Burgers are trendy. Patty and Bun, Bleeker Street, Meat Liquor, Honest Burger and countless other Soho establishments are knocking out some pretty amazing burgers. However, without a doubt, the best of the bunch are Hereford’s Beefy Boys. It’s not only me who thinks that either, their ‘Butty Back’, a burger with pulled pork on top, was recently crowned best burger at the World BBQ Championships in Las Vegas.
I was fortunate enough to watch them work and get my hands on one of their regular burgers at Grillstock 2016. My quest for burger perfection took one giant leap forward – steaming the bun was the final part of the jigsaw!
Let’s master the basics…
Rule 1: Do NOT use supermarket mince. Good burgers start and end at quality beef. Minced beef chuck (a cut from the shoulder) is more than adequate (ask your butcher what cut he uses for his mince). If you’re feeling super-fancy, a mix of chuck, brisket and short rib is the king of burger minces.
Rule 2: Keep it fatty. Lean burgers will not be a juicy as fatty ones. You should aim for 20% minimum fat content, I’m lucky enough that my butcher’s steak mince is fatty enough, but the best way to boost out the fat content in lean mince is by adding bone marrow – if you can find it (Waitrose sells it, but not in all stores).
Rule 3: It’s important not to overwork the meat. Yes, mix it well and push it together firmly but this should not end up looking like sticky sausage meat. Make it with wet hands to help it stick.
Rule 4: It’s tempting to make the burger a big fat one – try not to, a good burger is about finding the balance in flavours.
Buns: The hardest thing about a homemade burger is finding the right bun, a nice plump brioche is good, but I have also found regular white baps from Sainsbury’s, with a bit of egg wash, and popped in the oven for 5 minutes works well. The #1 top tip for a quality, juicy burger is to steam the bun. More on that later.
Sauce: A layer of burger sauce* on the bottom, a tomato relish on the top – a shot of bourbon in the relish goes down well. Developing a ‘secret’ sauce is fun, and can take your burger up a notch if you nail a good one.
The Stack: This post is about mastering a solid bacon cheeseburger. Look at the picture. Some sauce, a bit of shredded lettuce, perhaps a couple of red onion rings, a pickle or two, ‘plastic’ cheese, and some quality thick cut streaky bacon and those awesome steamed buns.
You can drop or substitute some of the burger ingredients if you want, but this is the combo I find works best. Seasoning and a few breadcrumbs are essential, maybe try a bit of marmite f you don’t have the others…
Makes 2 Burgers
Quick Burger SauceMix equal quantities of tomato ketchup and mayonnaise, then add a finely diced gherkin. I also like a splash of liquid smoke.
The final technique here where we grill the top half of the burger when stacked, and steam the bun is critical to transform it from a decent homemade effort, to restaurant quality awesomeness…
- Mix the mince with the chopped bone marrow, mushroom ketchup, mustard powder, horseradish, breadcrumbs and a large pinch of smoked salt and freshly milled black pepper. Form into a patty the diameter of your buns and make a slight depression in the centre to avoid it ballooning up when cooking, use a splash of water and form with wet hands if it isn’t sticking together too well. Then refrigerate.
- Grill the bacon on a low heat and turn the grill off when done to keep it warm. (low heat will make it crispy)
- Make whatever burger sauce you’re having, pick a good leaf or two from your lettuce then slice open your buns and lightly toast the open side – you’re now ready to build when the time comes!
- Get the burgers out of the fridge and apply some oil to them. Pan fry or griddle over a high (but not extreme) heat for a few minutes each side until they have developed a nice deep colour. Do not press them, do not push them about, just leave them. Don’t forget the edges!
- After the last burger flip, add 2 slices of cheese to each burger and top with the bacon. Add a little relish to the underside of the bun upper and stick that on the top, then cover loosely with foil to let the enclosed heat melt the cheese and warm the bacon.
- After a minute, squirt a bit of water under the foil dome and allow the steam generated enough time to soften the bun, this may take another minute.
- Plate up by adding a layer of mayo/special sauce to the base of each bun, followed by some lettuce, red onion and a slice of pickle. Then add the cheesy, bacon beefy patty, topped with the bun. Pop it on the base and secure with a stick if need be.
- Serve with shoestring fries, some onion rings and a couple of pickles or halved gherkins
On the BBQ...The technique is much the same, just add the cheese immediately after flipping and close the lid to help it melt. Introduce some smoke if you can. For a party I recommend making smaller patties and using those small, soft squarer buns.