I like a plump, rare hamburger as much as the next guy, but sometimes I’m in the mood for a well-browned griddle burger. As regular readers know, I occasionally grind my own meat for sausages, shepherd’s pie and meatloaf. A lot of hamburger lovers insist that you need to grind your own beef for burgers to ensure that the patty doesn’t become too compressed. I’ve never really found that to be necessary for traditional, grilled hamburgers. But when it comes to griddle burgers, it’s an essential step.
With traditional burgers, very loosely formed patties break apart too easily on the grill. Plus, the porous nature results in lots of flare-ups that can carbonize the meat. I’m all for keeping the meat relatively loose (the opposite of those pre-pressed, frozen patties you buy in the freezer section), but store-bought ground beef works just fine for that.
Griddle burgers are different. If the meat is pressed too tightly, the underside of the patties char and the rest of the meat steams in its own juices. The looser the meat, the more surface area comes in contact with the griddle, and the more the fat flavors the patty. If you let the meat sizzle until it forms a golden-brown crust, it’ll hold together nicely for the flip.
To make proper griddle burgers, you need to grind a mixture of 75% chuck to 25% sirloin (about 1.3 pounds in total to make four burger patties). That will give you the fat you need to keep the patties moist and the meaty taste that comes from leaner beef. Others recommend using oxtail, brisket, and other flavorful cuts, but I think you should get the base recipe and cooking technique down before experimenting with taste.
Cut the meat into 1-2 inch cubes, season it with a little kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, and then freeze it for 30 minutes until the cubes firm up a bit. Then grind them through 1/4 inch holes onto some lightly oiled parchment paper.
Next, gently separate the ground beef into four equal-sized patties. Be careful not to press them together too much.
Get a griddle going over medium-high heat. I have an electric one, but you can use a cast-iron pan or a lightly-oiled skillet. When it’s starting to smoke, use an oiled spatula to move the patties to the griddle and very gently press them into the cooking surface. If you want to grill your onions, then throw them on there as well. When the meat looks browned all the way up the sides, it’s time to flip.
These burgers don’t take too long to cook and should be swimming in their own fat. While they’re cooking, toast some buns, slice a good tomato, and wash some lettuce. You can serve the burgers with any condiment you like, but the aforementioned burger recipe lists the ingredients for a hamburger sauce that’s like what you get on a Big Mac.
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1½ teaspoons ketchup
- 1½ teaspoons yellow mustard
- 4 slices kosher dill pickle, minced
- 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/8 teaspoon paprika
- Pinch cayenne pepper
When the burger patties are almost finished cooking, lay a slice of cheese directly on the meat so it can ooze into all the nooks and crannies in the hot patties. When the cheese is amply melted, place the juicy, crispy patties onto the toasted hamburger buns and serve.
How perfect does this look? I can’t even begin to describe how sweet the crust on the patties tastes.