Building a better burger

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.

In my quest to build a better burger, and in part because of my recent obessive use of my SousVide Supreme (picked up from ToTT), I decided to see if I could cook my burger patties by sous-vide.

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.

About Aun Koh

Aun has always loved food and travel, passions passed down to him from his parents. This foundation, plus a background in media, pushed him to start Chubby Hubby in 2005. He loves that this site allows him to write about the things he adores--food, style, travel, his wife and his bouncing baby boy!

30 comments on “Building a better burger
  1. Great article! Makes me want to finally go out and get a sousvide myself — I’ve been avoiding the investment for the longest time — but have actually wanted one ever since tasting the succulent flavor and juices of Chef Dee’s own Gunpowder Steak at The Prime Society in Dempsey. He made it in a sousvide — at that time an unusual thing in Singapore — and I’ve been a believer ever since. But alas, I have instead continued to “endure” my proud helper’s own version of a “burger,” which I would generously describe as a dry-as-sawdust disk of cow-pie-looking meat residue that can only be cooked to such dehumidified state by not only leaving it on the griddle for 15 minutes, but also crushed beneath a heavy flatiron to make sure that every possible molecule of moisture is ejected. It is then flipped onto an overly crusty, thick (read: bone dry) excuse for some sort of “Italian bun” (that, incidentally, exists nowhere in the Roman Empire), which absorbs any sheen of moisture and saliva inside my mouth before the desert-cracked beef tile can even scrape against my flaking gums. The result is a dreaded burger which strikes fear and loathing into the hearts and gullets of my family, thus forcing us to slather each burger with spoonfuls of mayonnaise just to give it enough slickness to traverse our esophaguses before choking us to death in a slow, flavorless fade to darkness…. All of this is to say I guess the time has come — I’m off to ToTTs tomorrow! KFCox

  2. the sousvide supreme is quite X ….i am trying to built mine with a table top fryer and a builtin digital thermostat….hope it works

  3. Hi there! Fascinating. I’m tempted to get a svs as well, and am also about to order Thomas Keller’s book on sous vide cooking. But I wonder, are the standalone PID devices with thermosensors easily available? These would convert a normal rice cooker into a sous vide device easily and for a fraction of the cost. There is an Aussie site that sells them for about $70 aud, but surely someone in singapore should have them too?

  4. Hi Aun, Thank you for the post on the SVS and it’s availability at ToTT!

    Wei – No, the pouches are not reusable. You should ensure that you get the food-safe ones too, especially for recipes that require high-heat cooking.

    Kevin – We offer a few cook books on sous vide cooking too! Trust you will have plenty of fun with the machine. I know my husband does with his.

    KH – We might still have a couple copies of “Under Pressure” by Thomas Keller at ToTT. Maybe you can check out the SVS while you’re there too. =)

  5. Kevin, I loved your comment. I really do believe the SVS will change burger night at your house forever!!!

    fatboy and KH: I did look at those systems but my wife vetoed any kind of hack. We both agree that a purpose built system is a lot dafer and more reliable.

  6. Hi Aun, I would like to check with you -could we technically roast the burger in the oven after searing it to get the right degree of doneness?

  7. The burgers look fantastic but I wonder how much of them I’d have to wear trying to fit them in my mouth. :) I’m edging closer and closer to getting a sous vide. One more raving recommendation and I won’t be able to resist the temptation.

  8. my husband would have a heart attack if he saw those sliders. OH-MY-GOSH. the way the sauce oozes from the bun makes them look utterly irresistible! I just found out about the Real Women of Philadelphia cooking competition. I believe it’s still going on and was thinking of submitting a recipe. By the looks of these tiny little burgers I may consider entering sliders in the sides category. Does anyone know when the contest ends? I’m feeling adventurous… :)

  9. Yum! I thoroughly enjoyed reading the post. I wasn’t hungry to start but now, I can really go for some sliders, sous-vide style! With that said, I think the perfect burger could really use some avocados!

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