Searching for a good burger isn't fun. It's depressing. You follow crazy leads (Krug's Tavern, Newark - worth a visit), eat mediocre burgers that should be better (Harvest Bistro, Closter), and generally get bitter from the experience. Or, more bitter, in my case.
The other night I was reminded that quite a decent burger can be found right in your kitchen. My kitchen, more correctly. This time around, it was a large, steakhouse style burger.
I try to grind my own beef for burgers. I use that big Kitchenaid thing that most people get as wedding gifts and leave on their counters to collect dust (I used it for nothing for years, then for grinding meat, and more recently for making pizza dough - the best gift ever). The grinder attachment costs a coupla few bucks, and you put the meat in it, and it grinds it. Pretty simple.
Why? Well, firstly, it's nice to know that your ground beef came from one animal, instead of the 10's or 100's that it probably came from with store-bought pre-ground beef. Imagine the thousands it comes from when you purchase industrial-type meat? The stuff diners buy? Oy.
I'm not sure why I'm getting into all of that, as this burger was made out of store-bought ground beef from the local Stop and Shop. Certified Angus Beef, at about 84/16. I usually make burgers from 80/20, but I figured I could get away with 84/16 as long as I put some butter in the middle. I was right.
I also ignored convention and didn't cook this thing (about 7 ounces) on searing high heat. I cooked it on medium heat, in a cast iron pan, with some butter and olive oil. You'll still get caramelization this way...it just takes longer. My thinking is that the longer the meat has a chance to sit on the heat, the more some of those fatty bits break down. But I could be all wet.
In addition to plopping some butter right in the middle of the patty, I also mixed the meat with salt and pepper. I'm a big fan of steak tartare, and I'm pretty sure that they add all of that good stuff (salty stuff) to that ground beef to make it taste good, so why not add salt and pepper to the inside of the burger? Cold, raw, ground beef is as tasteless in the middle of your burger as it is on your plate.
Short story long, a really good burger. No need for ketchup, as long as the tomato is salted and tasty.
The one point that restaurants have me on as far as burgers go are the buns. I just can not at this point make a good bun, nor will I bother trying for 2 burgers. I'm stuck with regular old hamburger buns from the store. However, I am enjoying Nature's Promise buns from Stop and Shop. No high fructose corn syrup (unlike all of those popular brands), which is a good start to any meal.