Yeah, I guess I’m still riding the wave of the Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution finale, so I’ve even adopted some of his vocabulary while I mess about in the kitchen. (Shamon! is my favorite but also the one that I feel most self-conscious about saying aloud).
A “crackin’ burger” is the title of the hamburger recipe in his Jamie’s Food Revolution cookbook. I may not be totally up on my British slang, but I’m pretty sure this means that it’s, you know, delicious.
And given that thousands of Americans are likely going to be outside grilling burgers of their own over the course of the next couple of days, I thought I’d share a few of our tips for excellent burgers and show you a sample of how we top ours (admittedly, we make ’em slightly differently every time).
1. Use good quality meat. Whether you like traditional beef, light and healthy turkey, or exotic lamb burgers, make sure it’s good quality. For our beef burgers, we’ve had the most success using ground chuck from grass-fed beef. It’s got the perfect amount of lean meat to fat ratio to make an incredibly juicy and delicious patty.
2. Have a secret weapon. No, I don’t mean fancy grilling tools that come in a silver briefcase that you need a security clearance to open. Our secret weapon, thanks to Jamie Oliver, is to add a generous tablespoon (per pound of meat) of Dijon mustard to the burger mixture. Even if you’re not a mustard fan, don’t worry – you won’t be overwhelmed by mustard pungency. But it does wonders to elevate the flavor of the burgers and also helps keep things nice and moist (especially important if you’ve never cooked with grass-fed beef before and might tend to overcook it).
3. Refrigerate until ready. To save time, you can make your burger patties in advance of cooking – even the morning before your big bash. But even if you make them right before you grill, let them sit in the fridge for at least 10 minutes to firm up a bit and help the flavors get acquainted with each other. This will give you plenty of time to do something crazy (see #4 below).
4. Add a personal touch. As I mentioned, we make our burgers a little bit differently every time. The recipe for the patty stays largely the same. It’s the toppings that we vary based on what’s available, what’s in the fridge, etc. But to me, if you want to make a burger truly crackin’, you’ve got to give it a little love. Whether you stuff a piece of cheese inside the patty, carefully craft your own BBQ sauce, slice up veggie toppings from your garden, make your own hamburger buns, smoke the cheese that you melt onto it…whatever it is, give it your own unique touch. I relate this to Ina Garten’s rule of easy entertaining: she says to make one thing and then buy the rest. To add a personal touch to your burgers, make one unique thing and pull out the old standbys.
The burger pictured here includes a rosemary-garlic mayo that I whipped up using store-bought mayonnaise, garlic powder, and a sprig of fresh rosemary from my backyard. I was inspired to make it because Alex is in love with this burger from a nearby restaurant who serves it on a rosemary kaiser roll. Having not yet attempted my own burger buns into which dough I might add some rosemary, I was looking for a way to infuse some rosemary as an interesting layer of flavor.
And we also topped it with the lovely things you see here:
Thick slices of dry-rubbed bacon from the store, romaine lettuce from my garden, sliced fresh onions from the market, and fresh pickles from the store. And a better view of the rosemary-garlic mayo.
And in case you wanna know how we make the burger patties themselves, well, I guess I can share that too!
Cookout-Worthy Burgers (adapted from Jamie’s Food Revolution by Jamie Oliver)
– 1 pound good quality ground beef (or turkey or lamb)
– 1/2 cup breadcrumbs (optional; I’ve used both Italian seasoned crumbs and panko)
– 1 egg
– 1 generous tablespoon Dijon mustard
– handful of fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
– dash of salt and pepper
Mix everything together with clean hands in a mixing bowl. Form into 6 balls and gently flatten into patty shape. Drizzle with a tiny bit of olive oil each and leave to sit in fridge at least 10 minutes.
Grill over high heat about 5-6 minutes per side, depending how thick you made ’em and how medium vs. well you like it done. If it’s well-raised, grass-fed meat, don’t be afraid to go a little more medium than you might ordinarily go. Remove to plate, top with cheese if desired (such as the shredded Gruyere we used) and cover with foil until ready to serve.
So whether you’re making burgers this weekend or later on down the road this summer, keep these 4 tips in mind and see if you can’t craft a crackin’ burger all your own.
But come on, we wanna know: what is the ultimate burger, according to you? Are you a plain ketchup-and-mustard-only kind of person or do you like all the exotic and unusual flavors? Do you like the toppings piled high or do you like to eat your sandwich without dislocating your jaw like a cobra? Will your 4th of July celebration include this celebrated American classic (maybe with some red tomatoes and bleu cheese?) or are you going a different route this year when it comes to your cookout menu? Leave a comment with your thoughts.