My Burger Bible

Hamburger with Grilled Onions

Hamburger with Grilled Onions

By now you all know that Mama’s Gotta Bake, and oftentimes Mama’s Gotta Cook, but now that the warm weather has rolled into Southern California…Mama’s Gotta Grill. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time you would think that I live on nothing but cake, cookies and the occasional scoop of ice cream.  But if the truth be told, what I’m totally obsessed with is burgers. Oh please, spare me with your turkey, chicken, lamb, salmon and veggie burgers, I’m a purist and it’s nothing but good ‘ol beef burgers for me.

For years I’ve kept a tiny, tattered notebook in the over-stuffed utility drawer in my kitchen. I call it My Burger Bible. Every time I see a tip in the newspaper, the internet, a cookbook, YouTube or the television on how to make a better burger, I write it down in this notebook. So, as summer approaches and you begin to fire up your grills, I thought I would share some of the information I’ve accumulated with you.

Tips for making the best burgers

Tips for making the best burgers

The Meat

  • When it comes to a tasty burger, fat is your friend. Fat will add tons of flavor and moisture to your burger, and it will shrink less. I usually choose a meat mixture with a 70/30 fat ratio. If that sounds too fatty to you, then go with an 80/20.
  • Never use frozen or pre-formed patties, that’s just an insult to any decent burger. If you can, have a butcher coarsely grind a combination of chuck and brisket.
  • When forming the burgers, use wet hands so that the meat will not stick them. Don’t overwork the meat to form the patties. The less you handle the meat the better, otherwise the resulting burger will be dry and dense.
  • Season you burgers with salt right before you’re ready to grill them. Salt takes the moisture right out of the meat and you’ll end up with some pretty dry burgers.
  • When you’re cooking a lot of burgers at once on the grill, it helps to weigh and size the patties, this way they will cook uniformly. (Serious Eats)
  • Bobby Flay suggests that when you’ve formed your patty, take your thumb and make a well in the center of the burger. This will help it to keep it’s shape. Also, chilling your patties for several hours before cooking will aid in them keeping their shape.

Grilling the Burgers

  • You will want to place your burgers on a very hot grill because you want to sear the outside of the burger. Searing the burger seals in the juices.
  • When the burger is on the grill, don’t press down on it with a spatula, or you will squeeze the juices right out.
  • When the burger is properly seared, it will no longer stick to the grill.
  • Like other meats that you grill, let your burgers “rest” for several minutes before serving them, so that the juices will redistribute. (Huffington Post)

The Bun

  • My friends, never take bun selection lightly. One must carefully consider bun to burger ratio seriously.
  • When forming your patties, make them approximately the same size as your bun. You can make the patty a little bit bigger than the bun, as the patty will shrink a bit on the grill.
  • Don’t choose a bun that is too soft because they tend to fall apart if your burger is juicy. However, don’t choose a bun that too hard as the burger will shoot out of it when you take the first bite. My personal favorite is a brioche bun.
Take the pointier end of an egg and use it to make a "well" in the center of the burger

Take the pointier end of an egg and use it to make a “well” in the center of the burger. This will help the burger to keep its shape.

So, how does Mama like her burger…simple. I like a little crispy lettuce, fresh tomato, lots of ketchup (yeah, I do!), but most importantly I’ve gotta have the grilled onions. They take 5 minutes to make and my burgers wouldn’t be caught dead without them.

Grilled Onions

Grilled Onions

Grilled Onions

  1. Slice 2 large onions thinly, or for best results, slice them on a mandolin (on the thicker setting) for uniform size. Toss the onions with a tablespoon of olive oil, Kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, and some red pepper flakes until coated.
  2. Set your grill to medium-high.
  3. Spray a piece of foil with cooking spray and place on the hot grill. With tongs, spread the onions out over the foil and toss occasionally so all slices cook evenly. Remove from the heat when the onions have begun to caramelize and are softened. About 5-8 minutes. Use immediately.
  4. Enough for 4-5 burgers.
Grilled Hamburgers

Grilled Hamburgers

Recipe: Easy

Salmon Burgers with Fresh Dill Sauce

Salmon Burger

Some foods just bring back memories of childhood. I am very fortunate that the memories I have of those times are warm and happy ones. Every night, my parents and me and my two brothers sat around our red kitchen table and had dinner together. One of the things that my mother made every week was salmon croquettes. It’s not something you would think kids would have liked necessarily, but oddly my brothers and I loved them. At least I think they did. I’ll have to ask them.

Anyway, I’ll take a salmon burger over a beef burger any day. Hamburgers are so 29 seconds ago. These aquatic burgers are filled with so many different ingredients they just exude flavor. I love to pair it with the fresh dill sauce which is the perfect creamy and lemony partner for the fish. Then you top the burger with the peppery arugula, and a toasted bun for crunch, and I promise you, you’ll never look at a beef burger again.

Mini Salmon Burgers in Pita Pockets

Salmon Burgers

Adapted From Food Network

  • 1 1/4 pounds fresh salmon filet
  • 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons panko crumbs, plus extra to coat patties
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • sandwich buns
  • fresh arugula
  1. Pulse 1/4 pound salmon in a food processor with 2 tablespoons dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest and a pinch of cayenne pepper. 
  2. Transfer this mixture to a medium bowl and mix with 1 pound of salmon that has been finely diced. You want it to be a little chunky so you can really taste the salmon. Add in 2 chopped scallions, 2 tablespoons of panko crumbs, and salt and pepper to taste.
  3. I used a cookie cutter about the same size as my bun and pressed the mixture into the cutter to create uniform sized patties. Pressing the mixture into the cutter also helps it keep it’s shape. Place on an oiled cookie sheet and chill for at least 30 minutes. You want the patties good and chilled so they will retain their shape. Heat canola oil in a cast iron skillet on medium-high. Cook the patties about 3-4 minutes on each side. You want them to cook through, but be careful they don’t burn. Don’t let the oil get too hot.
  4. Drain the patties on a paper towel.
  5. Toast buns, top pattie with dill sauce and fresh arugula.

Mini Salmon Burgers in Pita Pockets

Dill Sauce 

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup plain Greek-style yogurt
  • 2 scallions thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill
  • fresh, ground pepper to taste
Whisk all ingredients together in a medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Salmon Burger

Salmon Burger

Mama’s Tips:

To make this sandwich even more perfect, butter a griddle and toast your buns til golden on the edges. It gives this sandwich a lovely added crunch.

If you have a cast iron skillet, use it instead of a regular frying pan. Fill you pan with the oil about 1/4 inch deep and don’t place the patties in the pan until the oil is hot. Cast iron skillets retain heat and evenly distribute the heat better than the standard frying pan.. Your patties will also get a nice crust on them. That’s a good thing.

To clean your skillet, use a washcloth and rinse with hot water and immediately dry the skillet. Never, ever put one in a dishwasher. Season your pan by rubbing with a paper bowl and a tablespoon of vegetable oil. Gently heat the pan to help the oil soak in. (From Bon Appetit).

Recipe: Intermediate