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Memorial Day Burgers

June 1, 2010

This is a long post. If you’re new to cooking, I hope you’ll find it helpful.

We had hamburgers and cheeseburgers at our house for Memorial Day with Laura and Byron. We also had Oven Fried Potatoes and our Dedon House Salad. Laura and Byron thought it would be helpful I give suggestions for timing the meal so everything is ready at the same time.

(print version)

Timing can be one of the trickier things about cooking. This post is about how I timed the burgers, potatoes and salad last night. (One way to simplify things would have been to make a potato, vegetable or pasta salad that can be made in advance. Then you can concentrate on the burgers.)

Here’s how it roughly came together last night. First, the burgers. After all these years, I have finally learned that for the very best results, you need to grind your own meat. If you have a food processor, it’s actually very easy to do. And it’s so worth it! You’ll find that your burger has a much better texture and is much more flavorful if you grind the meat yourself.

You do not want to get the leanest cut of beef. Hamburgers need some fat. You can use chuck roast or chuck steaks. I found 1½ pounds of chuck steak; that was precisely the amount of meat I wanted.

I processed the meat in two batches; it seemed that 1½ pounds might be too much to do at once in my average size Cuisinart. Cut the meat into 1½ – 2 inch cubes. Put half of the meat in the food processor and pulse it until it is ground to the consistency you want. It happens very quickly. Check during the process to see if it needs to be redistributed. Remove the ground beef and add the other half to grind it.

Voila! Ground beef!

Before shaping the burgers, gently blend 1 teaspoon sea salt into the meat. Try to distribute the salt evenly, but handle the meat as little as possible.

Shape the beef into patties about 3/4-inch thick. (I like to make them on squares of wax paper. It makes it easy to transfer them to the grill.) With 1½ pounds of beef, you can make four 6-ounce burgers or six 4-ounce burgers. (Using my kitchen scale, I actually made two manly 6-ounce burgers and three daintier 4-ounce burgers.)

So here’s your tip of the day for shaping the burgers. Don’t pack them too tightly. Just shape them enough so they hold together. Make an indentation in the center of the burgers. When burgers cook, they swell up in the center. If you make an indentation, you’ll end up with a nice, even flat burger, instead of a puffy burger. (Thank you to the food scientists at Cooks Illustrated for the indentation tip!)

Once your burgers are shaped, it’s time to get the rest of the dinner ready.

1. If you’re not planning on toasting the buns on the grill, toast them under the broiler before you start the potatoes.


2. Preheat the oven to 425˚ for the potatoes. Scrub the potatoes and cut each into 8 or 10 wedges. Put on a baking sheet and toss with a bit of olive oil. Arrange them skin-side down and sprinkle with salt and a bit of paprika. Put in the oven and set the timer for 20 minutes.


3. Get the condiments ready for the burgers. Wash and dry lettuce, slice onions and tomatoes, slice cheese for cheeseburgers. (Slice pickles, if you have them. We were out. A “pickle emergency” as Bob says.) Get the ketchup and mustard out.


4. Wash and dry lettuce for the salad, and add whatever salad vegetables you’re using. (The lettuce could have been washed and dried in advance and stored in the refrigerator, wrapped in paper towels in a plastic bag.)


5. After the potatoes have cooked for about 10 minutes, turn on the gas grill to preheat. (Or preheat a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat, if you’re cooking the burgers on the stove. If you’re using a charcoal grill, you’re on your own figuring out when to start the fire. It should have been a while ago, though, for the coals to have time to cook down.)


6. When the 20 minutes are up for the potatoes, take them out of the oven. Gently stir them, and put them back in the oven for about 10 minutes more.


7. Now it’s time to start cooking the burgers. Put the burgers on the grill (heat lowered to medium works on mine) and set the timer for 5 minutes. (Or generously sprinkle the pan with salt and put the burgers in the pan.)


8. While the burgers are cooking, you can toss the salad. Use a bit of olive oil and toss well. Add salt and pepper and a bit of vinegar or lemon juice and toss again. Slice up an avocado if you’re using it for your salad or burgers.


9. Put the salad bowl and condiments on the table.


10. After five minutes, flip the burgers. Cook for an additional 3 – 5 minutes, depending on how well done you want them. I cook them for about 5 more minutes, but check them. If your fire is too hot, you may need less time. Add cheese slices, if you’re using them, for the last minute or so.


11. Put the burgers together; take the potatoes out of the oven and serve them with the burgers.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. Laura permalink
    June 2, 2010 8:44 am

    Thanks for putting the timing in there!! Very helpful 🙂

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