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Hamburgers


DanCole42
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I was very surprised to not see a post already dedicated to mankind's greatest culinary invention (and no, I won't qualify that). We've got posts for Spam, leeks, and something called "pepiche," but nothing for this ultimately ubiquitous urbane hunger unguent.

So I figured I'd start one.

Tell your hamburger stories and anecdotes!

Describe memorably delicious or awkward hamburgers!

Share recipes!

Exchange hamburger philosophies!

Several years ago, at the age of 21, when my wife (then girlfriend) asked me what my favorite food was, I shed fifteen years and said, "Hamburgers!" with all the joyful exuberance of a six year old who wants to eat hamburgers with ketchup for every meal.

And who wouldn't? A properly constructed hamburger is a complete and balanced meal with protein, vegetables, fungi, dairy, and grains. It can be equally delicious with American cheese and with black truffles - or both! It is unassuming - it doesn't rely on fancy presentation or week-long sauces (although it certainly can!), it just presents simple ingredients the quality of which speaks for itself. It says "bite into me, and you will taste the essences of all my parts, tomato, lettuce, beef, bread... and then suddenly a magical synthesis will occur inside your mouth as each part is transcended into a sublime whole." It is utterly versatile - there is no dish that cannot be turned into a hamburger: ground chicken with mozzarella, tomato sauce, Parmigiano Reggiano, on garlic bread becomes chicken parmesan; ground turkey with stuffing and gravy becomes a Thanksgiving dinner; ground beef, properly spiced and topped with roasted peppers, onions, sour cream, cheddar and salsa becomes a fajita. A hamburger asks nothing of you but your enjoyment and your imagination.

Does the quality of the meat matter? Sometimes, but usually they're just carriers for some juicy, salivarily-complimentary char.

I've been to McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, Sonic, Ted's Montana Grill, TGI Friday's, Ruby Tuesday's, Cheesecake Factory, this pirate ship somewhere in the British Virgin Islands, Palena, Heathrow Airport, Johnny Rockets, In-and-Out, Steak and Shake, Five Guys, Elevation Burger, and I've never met a hamburger I didn't enjoy (although some I obviously enjoyed more than others).

Once I went to Vegas, and I was psyched to try the Rossini at the Burger Bar. Foie gras and truffles. Delicious. Transcendent. My wife said, "I can't believe you're spending $60 on a hamburger." But, like spinach to Popeye, the burger gave me superpowers and immediately after finishing I sat down at my first poker tournament and came in first place, winning $800 and making my gustatory investment back lucky thirteen times over.

When making hamburgers, a lot depends on my mood. I may go nuts, mixing sundried tomatoes and fancy mushrooms into a paddy I'll then stuff with stinky blue cheese and top with sauteed mushrooms. Sometimes I'll leave the meat plain and top with the classics, lettuce, tomato, American cheese, red onion, little bit of mustard, lots of ketchup, recently a bit of mayo. If I've worked out heavily that day, bacon. Avocado works great. Maybe some truffle oil. I make a MEAN chicken burger that I coat with panko bread crumbs. When I grind my own meat, it's a combo of sirloin, ribeye, bacon, onion, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper. High heat, hot coals, hardwood. Burn, baby, burn.

I drink beer while grilling, but usually wine while eating. Some would say zinfandel with the classic burger, but give me a Syrah or Sangiovese any day.

My wife loves hamburgers, too. She makes a mean fajita burger (from a Rachael Ray recipe) and always indulges my Five Guy's whims.

For sides, who can argue with the classic potato? "Boil them, mash them, stick them in a stew," says Samwise. Lately I've taken to frying my own Frenches, drizzled with salt and pepper and maybe some truffle oil. Serve in homemade lemon-garlic mayo. Chips will do in a pinch, or a grilled or roasted vegetable appropriate to the particular type of burger (that's what my heart prefers, anyway).

When I was a kid, I used to prefer my burgers double, but plain, save for the titanic portions of ketchup I would douse them in. Like the Titanic, it was usually a disaster. Once I got ketchup behind my ear. Once I defied physics and got ketchup on the bottom of my sock while wearing shoes. Put that in your buns and smoke it.

Speaking of buns, on the Great Debate of toasted vs. untoasted, I've always come down on the "heated" side of the debate. Yuk yuk. I feel like a little char on the bread lends an extra crunch.

Why doesn't Ray's the Steaks have a burger anymore? I wish I knew.

Would I rather have one really thick paddy or two thin ones? Two thin. Same amount of meat, greater amount of char. That's right, I like my burgers two thin, but I don't want my women too thin.

In a former life I was Wimpy. Then I got beaten to death for squelching on so many burger debts. In my next life I was Mayor McCheese, but I died 'cause my head was a giant hamburger. Most recently I was the Hamburgler, but I ended up on death row due to a non-burger related crime. Now I'm me, and you can't spell haMburgEr without "me."

So, what does everyone else think about the hamburger?

(If you think the above post was a little over the top, just remember that I could have replaced every instance of the word "hamburger" with "Rachael Ray" and, in my mind, still have had a totally accurate post)

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Best burger - However you like it seasoned.

hand patted - not too thin on a superhot grill

3 minutes per side - top with cheese one minute more

take off immediately

let rest for 3 minutes

eat NOW!

Exactly. I generally season the meat with black pepper, thyme, and a few healthy glugs of Worcestershire.
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Would I rather have one really thick paddy or two thin ones? Two thin. Same amount of meat, greater amount of char.

Unfortunately for me, when I am charcoal-grilling meat, I am unable to forget about the unfortunate fact I learned a few years ago, that the interaction of fire and meat to the point of blackening creates a carcinogenic chemical reaction. I do dearly love charcoal-grilled beef in many variations, but I try to hold back on burning the hell out of it, if I can prevent it.

I like thick burgers, because it is just about impossible to cook a thin patty medium rare. And Dan-- I'm afraid your philosophy doubles your exposure to a nasty reality.

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I was all ready to post my hamburger stand memories, but I'll search out the other thread for that.

It took me years of making burgers (as sandwiches) at home to discover that the best way is to make plain (pepper, maybe a little worcestershire or tabasco), thin patties, then stack multiple burgers on a bun if you want a larger serving. Add onions, lettuce, seasonings, etc., as needed. Interestingly, once this occurred to me, I realized that this is what McDonald's and the other chains do, as well. They're much more manageable to eat between pieces of bread this way. It took me years to come around to this idea.

If you're just having a ground beef burger without the bun, eaten with knife and fork, larger works okay. My mom made fine hamburgers that way, but we rarely ate them on buns. (ETA: I agree with Zora that the larger patty makes medium rare more attainable. I don't eat very many burgers and don't go for lots of char, so I'm not too concerned about carcinogens from cooking the thinner ones.)

One of the most awkward hamburger situations I was ever in was close to 20 years ago, at a neighbor's house the evening of his wife's funeral. He had bought really good meat for burgers and I was assisting one of his sons-in-law in preparing them. Everything but the kitchen sink went into these burgers--not the way I would have done it at all, but I wasn't the chef--hunks of onion and pepper, sauces, all kinds of stuff--really thick, enormous burgers. The recent widower was quite unhappy that the expensive meat he had bought turned into, essentially, mini meat loaves. I caught so much grief for that and it wasn't my idea :blink: Given the circumstances, though, I just kept my mouth shut.

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For those that have ground their own meat, is it worth the trouble? Does this result in a noticeably better burger?

Nah.

I mean, it might if you decided to splurge on better meat than you'd buy pre-ground, but the texture isn't improved. I also think that the burgers tend to be a little dryer, because you're likely to buy leaner meat than the crap they grind up for you.

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I've never noticed that grinding our own made a big diff, but I'm pretty careful about what I buy to begin with.

Cast iron pan over fairly high heat gives my favorite result. 3-4 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the burger. One big patty, just so I can ruin whatever shirt I'm wearing.

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For those that have ground their own meat, is it worth the trouble? Does this result in a noticeably better burger?
I don't really notice a difference. I just do it because, hey, you get to play with a meat grinder. Plus I enjoy anything that adds an illusion of control to my cooking.
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No, no, burger stand memories are FINE here! Please don't feel like you need to post in the other forum.
After I posted here, I realized that the other thread was for more current dining out burger experiences, and local ones :blink: .

The only real burger stand memory I have as a kid is of Scotty's, which was a little place between our house and my grandparents' in Pennsylvania. I had always thought it was a standalone place, but apparently it was part of a chain. It's the only one I ever saw. It was only maybe a 20 minute or so drive from our house to theirs, but we'd often stop in the middle of a weekend afternoon trip to get a burger and fries. It was a big treat. I can't remember if they had milkshakes or what else. I loved the fries. I doubt the food was really that great, but it was a big treat to eat at a place like that.

This link may or may not work. Scotty's was located behind the Sinclair gas station you can see in the photo. The gas station obscures the view. It was on a faily small strip of land in the middle where two roads forked, making it a memorable enough spot that I can still visualize it decades later. It was closed probably by the early 70s. I think the building of the Blue Route (PA 476) wiped that space out.

That's a long prelude to explain why I have such memories of it, but we didn't usually eat hamburger when we went out when I was young. It wasn't considered safe when my parents were younger to eat hamburger in a restaurant. It had to be a place you trusted not to make you sick from bad meat. There were some places we'd get hamburgers, but it was unusual. Hamburgers were something prepared at home. (My parents lived through the Depression and were pretty risk-averse, and fairly slow to change. By the late-70s and on, they had changed this policy, but it's what I grew up with.)

There were very few fast food restaurants around in the suburban area where I lived growing up. When I was very young, Scotty's was about it. I was in high school before there was a McDonald's in our town. There was a Gino's, which had the local Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise, but we didn't really eat there much. I'm not even sure if that had opened before Scotty's closed. They had burgers--the Gino Giant, I remember. We went to a Burger King exactly once. I was maybe 10, and my mother had a diabetic seizure in the middle of the place and I got sent to stay at my grandparents while she went to the hospital. It was many years before I ever set foot in another Burger King.

It's so odd to think back on it now, but McDonald's built its empire on safe predictable burgers. You could get a burger at any McDonald's and it was the same reliable quality and wouldn't make you sick.

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There were very few fast food restaurants around in the suburban area where I lived growing up. When I was very young, Scotty's was about it. I was in high school before there was a McDonald's in our town. There was a Gino's, which had the local Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise, but we didn't really eat there much. I'm not even sure if that had opened before Scotty's closed. They had burgers--the Gino Giant, I remember. We went to a Burger King exactly once. I was maybe 10, and my mother had a diabetic seizure in the middle of the place and I got sent to stay at my grandparents while she went to the hospital. It was many years before I ever set foot in another Burger King.
I grew up in the same area (albeit much later :blink: ) and for me as a kid the biggest treat was Lee's Hoagie House in Montgomeryville. A real greasy spoon of a place with cracked tile floors, a huge space heater between all the tables, and a giant ne'er-cleaned griddle. Fries, vanilla milkshake (with extra big straw), and a charred double hamburger with tons of ketchup (this was where the sock incident happened). The fact that it was right next door to my dad's place of business certainly helped (although, many, many years later when I was in college my dad expanded and took over the space).

Come to think of it, Lee's Hoagie House's hamburger is probably the earliest food I can recall the taste of (having long ago forgotten strained peas and breast milk). I now have nostalgia wax all over my desk. I can feel it so clearly on my tongue. I remember everything about it. Probably what set me down my path as a foodie...

The first time I realized that there were acceptable toppings to a burger other than just ketchup was when Burger King released the Bullseye Barbecue Burger in the late 80s. Probably the best burger to ever come of a fast food establishment.

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Lot's of burger bloviations but read on to the paen to Palena's burgers at the end:

David Rosengarten's TASTINGS

FILED: MAY 16, 2007

HAMBURGER SECRETS

by David Rosengarten

Some of the most important things, culinarily speaking, get the least attention in print. Oh sure, you can find any quantity of prattle about foie gras, caviar, fusion cooking, Tuscan black cabbage soup, Mogul clay-oven cooking, the seasonality of thrushes, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. There's apparently no limit of hunger for food info that seems trendy and/or recherché.

But what about the stuff that we really eat most of the time? Can't we talk about that, as well? Do we really have nothing to tell each other about something so sacred as the hamburger?

Me, I'm ready to go.....especially after a couple of recent extraordinary hamburger experiences....one remarkable for its flatness, one remarkable for its greatness.

What I want to tell the world is this: I don't always agree with hamburger orthodoxy. I hear about places all the time that are supposed to have "the best burgers," and some of these places have been practically canonized. When I finally get to 'em, very often, I can see what the sizzle's all about.....but I'm not always lovin' the steak. Or....in this case......

The reason I'm such a burger Scrooge is that I've got one criteria above all for burger greatness, the one quality than which there can be no greater: the rich, almost buttery, taste of fatty beef. That's it, plain and simple. If I don't detect that taste halfway through my first bite, my hamburger soul has already moved on. It is why—am I really going to say this?—I have a modicum of respect for the beefy-buttery-tasting little puffs that they turn out at Le Chateau Blanc (please don't make me translate). That beefiness is my guiding light through burgerdom, my North Star—and the other secrets of my burger life fall around it like satellites:

I've been known to eat a burger without ketchup. Yes, it's true, despite the fact that I've squirted as much Heinz as the next guy on the burgers of my life. It is undeniable that putting stuff on your burger is like accessorizing your wardrobe—it's fun, and it draws attention away from the fact that maybe the clothes you're wearing underneath ain't so great. But that's the point. When I want a burger, it's not ketchup that I want. It's not onions. It's sure not special sauce, or lettuce, or anything else. I WANT BEEF! I would guess that many a, many a young burger-chomping person in this country has never really sunk his or her whitened teeth into a bun-full of warm, tender steer that tastes like steer. It is one of the great primal experiences. I know....because, when I was growing up, my Mom used to pan-fry two excellent burgers for me, top them with American cheese, melt the cheese under a cover, then plate each burger on a tan slice of lightly toasted white bread. Open-face burgers. The way the gooey cheese and the meat juices ran together into that bread below—no ketchup please!—though a nightmare to the Kosher, was manna to me.

Needless to say—me of the white-bread history—I'm not that keen on the big, fancy breads that are today substituting for hamburger buns at the "serious" restaurants around the country that deign to serve burgers. For me, a simple, fluffy bun is burger's best friend. Yes, I have had a focaccia raft or two that has carried the beef with aplomb—but I still end up feeling like Walter Mondale. I want my buns to be like stagehands in black at a performance of Japanese theatre: they're not there. I refuse to see them. They are not allowed to bring any attention to themselves at all. They are pure vehicle.

Another knee-jerk Rule of the upscale, modern burgermeisters concerns thickness: to them, only wimpy burgers are thin. The burgers at "serious" burger places are heroic in proportion, making the quarter-pounder look like a lightweight. And, truth be told, I've nothing against a massive mouthful of meat. But, truth be told again, I've also nothing against a thin disc. Only one thing matters: is it beefy-buttery? If it is, I will eat with great delight as many of the thin ones as it takes to make me full.

The grill is not necessarily as good as it gets. I'm sure you're shocked all over again with that one—for everybody knows that the crusty-brown exterior of a burger, branded like cattle with the marks of a grill, adds a whole new flavor to the beast, devoutly to be munched. And I'm not knocking it, having often sniffed that aroma at fifty yards and changed direction to pursue it. But can a burger ascend to burger heaven without it? Absolutely, positively, unequivocally yes.....because one other kind of cooking-medium-flavor competes with it. I'm talkin', my friends, 'bout the flavor of the well-worn veteran griddle. The grate of the grill doesn't have much of a memory; after it's sponged down tonight, it won't carry much of yesterday's flavor tomorrow. But that ain't the case with a restaurant griddle that's been producing burgers for twenty years: I swear you can taste the soul of old burgers in the new ones that a good griddle turns out. And it's a quality, unlike the smoky-bitter quality of the grill, that coheres brilliantly with my favorite beefy-buttery flavor—because it is beefy-buttery itself! The only problem with this flavor is that it's not so easy to reproduce at home, in a pan that only cooks the occasional burger. And that is why I keep beef fat in my fridge—I age it, actually—to melt in my burger pan at home before I do a griddle-burger. Just get that pan a little shiny with melted fat, then put your fat treasure back in the fridge. You will have made a major advance toward the ravishing taste of griddledom.

I've heard people say "this place uses ground filet mignon" for its burgers," and all kinds of nonsense. Fifteen years ago, I put a week aside for The Grand Burger Experiment. I brought every cut of beef into my kitchen, ground, and combined all those cuts in every imaginable way. I didn't really expect to find an "ideal" beef cut for hamburgers, because nothing that red and pink is ever so black and white. But I did, damnit. I found it. I knew before too long that ground chuck was somehow kicking the other cuts' butts—and, before it was over, I even had a chuck sub-region that reigned supreme. I was afraid that I was sticking my neck out, but that's exactly what my results told me to do. If you can get your butcher to salvage for you 100% neck-meat (technically part of chuck) for your home burger, I suspect you will be as amazed with the results as I was.

Having worked myself into a lather over all things burger, I decided this week that it was time to inspect the meat in my own backyard that is getting so much praise: the Burger Joint burger, at an odd little fifties-esque tavern-wannabe tucked into the much more luxurious surroundings of the Parker Meridien Hotel on West 57th Street in Manhattan. Lots of people refer to it as "the Parker Meridien" burger, and lots of people refer to it as the best burger in New York.

I'll spare you my comments on design, service, and comfort; none of them will make you want to drop everything and go. However, if there's a great burger in there, as people say there is, I'm sure you'd be willing to put up with anything.

There's not. This was a disappointment all the way for me. I liked the grill itself, actually, reminiscent of the flame-leapin' one at the Corner Bistro in the West Village. And I liked the taste of that grill, spattered against the grate-striped exterior of my burger. But the meat inside was not much past average, with a kind of pebbly, pedestrian grain that never once threatened to rise to beefy-buttery glory. At least they didn't try to gussy it up with fancy fixins or fancy buns—but the ordinary stuff they did offer, right down to the one-step-from-stale bun, was depressingly ordinary.

But the Burger Gods were smiling, nevertheless. It was that very day that I heard the results of the 2007 James Beard Awards for chefs and restaurants—something I follow with a kind of fan-like interest, not something that usually dictates where I'm going to eat next. Or, to be sure, where I'm going to get my next great burger. But.....son of a gun......smiling at me from the press material was Frank Ruta, who had just been named (in a tie) Best Chef in the Mid-Atlantic for his work at Palena, in the trendy Cleveland Park section of Washington, D.C.

And that provided me with a burger flashback that was greater than anything else I tasted all week. I had visited Palena, just about two months ago, having gotten a tip on how great this food was. And I was mightily impressed with this kitchen, which reminded me of nothing so much as an East Coast version of San Francisco's Zuni Cafe, a place where you can go high or low with equally great results. I loved my salad here consisting of mache, artichokes, hazelnuts, truffle oil, and house-made bresaola. I devoured my Yukon Gold gnocchi with Piemontese blue cheese, salsify, and a drizzle of aged balsamico. I swooned over the raisin-plump tomato sauce on the grilled line-caught swordfish.

But most of all I loved my burger.

Palena is a fancy-but-casual restaurant with an even less-fancy and more-casual side restaurant called Palena Cafe. That is where I recommend you go. For along with the great french fries (that also include fried onions and fried lemons), and the curiosity of a house-made hot dog, and the brined-but-bistro-like lusciousness of the roast organic chicken, you will find The Palena Cheeseburger, "on our house-baked sesame bun, seasonal pickles."

Now one of my faves at Zuni Cafe is their awesome burger, set among all those California treasures. But this D.C. one out-awesomes it, dude.

The meat is a special chuck blend (I'm thinking this has gotta be neck) from Angus and Hereford cattle, cut and ground in-house every day. The burgers are hand-formed, loose, with no seasoning or spice (they are sprinkled with salt and pepper just before hitting the extremely hot grill). When the burger comes off the grill, it goes directly to the soft, fluffy bun—which is baked right here, along with 49 others, every morning, kind of a brioche-family relative, but with less egg and butter. Each bun is split at service time, and grilled on both sides.

I know you're with me so far—now let's see if you can take the apostasy. The hot burger is topped with a soft, truffled, cow's-milk cheese from northern Italy, which the producers rub with allspice and clove; it is cut into slices "like Kraft" and melted on the burger. A garlic-scented mayonnaise is made in-house with grapeseed oil, a touch of olive oil, lemon, vinegar and mustard; it is spread on the sesame bun once it comes off the grill.

Too fancy for ya? Too fancy for me? Not on your life. This magnificent burger doesn't disprove my point, it makes it—for its greatness is derived from the amazing beefy-butteriness that lies, quivering, at its heart.

OK.....in this case, I must admit......when intense beefy-butteriness hits truffle, mayo, brioche, sesame, runny cheese and garlic, things do not take a turn for the worse. But it's the beefy-butteriness that got this thing here—and should get you here, before anyone has the restless idea to change one miraculous little detail, or before the Palena burger turns from Washington's best-kept secret to Washington's next tourist attraction.

I, personally, did not stop at the White House after dinner. And I gotta also confess: this was one of the few meals in recent memory after which I had no craving whatsoever to stop at White Castle, either.

Burger Joint

119 W. 56

New York, NY

212.245.5000

Palena Café

3529 Connecticut Ave.

Washington, D.C.

202.537.9250

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I knew before too long that ground chuck was somehow kicking the other cuts' butts—and, before it was over, I even had a chuck sub-region that reigned supreme. I was afraid that I was sticking my neck out, but that's exactly what my results told me to do. If you can get your butcher to salvage for you 100% neck-meat (technically part of chuck) for your home burger, I suspect you will be as amazed with the results as I was.
INteresting... can anyone verify this claim? Anyone know where to get good neck meat?
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INteresting... can anyone verify this claim? Anyone know where to get good neck meat?
I can tell you that Marcella Hazan recommends chuck meat (preferably from the neck) for Ragu Bolagnese. If the guys at Eastern Market's Union Meats were in business (sigh) you could get them to provide you some. I'm afraid that I am otherwise unaware of any good butchers that could do that for you.
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Bittman on burgers today. He's pretty high on grinding your own meat.
I've been grinding my own hamburger meat since I dug out an ancient meat grinder from packed away boxes last year. It dates to the late 19th century, according to the marks on it. I had brought it back from my parents house years ago and had never used it. It's small and not terribly versatile, but it's great for hamburger. It makes for a nice grind for a burger. (I've attempted to grind other kinds of meat with it, and it turns into a mess. Steak has the right balance of muscle and fat, apparently.)

ETA: the grinder looks quite a bit like this one, except that a couple of those pieces are missing from the one I've got.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meat_grinder

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Bittman on burgers today. He's pretty high on grinding your own meat.

Indeed. And, being a sore loser, I'll say that his embrace of home grinding echoes my comments -- it allows you to get better meat, but the texture isn't improved (for God's sake, he suggests a using a Cuisinart!).

Does anyone use the meat grinder attachment for a Kitchenaid stand mixer?

The Bittman article makes me want to grind my meat.

I've used it for burgers and sausage and steak tartare and it's pretty simple and effective, if time consuming. If you don't already have an attachment, I noticed a dedicated meat grinder for sale at Macy's the other day, for about what the KitchenAid apparatus costs. It might be worth the investment from a speed/capacity standpoint.

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Does anyone use the meat grinder attachment for a Kitchenaid stand mixer?

The Bittman article makes me want to grind my meat.

I do. Works great. Just don't turn the speed up to high unless you want a meat gun. "Ok, Bob, stand back, I'm just gonna shoot this thing right at the grill!"

The fact that all the parts come apart easily and clean up very well in the dishwasher is a big plus.

No neck meat at Wegman's, so I'm gonna stick with chuck for the weekend BBQ.

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Does anyone use the meat grinder attachment for a Kitchenaid stand mixer?

Yea, and I love it. As noted, the dishwasher-ability of this thing is clutch. It does get a bit messy, even at low speeds. I've been meaning to fashion a spatter-guard to keep it from spreading meat-juices all over my kitchen walls. But yea, I just buy Chuck roasts at WF and grind em up with a little salt. No filler necessary. Definitely gonna be on the lookout for neck meat, though.

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Does anyone use the meat grinder attachment for a Kitchenaid stand mixer?

The Bittman article makes me want to grind my meat.

To add to the other posts - constantly (though for making sausage). The only recommendation I have is to make sure your meat is VERY cold before starting. Cuts down on the splatter and creation of a hot dog-like substance. I love love love love it.
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To add to the other posts - constantly (though for making sausage). The only recommendation I have is to make sure your meat is VERY cold before starting. Cuts down on the splatter and creation of a hot dog-like substance. I love love love love it.

You don't need to have the meat super cold to reduce the chance of a hot-dog like substance, but it does help. Just be sure to start with the larger bore on the grinding plate. Don't try and go too small on the first pass.

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The Bittman article inspired me to make and grill my own burgers last night. I went to Snider's in SS and bought 3 chuck fillets. At $4.19/lb, they were a pretty decent deal and with a good amount of necessary fat (the chuck roast was cheaper but far more meat than I needed). After grinding them up, I mixed in some S&P and some finely diced onions. 4 minutes per side over direct hot coals (around 450F) and then topped them with a slice of sharp cheddar before putting them on a toasted bun with a small dollop of dijon.

Man - were these the best burgers EVER! I was immediately regretting having put cheese, onions or mustard on my burger. The meat tasted so fantastic that I just wanted burger and the bun. They were juicy and actually tasted of beef - not that horrible, semi-protein structure that was my last burger at Five Guys. Maybe the next time I'll just mix in some Worcestershire and S&P and leave it at that.

I never think of grilling burgers because they always taste like crap - that mindset has definitely changed. I'd love to hear secrets from others on the board for the ultimate homemade burger.

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(the chuck roast was cheaper but far more meat than I needed).

It freezes well. I tend to trim and portion out a bunch of small chunks from each roast, so the baggie of frozen chuck can be easily thawed.

I still occasionally take the Alton Brown route and only adulterate my burger with a thin layer of mayo on the bottom of the bun. It's great....beef, salt, bun, mayo. simple, delicious. If made with good home-ground chuck, it can convert the staunchest of burger-modification advocates.

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It freezes well. I tend to trim and portion out a bunch of small chunks from each roast, so the baggie of frozen chuck can be easily thawed.

I still occasionally take the Alton Brown route and only adulterate my burger with a thin layer of mayo on the bottom of the bun. It's great....beef, salt, bun, mayo. simple, delicious. If made with good home-ground chuck, it can convert the staunchest of burger-modification advocates.

The other bonus is that you can grind the frozen chunks very easily (and safely) whenever you want.

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The Bittman article inspired me to make and grill my own burgers last night. I went to Snider's in SS and bought 3 chuck fillets. At $4.19/lb, they were a pretty decent deal and with a good amount of necessary fat (the chuck roast was cheaper but far more meat than I needed). After grinding them up, I mixed in some S&P and some finely diced onions. 4 minutes per side over direct hot coals (around 450F) and then topped them with a slice of sharp cheddar before putting them on a toasted bun with a small dollop of dijon.

Man - were these the best burgers EVER! I was immediately regretting having put cheese, onions or mustard on my burger. The meat tasted so fantastic that I just wanted burger and the bun. They were juicy and actually tasted of beef - not that horrible, semi-protein structure that was my last burger at Five Guys. Maybe the next time I'll just mix in some Worcestershire and S&P and leave it at that.

I never think of grilling burgers because they always taste like crap - that mindset has definitely changed. I'd love to hear secrets from others on the board for the ultimate homemade burger.

Sound's fantastic! As far as my own burgers go, I don't add salt to the ground beef because that has the tendency to leach moisture out of the patties, which then ends up on the coals instead of in your mouth. Instead I add salt to the patties directly as they cook. I don't add onions either, because they usually end up not being fully cooked by the time the patty itself is done and give the burger a slightly bitter and mealy quality. Someone in some other thread long ago mentioned adding chopped bacon to the farce. Now there's something I could get used to.

I've never quite gone the austere route you otherwise suggest, but I'll try it next cookout. I like the contrast in texture and temperature that the crunch of cold sliced onions and lettuce provides with the hot juicy patty, though I usually skip the tomato.

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Someone in some other thread long ago mentioned adding chopped bacon to the farce. Now there's something I could get used to.
I did this once, and maybe I just used TOO MUCH bacon, but for some reason the resulting burgers had an almost hot dog aroma/flavor. Not sure I'd do it again.
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I did this once, and maybe I just used TOO MUCH bacon, but for some reason the resulting burgers had an almost hot dog aroma/flavor. Not sure I'd do it again.

Just add less to get the subtle touch of pork.

As for onions, just add some while grinding and you will not get the undercooked chunks. Of course now this gets close to sausage patties. ;)

All this talk of beef. Does anyone beside me grind up lamb and use that for burgers?

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What's wrong with putting a slice or two of cooked bacon on TOP of your burger? The whole concept of adding raw pork or sausage to hamburger meat is a bit off-putting, since I prefer burgers rare to medium rare, and while I do eat grilled pork tenderloin very slightly pink, I'm still a bit squeamish about eating undercooked pork.

I can't forget a famous story, written for the New Yorker by Burton Roueche in his Medical Detectives series, about a group of men who developed trichinosis--it seems they were making sausages and checked the seasoning by eating tiny uncooked bits of the meat mixture.

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What's wrong with putting a slice or two of cooked bacon on TOP of your burger? The whole concept of adding raw pork or sausage to hamburger meat is a bit off-putting, since I prefer burgers rare to medium rare, and while I do eat grilled pork tenderloin very slightly pink, I'm still a bit squeamish about eating undercooked pork.

I can't forget a famous story, written for the New Yorker by Burton Roueche in his Medical Detectives series, about a group of men who developed trichinosis--it seems they were making sausages and checked the seasoning by eating tiny uncooked bits of the meat mixture.

Raw bacon or pork does not sound to good to me either. I doubt you will find a trichinosis worm in any of the pork that is sold around here. ;) The worms are killed when cooked to a temperature of 137F (IIRC), but that is a bit higher than the temp for rare meat.

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All this talk of beef. Does anyone beside me grind up lamb and use that for burgers?
I will now!! Lamb burgers are awesome.

On the topic of salting the meat when forming the patties, I was just watching the "A Fine Grind" episode of Good Eats where Alton Brown somewhat dispels the notion that doing that will cause lots of moisture seepage. His contention is that you shouldn't use very much salt to begin with so not much moisture is extracted. I probably only added a teaspoon or so of salt to about 1.2 lbs of ground beef and didn't notice anything when they went on the grill 20 mins later. And they were JUICY!!! I want to do it again tonite - it was THAT good.

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All this talk of beef. Does anyone beside me grind up lamb and use that for burgers?
If I get a more contemporary grinder, I'd like to try that. I love to make lamb meatballs. Pork and lamb don't work well with the grinder I've got, though. Maybe if I tried frozen ;)...
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If I get a more contemporary grinder, I'd like to try that. I love to make lamb meatballs. Pork and lamb don't work well with the grinder I've got, though. Maybe if I tried frozen ;)...

When you say doesn't work well, what do you mean? Does it mush up the meat?

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All this talk of beef. Does anyone beside me grind up lamb and use that for burgers?
Like I said, the burger is extremely versatile - you can make a burger from any meat you want. I do enjoy lamburgers, with chopped olives, sundried tomatoes, mint, oregano, stuffed with feta, etc. Opa!
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Like I said, the burger is extremely versatile - you can make a burger from any meat you want. I do enjoy lamburgers, with chopped olives, sundried tomatoes, mint, oregano, stuffed with feta, etc. Opa!

Sounds more like you enjoy making sausage more. ;)

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If you were to do lamb burgers, how would you do it? Virgin lamb (oh, there's a joke in there somewhere) with just a little S&P? Fresh minced garlic? Mint?

One thing I want to do one day - just for the heck of it - is try doing a lamb vindaloo burger, or a chicken tandoori burger. Marinate the meat chunks in vindaloo/tandoori marinade and then grind it (or grind first, then mix in flavour). Defeats the point of grinding your own meat, I suppose, by overpowering the natural meat flavours. But could be a yummy summer alternative to cooking Indian food indoors. Maybe use a nice, toasted naan instead of a bun, and top with raita instead of mayo? Mango pickles instead of dill pickles? Kingfisher instead of Molson?

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When you say doesn't work well, what do you mean? Does it mush up the meat?
Yes, it turns to mush and is quite difficult to work with. It's hard even to get it out of the grinder. Beef steak, on the other hand, grinds up nicely, even if it's not super cold to start with.
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If you were to do lamb burgers, how would you do it? Virgin lamb (oh, there's a joke in there somewhere) with just a little S&P? Fresh minced garlic? Mint?

One thing I want to do one day - just for the heck of it - is try doing a lamb vindaloo burger, or a chicken tandoori burger. Marinate the meat chunks in vindaloo/tandoori marinade and then grind it (or grind first, then mix in flavour). Defeats the point of grinding your own meat, I suppose, by overpowering the natural meat flavours. But could be a yummy summer alternative to cooking Indian food indoors. Maybe use a nice, toasted naan instead of a bun, and top with raita instead of mayo? Mango pickles instead of dill pickles? Kingfisher instead of Molson?

Little S&P and garlic. Other items can be added to the burger after it is cooked.

I do like the idea of a lamb vindaloo burger.

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Raw bacon or pork does not sound to good to me either. I doubt you will find a trichinosis worm in any of the pork that is sold around here. ;) The worms are killed when cooked to a temperature of 137F (IIRC), but that is a bit higher than the temp for rare meat.
According to the USDA, trichinae are killed at 131F. The same article deals very briefly with curing, but I think that a long, dry, salt-curing, such as undergone by guanciale or lardo, would render trichinae non-infective. I have no idea about the wet-cured, low-salt commercial "bacon" that most Americans think is good enough. I would also think that some guanciale ground up with beef would give you some pretty fine hamburgers. My guess is that the hot-dog quality that Dan mentions above is related to the smokiness of most bacon, which isn't present in guanciale.
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If you were to do lamb burgers, how would you do it? Virgin lamb (oh, there's a joke in there somewhere) with just a little S&P? Fresh minced garlic? Mint?

In deference to my heritage, I would probably Hellenize these burgers. The lamb meat is up to you...baby lamb would probably be best if you can obtain it. And in the bowl with the ground lamb, throw in a little S&P, olive oil, dried spearmint ground up into fine powder and/or some oregano. Serve burgers with a side of tzatziki. Proceed to lick fingers after consuming burger in record time.

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What's wrong with putting a slice or two of cooked bacon on TOP of your burger? The whole concept of adding raw pork or sausage to hamburger meat is a bit off-putting, since I prefer burgers rare to medium rare, and while I do eat grilled pork tenderloin very slightly pink, I'm still a bit squeamish about eating undercooked pork.
Trichinosis from commercial pork is extremely rare now from what I understand. I don't have time to dig around for more data, but there were only 12 cases from 1997-2001. Undercooked pork is still a tough sell, though. In order to get a disbelieving audience to eat medium-rare pork tenderloin, I once saw a chef take a hunk of totally raw pork and eat it. When cooking up a 'Squealer' (half ground bacon/half ground beef), I do go well done, though (uncooked bacon... blecch). It's in no way dry (not with all that bacon grease) and is delicious. Try it sometime ;)
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Well...After having said that I've never had any trouble grinding steak into burger meat with my grinder, today it got mushy and was difficult. I eventually got enough meat for two burgers and they were good, but the meat was hard to grind and was stringy. I'm wondering if it was because it was top sirloin steak from Costco--I usually get steak from Union Meat or WF to do this--or bad luck. I don't know.

In the end, we had excellent mushroom-bacon cheeseburgers (with lettuce and tomato) on buns made from Wednesday's Post food section recipe.

What is the best cut of meat to use? Should it be frozen first? Should I give up my nostalgic attachment to this ancient grinder and get a new one? ;)

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And in the bowl with the ground lamb, throw in a little S&P, olive oil, dried spearmint ground up into fine powder and/or some oregano. Serve burgers with a side of tzatziki. Proceed to lick fingers after consuming burger in record time.
I use a little cumin and olive oil in the lamb patties, then serve them in pita with tzatziki, mint chiffonade, and a chopped onion/tomato/cucumber relish. My kids love this.
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After reading the Bittman article (lovey is a huge Mark Bittman fan) we made the cuisinart burgers this weekend. A couple of points:

The cuisinart worked fine. Really. If you have a meat grinder, I'm assuming that you're recreating more or less what a butcher would do for you. The cuisinart gave us something different from those striated hamburger strings (I'm assuming that's what a meat grinder will turn out. If anyone wants to let me borrow one, I will totally make it worth your while.) What the cuisinart gives you are these handy little chunks that give the finished product an entirely novel texture and flavor. We used fatty sirloin, but I doubt it came from anywhere neck-like.

The problem with these lovely steak chunks is that they don't hold together very well. We certainly lost some down into the grill. My solution, because we WILL TRY AGAIN WE WILL REBUILD!!!, would be to add a very tiny amount of breading (perhaps a couple of ground up ritz crackers for the whole batch), add another pre-ground meat (wonderful ground lamb at the dupont market), or make them ahead of time and leave them in the fridge overnight since today's leftovers held together much better.

So give the cuisinart a try. We topped these with applewood-smoked mozerella and I was furious that we wasted good cheese on a burger that didn't need it.

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