Building a better burger
Posted on February 21, 2011 by Aun
It’s no secret that I love burgers. Love going out for them and also love making them. And I think I do a pretty good job. Haven’t had too many complaints at least. That said, I’ve always been slightly bothered by one thing. I prefer my burgers with a slightly thicker patty. It’s just more pleasurable to chomp down on a nice fat burger. While I have had good burgers made with thin, flat patties–which necessitates at least two patties per burger–they just don’t have the same level of juiciness and taste compared to a well-made thick patty. My problem is that cooking a thick patty can be tricky.
All too often, and unless you like your burgers well-done, it’s hard to gauge exactly when the whole patty is perfectly cooked. I like my burgers somewhere between medium-rare and medium. And all too often, after frying or grilling them for what I think is the right amount of time, and having developed what looks like the perfect crust on the exterior of my patty, I’ll bite into it and realize that the inside core is still under-done. And there’s nothing ickier than a mushy raw center.
Of course, this is why thin patties are so frequently made and used. It’s a lot easier to cook a thin patty completely to a preferred doneness (although with thin patties, you almost never get one any less cooked than medium–and that only if you insist). And while I could make life easy for myself, I’m not willing to sacrifice on flavour, texture or taste.
Technically, it made complete sense. Using the sous-vide method, I could cook my burgers completely through to a uniform temperature/doneness. Further, cooking them in vacuum-sealed bags should preserve and enhance the flavours of my patty mix beautifully. So, this past weekend, I decided to give my sous-vide burger experiment a go (only after I convinced my wonderful and very pregnant wife to help me out by making some brioche burger buns).
I started with 3 kinds of ground meat. My mixture was 50% wagyu rump, 25% ribeye and 25% pork neck. To this, I added some raw egg, diced red onion, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, sugar and cayenne pepper. Once I had formed the patties, I then placed them on a baking sheet and popped them in the freezer for 30 minutes. This made them firm enough to vacuum pack. My worry was that if I had vacuumed packed them straight after I had formed the patties, they would have, well, gone “splat!”, flattening out with juices leaking out everywhere.
The firm patties vacuum-packed perfectly. I then cooked them in the SousVide Supreme at 57 degrees Celsius for 50 minutes.
To serve with the burger, and in addition to S’ amazing homemade brioche buns, which I lightly fried in a combination of butter, duck fat, and sea salt, I also made two toppings. One featured chopped egg and iceberg lettuce mixed with ketchup, mayo, and maggi sauce. The other was a lightly pickled relish of zucchini and cucumber. I also melted some cheddar cheese over the burger, just to give it a wee bit more flavour.
For the patties themselves, which admittedly look a little gross straight out of the vacuum bags–and also feel a tad slimy–all I had to do was toss them (well, carefully place them) on a hot, lightly oiled pan. Very quickly, the burgers had perfect crusts (I have to admit it constantly amazes me how sous-vide meats go from gross and slimy to delectable and tantalizing with just a touch of heat) and smelled incredible. Once assembled, I served the burgers to my guinea pigs, my wife and parents. My father is a secret burger addict, so I was very excited to see what he thought of my sous-vide burgers–not that I told him how they were cooked until after he had eaten his first one.
Personally, I think they came out gorgeously. The patties were everything I could ask for. They were juicy and tender and full of flavour. They were cooked to just the right doneness and, thanks to the quick sear, had lovely crusts.
I know I said this a couple posts ago. But I need to say it again. I love my SousVide Supreme. This time, because it’s helped me do something I’ve been trying to do for years–which is to build an even better burger.