After last week agreeing with Michael Pollan that junk food is OK as long as you make it yourself, it seems like the perfect time to share my new favourite technique for cooking burgers.
Normally if I were on a burger-flipping spree, I’d fire up my barbeque to get a nice crusty patty. But recently I’ve been spending a lot of time at my Irishman’s new residence in the Snowy Mountains which is between barbeques at the moment (not that I’m complaining, the kitchen is new and a dream to cook in – electric oven with a gas cooktop, say no more.).
So when I read about a technique for cooking burgers in a frying pan that give juicy burgers with a lovely meaty crust, I was very keen to give it a go. I picked the idea up from Robert Wolke in his great food-nerd, I mean kitchen science, book ‘What Einstein Told His Cook’.
The theory goes, that if you cook your burgers on a thin layer of salt, the salt initially draws out juices from the meat. It then quickly congeals the juices to form a crust that prevents further moisture loss. It also prevents the burgers from sticking to the pan and encourages all the delicious brown crunchy bits to stay attached to the burger rather than the pan.
On my first attempt I was working from memory on quantities and actually used more than twice the amount of salt I should have. While these maiden burgers delivered in terms of their crust and juiciness, they were unbearably salty. Which didn’t stop us from devouring them but did result in copious water guzzling afterward.
Consulting the recipe for the correct quantity a few weeks later, the burger experiment was repeated with brilliant results. Even in my most un-nonstick pan, they cooked without so much as hinting they were going to attach themselves to the pan. And the flavour was everything a good burger should be: beefy with crispy caramelised bits and perfectly seasoned. Too easy really.
[5 ingredients | 10 minutes]
salt crusted burgers
Inspired by Robert L Wolke from What Einstein Told His Cook.
I know what constitutes the perfect burger is really a personal thing. So please feel free to take this recipe and customise it.
I’ve played around with using tomato sauce (ketchup) as well as mayo and even mixing the two together to make a crazy pink hybrid sauce. But the mayo on its own was a hands down winner.
I normally consider onions a burger essential, but to keep this under 10 minutes, I’ve added chopped chives to the burger meat to give a little oniony flavour burst without the time required to cook down onions.
250g (1/2lb) minced (ground) beef
1/2 bunch chives, finely chopped
mayonnaise, preferably homemade
mixed salad leaves
2 english muffins, pannini, or good quality hamburger buns
Place 1 scant teaspoon fine sea salt in a skillet or heavy based frying pan and shake to cover the base. Heat over a medium high heat for 3 minutes or until very hot.
Meanwhile, combine beef and chives and season well with black pepper only. Form into 2 burger patties.
Cook burgers for approx 3 minutes. Lift the burgers out of the pan, shake the pan to redistribute the salt to where the burgers were. Return burgers uncooked side down and sear for another 3 minutes or until cooked to your liking.
Spread mayo on the insides of your muffins or bun. Place beef on the bottom half. Top with leaves and finally the top of the muffin / bun.