I was told when we moved here that it would be very brave for a Brit like me to make homemade burgers for Americans. I guess it is a bit like and American living in England serving up fish and chips or roast beef and Yorkshire puds. Anyway I wasn’t put off, and if anything it made me determined to show those Americans a (friendly) thing or too about how us Brits can cook.
In my attempts to make my own burgers I tried all sorts of recipes and bun combos and here is the result of all those experiments. Funnily, the recipe I found that required the least twiddling was from Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s America book. I adapted it, as always, but it really is a goodie.
Necessity being the mother of invention and all that meant that my trick, which I’ve not seen in any other recipes, came out of me being out of crackers or breadcrumbs. So I rummaged through the cupboard and decided to throw a few rice cakes in my food processor. Yes really, the polystyrene things you eat when you’re on a diet or trying to kid your children they’re having a treat. It makes sense though as they are so dry they crumble well and, when they’re cooked in with the meat, they absorb all the juices from the meat giving you a really juicy burger. The bonus is it also makes the burgers gluten free. And the other bonus is you don’t have to keep looking guiltily at that half used packet of rice crackers in the cupboard that remind you of your last misguided diet.
The other game changer is to use amazing meat. No trickery there. I’m lucky that my local butcher will mince (grind) meet to order so I know it is fresh and grass-fed.
And the final thing is the Parmesan which helps tick the umami box and, let’s be honest, a bit of Parmesan is pretty much always a good thing.
When I make a batch of burgers I usually make double the amount and then freeze some for speedy dinners when we need them. To freeze them, wrap each, raw, burger in parchment or plastic wrap then freeze and defrost before cooking. They defrost really quickly as they’re pretty thin so you are never too far away from deliciousness.
I really do think they taste better when they’re grilled on the barbecue. But sometimes, when I’m just making one, I’ll just cook in them in a really hot, dry frying pan. I don’t add oil as the meat has enough in there to get a lovely brown crust on the outside.
This is also a great meatball recipe, just make balls instead of burgers.
To make 6 burgers (or 12 sliders)
2 cloves garlic, minced (I use my coarse Microplane to quickly do this)
5 rice cakes or rice crackers blitzed in the food processor or crumbled well in a plastic bag with your hands (a few pea size lumps are fine)
500g (1lb) best quality, grass-fed ground beef (I get mine freshly ground with 20% fat content from the butcher)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 heaped teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg
A handful freshly grated Parmesan
Your choice of burger bun, I like a brioche one
Sliced pickles/ sliced tomatoes/ lettuce/ mayo/ ketchup/ mustard/ strong cheddar cheese /shredded kale and carrot dressed in mustard and yoghurt
1. Combine all the burger ingredients in a large bowl and use your hands, you really need to use your hands, to squeeze the ingredients together until well incorporated. I usually start by making a fist and pushing down with it into the mixture to start to break up the meat then I move to a squeezing motion to finish mixing.
2. I usually roll out the total amount of mixture into a very rough sausage then divide it into 6 (or 12 if making sliders) then form each burger by making a ball of mixture then flattening it to around 2cm (1 inch) thick.
3. Pop all the burgers onto a plate then cover (they will make your fridge garlicky so wrap them tight) and chill for at least an hour but you can make them a few hours ahead of time if it fits better with your day
4. I like to cook the burgers in a super hot, dry frying pan or on a hot grill for 3-4 minutes per side. Don’t move them more than the one time you flip them otherwise they won’t get chance to develop that yummy crust. And don’t do what lots of people do and keep squashing them with the flat of a spatula as they cook, you’ll squish out all the nice juice
5. Once you flip them, put a slice of cheese on top to melt and toast your buns ready to assemble with your choice of toppings.