By Sean Keeley, culinary specialist, LLCC
I know cold weather doesn’t stop everyone from cooking outdoors, but the warm weather motivates me to get outside and create. I have always said my dream kitchen would have a rollaway roof. For me there is no better meal than one cooked on the grill. It can be a challenge to cook things properly over an open fire, and that is part of the fun. Something that can be done every day can always be a new experience each time.
From barbeque to kebabs, either straight forward or with an ethnic spin, foods licked with smoke and flame always seem to taste better. And it seems each season more items are available to make grilling more creative or at least easier when it comes time to clean up. Grill woks, pizza stones, sous vide circulators and Himalayan salt blocks make grilling fun and easy, and the latter even adds flavor.
One thing I used to grill the least was a good ol’ hamburger. They are easy to overcook or undercook, and it may take more condiments than you would normally use to get them to be enjoyable. I have had some successful experiments, adding grated cheese and minced scallions to the meat tastes great but can be hard to keep them from becoming engulfed in flames – be prepared to lose some arm hair. Some others not so good, like the “meatloaf” burger – no thank you! I’ll just slap a slice of meatloaf on a grilled bun instead.
In my book anything that is a challenge must be conquered! A great, not just “okay” burger was eluding me so I was in hot pursuit of good results. With time and experience I found two methods I really enjoy, and I don’t think I can decide which method I prefer. If time is no issue I’ll make a thick burger and help it along with a sous vide circulator. If speed is necessary then a thin “diner” patty it is. I have shared how we make the Bistro Verde burger at LLCC before, so let’s do the same on the grill and also a thick burger cooked sous vide with a healthy twist – do not fear the word healthy, just trust me on this one.
What you’ll need for either style burger:
Fresh ground beef, about six to eight ounces per person
Very hot grill
Thin, metal spatula
Cast iron skillet or grill plate (optional for either style)
Sous vide circulator for thick burgers (my preferred setting is 137°F)
Diner Style Burger (thin patty)
Buns, as needed
Softened butter or olive oil as needed
Sliced cheese, as needed
Ground beef 20-25% fat content, about 3-4 ounces per patty
Crisp bacon, shredded lettuce, sliced tomato, sliced onion, pickles if desirered
Salt and pepper to taste
12” heavy bottom skillet (cast iron recommended) or outdoor grill on high heat
Thin metal spatula (for grill or iron skillet, not for non-stick skillet)
Squirt gun or spray bottle of water for grilling
Higher fat ensures a juicy burger, a lot of the fat cooks off. Form the meat into 3-4 ounce balls. Place the balls between wax paper and smash flat with the bottom of a plate, they should be about 1/4” inch thick. Heat skillet on medium to toast the buns that have been lightly brushed with butter or oil. Toast until golden and set aside. This is a good time to dress the buns, I like the veggies on the bottom bun – helps to absorb the juices, and the bacon and condiments on the top bun.
Turn heat under skillet to high, or have grill pre-heated on high. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper on each patty and sear in a hot skillet. If grilling, I season the patties a little heavier as some of the spice will fall off or stick to the grill. If flames engulf the patties while grilling be sure to extinguish them with the sprayer. With either cooking method (a dry hot skillet is best for a tasty crust) watch for blood drops to start forming on the top of the patty, when this happens it is time to flip. If using a cast iron skillet you may have to scrape the burger from the pan to flip, try to keep all the brown bits that want to stick to the pan on the burger. Top immediately with cheese. I usually use two patties per burger, but only one slice of cheese in between two patties. After flipping and adding cheese they only need to cook another 30 seconds. Place on waiting buns and dig in!
Thick, Sous Vide Burger with Mushroom Duxelles
Mushroom duxelles are the poor man’s paté, very rich in flavor and much cheaper that foie gras (fattened duck liver). Leaner ground beef or chuck can be used and adding, by weight, 25-30% duxelles you will not notice the loss of fat, and you will also cut back on the amount of red meat eaten.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup finely chopped shallot
1 garlic clove, minced
1 pound mushrooms (shiitake, white button, and/or cremini), stem ends trimmed, finely chopped
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallot and garlic; cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add mushrooms, minced thyme and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring, until mushrooms have softened and released their liquid, about 7 minutes. Raise heat to medium-high; cook until liquid has evaporated, about 3 minutes more. Stir in parsley, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the pepper. Let cool completely. Alternately, you can slice or rough chop mushrooms and after cooking pulse them in a food processor until mealy.
To make 6 seven ounce patties, combine 2 pounds of ground beef or chuck, 10-15% fat content with 10 ounces of mushroom duxelles and blend gently – do not overwork the ingredients, just combine. If you have your own grinder, toss the cubed beef with the duxelles before grinding. Once ready, divide into six equal size balls and form into 1 inch thick patties. Place patties in a one gallon freezer zip-top bag. Here is a web address link with a how-to video to displace air from a zip-top bag if you don’t own a vacuum sealer: https://anovaculinary.com/video-get-air-normal-plastic-bag/ this method works best for burgers anyway, so if you have a sealer leave it in the pantry for this recipe. I don’t use this brand circulator, but their website is a good resource for sous vide cooking if you would like to experiment more.
I let the patties sit in the sous vide bath for about 45 minutes and then continue with the same cooking method for the diner style burgers, but only using one big patty per guest. The sear time may be quicker since you just need to create a crust on each side of the patty, the burger will already be cooked perfectly medium-rare from the sous vide circulator. Some people will say that ground beef must be cooked to an internal temp of 165°F or, in other words, well-done. So if you like your burgers well-done, then have a bowl of condiments on hand to dunk your dry burger in, or use the first cooking method above and enjoy a thin, juicy, diner style burger. I hope you have a great summer and get to enjoy your grill often!
Want to know more?
Lincoln Land Community College offers associate degree programs in Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management and academic credit certificates in Culinary Arts and Baking/Pastry. For more information call 217-786-4613 or visit www.llcc.edu/hospitality-culinary-arts.