With UK temperatures soaring right now, it’s the perfect time to get grilling alfresco. Cooking and eating outside always seems to make everything taste better – and it’s a whole lot more fun. You don’t necessarily need an all-singing, all-dancing barbecue with all the fancy trimmings. A plain old simple grill will do. And if you don’t have the space or the time to do a barbecue, you can still sear and sizzle on your hob then take your plate outside and relax in the sun.
To help you get the very best taste experience from your humble burger, here are my top tips and recipe for making the best homemade burger you’ve ever had!
To start, make sure you choose ground beef that is 15-20% fat. The more fat, the better. The whole point of eating a burger is that you get that rich, meaty taste and it’s the fat that makes it so juicy and delicious. Now is not the time to be worrying about calories! If it’s too lean you end up with a dry and crumbly burger. And trust me, no one wants that.
Wherever possible, try to buy ground beef from your local butcher. As well as supporting our local businesses, which is so important at the moment, the meat tends to be a little fresher than that at the supermarket. It will also be less compressed than pre-packaged.
When handling the meat, don’t be heavy-handed. The more you handle and mash the patties while you’re shaping them, the tougher they become as they are being compressed. They don’t have to look perfectly shaped either. It’s the flavour that matters and makes it memorable, not how it looks.
Another thing to bear in mind when shaping the patties is to make them a little bigger than the bun. This is in case they shrink a little while cooking, which does tend to happen. If they do start shrinking on the grill, just create a dimple in the middle. This makes the meat contract then balloon as it cooks.
I always season both sides of the burger with salt and pepper just before cooking. Avoid seasoning well in advance as the salt will draw out some of the moisture and prevents a nice crust being formed on the outside.
If using a griddle pan, grease it well beforehand and wait for the patties to naturally self-release before flipping over. A wide spatula is a cook’s best friend. Whatever you do, don’t press the burger into the pan at any point. This releases the juices and you don’t want that. You want a juicy burger, not a juicy pan or barbecue. All you need to do is flip it once. No more.
When making a cheeseburger, add the cheese at the last minute. If possible, cover the grill with a lid to speed up the melting process. I prefer a mild cheese that complements the burger rather than an overpowering flavour.
Personally, I’m not a big fan of brioche buns or anything over-sophisticated when making a burger. I prefer a simple, soft squidgy bun as it’s all about the beef. Another good tip is to grill the buns for a minute in the same pan so that they crisp up and absorb some of the beef fat.
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