Although summer is not officially here yet, many of us have already fired up the grill on a few occasions. (Of course, some dedicated individuals continue to grill all year round.) Hamburgers are always a favourite for many, but there are still countless people who purchase frozen premade burgers instead of making them from scratch. Therefore it is my quest to give you some great ideas for perfecting the homemade burger patty.
There are several accounts for where the name "hamburger" is derived, but the most common seems to be from Hamburg, Germany; where people often had what was called a "Hamburg Steak." It consisted of shredded beef mixed with onions and different spices. Many people today will rely on the burger toppings, rather than the patty itself, to create a flavourful burger. I myself like to focus on the patty first and then accentuate with toppings. It is much easier to complement something if it already tastes good on its own.
Let's start with the selection of meats to use. There are many burgers made with ingredients other than beef, such as chicken, turkey, salmon and even veggie burgers, but I will stick to the traditional focus of beef for the purpose of this column. Instead of settling for simple ground beef at your supermarket, head off to your local butcher instead. There you will find a number of choices such as ground sirloin and ground chuck as well as a couple grades of ground beef.
Lean ground beef is the most common choice for consumers because it seems to represent the best value. It typically has no more than 17 per cent fat, but because of this fat content the finished burger has more flavour and moisture than extra-lean ground beef.
Extra-lean ground beef has no more than 10 per cent fat content. This not only makes it a leaner choice but a healthier one as well. Nutritionists will tell you that if you enjoy eating burgers, then extra-lean ground beef in moderation is a great way to help reduce saturated animal fats. If you find it's too lean, then one could always add a small amount of healthier olive oil to your burger mix.
Ground sirloin is exactly what the name states. Regular, lean and extralean ground beef comes from a variety of different cuts of beef, but ground sirloin is only derived from the primal loin and sub-primal sirloin areas of the cow. Ground sirloin thus offers more robust meat flavour and is somewhat tender, but leaner yet than the above mentioned ground beef options.
Ground chuck, I feel, is the best option. It is from the shoulder area of the cow and has a much better balance of meat and fat, as well as more richness of beef flavour than any other option.
At around 20 per cent, it has more fat than lean ground beef, but it is important to remember that when it comes to your palate, not your waistline, fat is your friend as it offers more flavour and juiciness. Because of its meaty flavour, ground chuck is also a popular choice for meatballs.
Chef Dez is a food columnist, culinary instructor and cooking show performer. Visit him at www.chefdez.com.