Is it pure coincidence or is it fate that May, the month in which AHT will make its official debut, happens to be National Hamburger Month?
It's probably a mixture of both, but there's no sense wasting time in pondering that, what with Memorial Day around the corner. Yes, the unofficial start of summerand the grilling season is upon us, so it was fitting that AHT senior editor Matty found this thread on Ask MetaFilter: Why are my hamburgers falling apart on the grill?
As is the case on Ask MetaFilter, an offshoot of the popular community blog MetaFilter, responses were abundant and helpful. The consensus seemed to be that the original poster was using too-lean beef. Respondents recommended going with 80 percent lean and established an upper limit of 85 percent lean. As "uncleozzy" said:
Agreed about the fat -- 85% lean is the absolute maximum you'll want for making hamburgers (I usually use 80%). Too little fat and your burgers will be dry, flavorless, and fall apart. You definitely do *not* need egg or breadcrumbs to make hamburgers. Those are for making meatloaf.
We wholeheartedly agree: Fat = juicy. And fillers distract from the taste of the beef.
On one of the handful of pleasant days we've had this spring, this reporter fired up the grill for the first time (see above photo). I used 80 percent lean beef, grilling my burgers to medium. Here is the recipe I follow:
Ingredients 1 1/2 pounds 80 percent lean ground chuck 1 teaspoon table salt (or to taste) 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper (or to taste) 4 buns* and desired topppings
1. Prepare the grill: Light about 6 pounds charcoal. Preferably hardwood charcoal ignited in a starter chimney. Let coals burn until they're completely covered with a thin coating of light-gray ash, about 30 minutes. Spread coals evenly over grill bottom, place rack on grill, and heat until medium-hot (hand can be held 5 inches above grill surface for no more than 3 or 4 seconds).
2. While coals are firing, break up meat with hands in a medium bowl. Sprinkle salt and pepper over meat, and mix lightly with hands to distribute seasonings. Divide beef into 4 six-ounce portions. Gently toss one portion back and forth between hands to form loose ball. Lightly flatten into patty 3/4-inch thick and about 4 1/2-inches in diameter. Gently press center of patty down until about 1/2-inch thick, creating a slight depression in each patty; repeat with remaining portions of meat.
3. Grill patties, uncovered, without pressing down on them, until well-seared on first side, about 2 1/2 minutes. Flip burgers with a metal spatula (not tongs or a fork), and continue grillingabout 2 minutes for rare, 2 1/2 minutes for medium-rare, or 3 minutes for medium. If making cheeseburgers, add cheese slices to patties immediately after flipping. About a minute before removing burgers, place buns on grill face open to toast. Serve burgers and buns immediately, with desired condiments and toppings.
There you have it. The basic recipe. Going beyond basics, I like to brush melted butter on the buns before toasting for an extra tasty result. Oh, and what's that indentation for in Step 2? I learned this trick from coworkers. The burger usually gets crisper and thinner at the ends due to fat loss during cooking. Making the ends thicker, therefore, leads to a more evenly shaped and evenly cooked patty.
* I prefer "Big Marty's", which are soft and delicious sesame-drenched rolls from Martin's Famous Pastry Shoppe.
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