The cheeseburger is an American staple. American as apple pie, Ol’ Glory and baseball.
But we’re no longer stuck in the days of a plain beef patty with American cheese on a plain white bun. As college students, we’re inundated with these kinds of plain burgers: in our cafeterias, fast food restaurants and even at bars. The burger is taken for granted in these arenas. They’re the workhorses of the food industry, grilled on flattop ranges in monotonous succession, oily sizzles only broken by the occasional “Pickles and onions?”
You don’t want a burger that can be taken lightly. You want a beautiful patty of tastefully seasoned beef, punctuated with fresh spices and topped with lively sprouts, tomatoes and roasted red pepper over a perfectly melted slice of cheddar cheese, nestled in a ciabatta bun with your favorite condiments.
We’ll start with the patty. For maximum flavor and juiciness, use 80/20 beef chuck. This means that the beef is 20 percent fat – you can use less, but the meat will dry out more. This is because the fat renders in the pan, as the heat melts it into a liquid and out of the patty.
Take the meat out of the package and put it into a medium-sized mixing bowl. Then add your spices – paprika, salt, ground pepper, garlic powder and a dash of Worcestershire sauce. With these five simple ingredients, you’ll bring out a wealth of flavors from your burgers, without stifling the natural taste of the meat.
Set up a station where you’ll be able to mix the meat, and then form them into your patties.
Now it’s time to get personally involved with the mixture. After washing up, use your hands to knead the spices into the meat. Knead until all ingredients are evenly distributed.
While your hands are messy from working with the meat, take enough meat to form a ball that roughly fits in the palm of your hand. Then squish it down and form it into a disk, about half an inch throughout the patty.
Heat a sauté pan to a medium-high heat, and add a small dash of butter or olive oil. The fat in the meat will render into a grease, but you want something to prevent an initial sticking to the pan.
Once your pan is hot, lay a patty in the pan facing away from you, meaning the top of the patty, which you’re holding, hits the pan last. This will ensure any oil in the pan won’t splash up and hit you, or anyone near your cooking area.
Let the burger cook for three minutes to cook it medium-rare, or four for medium, and then flip to cook on the other side for the same amount of time.
You want to use your spatula to press down on the patty, but I urge you: Don’t do it. You’ll press out all of the juices we’ve worked so hard to cultivate. If you want to add cheese, add it to the burger with about a minute left to cook.
Take your burger off the heat, and let it rest on a room-temperature plate for five to eight minutes. While it may seem like you’re just letting the burger cool, the internal temperature of the meat is actually cooking itself. The result will be a burger that retains more juices when cut into, and that means more flavor.
Serve this magnificent burger on a ciabatta roll, found at a local bakery or supermarket, with a small handful of sprouts, sliced tomato and roasted red pepper. If desired, your favorite salad dressing works a great spread for the insides of the ciabatta bun.
While this recipe follows the path of one burger, you can save the remaining patties by individually wrapping them in plastic wrap and freezing them.