Everyone knows all about hamburgers – or do they? First of all, this business about having to cook them to shoe leather to be safe. Weel, yeah, kinda-sorta. Steaks from healthy animals may have some bacteria or whatever on the outside of the meat. If you cook the outside pretty hot, it all gets killed. The inside can be raw, if the animal was healthy.
Now any kind of ground meat is pretty safe – if you grind your own. You must make sure the grinding equipment is perfectly clean – hot soapy water. You must make sure the outside is clean, trim off a thin slice to be sure. But really, if you are not sure why do you want to use that meat for anything? If you can trust your butcher, don’t sweat it. Don’t use burger from mass producers. The way contamination gets in is from the fact that the outside of the meat becomes part of the inside. If the meat is not clean or the grinder/food handling equipment is not clean, you can get contaminated.
Anyway, if you can trust your meat source, cook your burgers the way that you like. When you make the burger, mix in as little or as much stuff as you want. But don’t over-handle the meat. If you mash it too much, the finished burger will not have as much flavor and the texture will be bad..
Grill, bake, broil, pan fry. Whatever. If I’m going to do the whole bun routine, then I like grilled. Mayonnaise, a little zippy brown mustard (not yellow!), onions, lettuce, tomato, pickles. Very good. Medium at most, thank you.
However, there is another way to have a nice burger. Don’t think burger, think ground steak. Forget the bun. Slice up some onions, just rings or rough chop, whichever you like. Take a big iron skillet or a large griddle, you want big enough to get burger and onions in at the same time. Add enough olive oil to thoroughly coat the bottom and about a pat of butter per burger. Get the heat up to about medium, don’t cook too fast, and ease the onions in. Stir the onions around to get completely coated with the oil. Add a little woostershire sauce and some kosher salt and fresh pepper, not too much. Add a bit more oil/butter if necessary. After the onions are coated and glistening, slide them to the side and add the burgers. Give the burgers a couple of drops of woostershire sauce and salt and pepper. Move the onions back around the meat. When things are about half done slide the onions back out of the way and gently flip the burgers. Add a little more sauce, salt, and pepper. Slide the onions back to get maximum coverage. If you’ve got things right, the onions should be tender and translucent, and the meat should be no more than medium with a nice crusty outside. Do use a light touch with the sauce and spices. Since you add them three times it is easy to get too much.
Now, if you are a proper hobbit (see the Tolkien books, not the movie) you will be nuts for mushrooms. I am (and my toes are hairy). There are a couple of ways of doing this wonderful puffball. Take some sliced and add them to the pan when you flip the burgers. Cook them gently, they should be done when everything else is. If you like a little less done, just add them in a minute or two before the whole thing is done. Of course, you can always just sprinkle them raw on things when you plate. I’m not sure, other than carbonized, that a mushroom can be bad any way.
Now, you can find or think up a million and one things to mix in. Some like chopped onions. Say, if you like onions, try Vidalia’s, in season. They are grown down in South Georgia and nowhere else. Tenderest, sweetest onions in the world. You can also try Walla-Walla’s. Good, very good, but I like the Vidalia’s better. There’s also all kind of other oddments and spices that can be mixed in. Just don’t over-handle the mix. And don’t mash it in the pan. And don’t flip it more than once. There’s a scene in one of the Lethal Weapon movies, I forget which one. Anyway, Murtaugh is going to make burgers and fondles the meat, and pats it, and plays with it. Don’t do it. Handle as little as possible, your taste buds will appreciate it.