How does one make a great hamburger, or for that matter even one that is ordinary? Naturally, the meat is the most important ingredient with the best type being a cut that is flavourful; though I doubt whether the run-of-the-mill stuff that is found in today’s supermarket pays much regard to this detail.
If you are finicky about culinary matters as I am, then I suggest that you look for a first class butcher, of which there are many to be found in town and ask for sirloin, round or chuck. The best hamburger meat ought to be twice ground viz. first through the coarse plate of the grinder followed by the fine plate. While you are at it, the meat should not be too lean, with anywhere from fifteen to twenty per cent fat being ideal.
The earliest known modern hamburger first made its appearance in the early 20th century. The main reason for its development was due to the culinary needs of a rapidly changing society brought about by industrialisation and the emergence of the working class and middle class who desired mass-produced, affordable food that could be consumed outside of the home. Merchants of the German port of Hamburg who had been trading through centuries with Estonians, Latvians and Finns had acquired the Baltic taste for scraped raw beef. However, it wasn’t until the St Louis World Fair in 1904 that grilled burned beef was introduced to the rest of the world by the Germans of South St Louis as hamburgers.
Americans quickly took to this new gastronomical delight, the way a duck takes to water, and it became an instant hit. For a bustling people, it offered a combination of convenience, economy and nourishment and became the rage of the day. As a matter of fact, it was, its more glamorous hotel menu name; Salisbury steak, a throwback to the end of the century London physician Dr. J H Salisbury, who invented a regimen based on grilled lean minced beef three times a day!
Yikes! Nowadays alas, we hear of middle class and rich Ugandan children who have unconsciously become devout followers of Dr. Salisbury’s diet and will eat nothing else but burgers with any change being in the form of pizzas. Shortly after its creation, the hamburger quickly included all of its currently typically characteristic trimmings, including onions, lettuce, and sliced pickles.
After various controversies in the 20th century, including a nutritional controversy in the late 1990s, the burger is now readily identified with the United States, and a particular style of cuisine, namely fast food. Along with fried chicken and apple pie, the hamburger has become a culinary icon in the America. The hamburger’s international popularity demonstrates the larger globalization of food that also includes the rise in global popularity of other national dishes, including the Italian pizza, Chinese fried rice and Japanese sushi.
The hamburger has spread from continent to continent perhaps because it matches familiar elements in different culinary cultures.
When it comes to making burgers, I am from that school of thought that says “less is more” and by this I mean, the fewer the ingredients you add to the meat, the better the outcome. Nevertheless, it is not cast in concrete and do feel free to take some liberty and add garlic, onions though with a modicum of restraint. Ultimately, the best hamburger is the simplest in composition allowing for the garnishes adding all the flavours that you desire.
Last but not least and a bit of well-meant advice, handle the meat as little as possible: a few pats to shape it into a patty. Frankly speaking, anything more will rob the burger of its juiciness and primal flavour.
FOR THE BURGERS:
1 kg ground round, chuck or sirloin
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted or olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon Royco
6 hamburger buns
6 slices ½ inch thick onions of your choice, red or yellow
FOR THE TOPPING:
Iceberg lettuce leaves
Sliced fresh, ripe tomatoes
Sliced dill pickles or sweet pickles
Cooked bacon (2 strips or more per burger)
1.Preheat the grill to high
2.Divide the meat into 6 equal parts. Lightly wet your hands with cold water and then form each portion of meat into a round patty, 4 inches across and of even thickness.
3.When ready to cook, oil the grill gate.
4.Brush one side of the patties and the onion slices lightly with melted butter and season with salt and pepper. Arrange both the burgers and onion slices, butter side down, on the hot grill until nicely browned, no more than 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 5 minutes. Brush the cut sides of the buns with the remaining melted butter and place, cut sides down on the grill the last couple of minutes.
5. Arrange the toppings and place the burgers and onion slices on the buns and serve at once.
N.B. Hamburgers can be made ahead of time and placed on a large plate or platter, covered with cling film and then refrigerated for later use. If you prefer making cheeseburgers, in addition to the above ingredients as shown above you will need:
6. slices no more than ¼ inch thick of a sharp cheddar cheese, Swiss cheese or even Roquefort would do nicely.
Follow the instructions above up to the first side of the burgers in step 4. After you have flipped them, place a piece of cheese on top and cover the grill and cook the burgers until the cheese is melted and the meat is done to taste which should be no more than 5 minutes.