Let’s conduct an experiment, shall we?
When you think about a “burger” what image pops into your head? Go ahead…think about it for a few seconds. We’ll wait…
Is it a basic measure of ground beef on a bun? Did you go a littler further and dress it with cheese, lettuce, and tomato? Maybe your imagination ran wild with flavorful toppings, or even took you to a meal in your past when you devoured a memorable monstrosity that challenges the very definition of a burger?
Whether you’re a purist who prefers a plain patty or you pile on the toppings, it’s worth looking at exactly what is inside the hamburger itself if you want to elevate the experience. Here are some ideas, along with tips from Forrest Homerding, the manager of the Goodstock by Nolan Ryan butcher shop in Round Rock, on how to build a better burger.
For the purist – If you want the taste of the beef to be the star of the show, Forrest recommends that you consider the cuts of beef that are used in the burger itself. The classic hamburger is made of ground chuck, but you can explore replacing or blending that with ground sirloin or brisket. Different cuts of beef have varying ratios of lean meat and fat content, and as long as the mix doesn’t get too lean (the ideal ratio is 80% meat to 20% fat), you can add heartier, beefier flavor to a plain hamburger.
For the toppings-obsessed – If you want to bring different flavors to the burger party, the only limit is your imagination! You can stick with ground chuck, and instead of putting ingredients on top of a cooked burger, you simply chop them up and mix them into the meat before forming patties. You can keep it classic with combinations like bacon and cheddar, or jalapeno-and-pepper jack cheese, or try just about anything your heart desires. Forrest recommends you stick to a few rules of thumb if when it comes to experimenting:
- Be mindful of moisture content: Ingredients like mushrooms, onions, and tomatoes are common as toppings, but they all contain a lot of water, especially in their raw form. If you want to blend them into your patty mix, cook them first, and don’t go overboard unless you want a soggy burger.
- Pair flavors and textures that contrast or complement each other: When devising your next creation, think about the five flavor profiles: salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami. Consider how those flavors will mingle with the beef, and give it a try. There’s areason cheese is a common component in blended burgers: not only does it add distinctive flavor in every bite, but it also lends a creaminess that sets it apart. And depending on the cheese you choose, it can add saltiness, sweetness, and even umami, and provides a great textural balance to most any other ingredients.
- Cook blended burgers to a proper temperature: You may like a rare or medium-rare cheeseburger, but if you’ve blended ingredients like vegetables, cheese, or other meats into your patty, Forrest advises that you cook them at least to medium temperature (160 degrees F).
For the eco-conscious – If you are trying to reduce your meat intake but still want the taste of a real beef burger, many people have found delicious results blending mushrooms into the meat mixture, to an equal weight of meat. There are a variety of recipes available online that call for varying amounts of mushrooms – up to equal weight of the meat –including this one from the Beef Council.
If you’re ready to try your hand at a homemade blended burger, Forrest recommends you start with a classic mix. His go-to recipe to make four Jalapeno and Pepper Jack burgers is as follows:
- 24 oz. of 80/20 ground chuck (quality matters!)
- 2.4 oz. of pepper jack cheese (it helps if you can find a brand that doesn’t melt quickly)
- 0.2 oz of grated jalapeno peppers (about two small peppers with seeds and membrane removed)
- Combine all ingredients in a bowl, mixing with your hands until the cheese and peppers are evenly distributed.
- Divide the meat into four equal portions and shape each mixture into a ball. It should be slightly larger than your hand if you touch your middle finger to your thumb.
- Press the balls into patties and heat up your cast iron or grill on medium-high heat; you want a HOT surface to start.
- Cook for 3-5 minutes per side, depending on desired doneness. Try not to move the burger around to ensure you get a good crust on each side, and the cheese stays inside where it belongs.
- Remove from heat and resist temptation while resting for a couple of minutes. Place on buns and serve.
Feel free to stick to the script, or let your imagination run wild. Either way, if you stay mindful of these guidelines you’re sure to enjoy a summer of amazing blended burgers!