me.
Once your burgers have finished cooking, move them to a plate to rest. At this point you can throw your cheese on top while they are still hot. This will melt the cheese without over-cooking your burgers. Once they have had about 5 minutes to rest its time to serve!
I hope you have as much fun cooking as I do. It's one of my favorite things in the world!
And feel free to add your own twists to my recipe. That's how cooking masterpieces are made. These burgers have a salty, smokey flavor with mildly sweet undertones. They are absolutely amazing with some hot peppers diced up into the meat. You could also add bacon pieces. Get creative!
Try whatever you can come up with. Share your results and let me know how I could improve my recipe. Its taken me a long time to get them right. But I am certain they could always be better. So, while we are enjoying the heat of summer, fire up your grill, crack open some cold ones, and enjoy some fantastic food with family and friends.