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Bypass the preformed patties, uninspired sauces and plastic cheese – give the burger the respect it deserves. Use our best beef burger recipe.
A. MOULD, DON’T MIX
Add nothing. If you’re incorporating onions or eggs into your mince, you’re making meatloaf – not burgers. The best way is the simplest way. But before you do that, have you considered The Tastiest Forearm Workout?
Grab a tennis-ball-sized hunk of mince (about 200g) and form it into a loose ball.
2. Flatten it
Place the ball of meat on a clean cutting board and press it with the palm of your hand until it’s about 2cm thick.
Without completely lifting the patty off the cutting board, work your palms around the edge, lightly packing it as you rotate. Do your best Patrick Swayze Ghost impersonation. Then flip the patty over and repeat. Just don’t overwork the meat – too much mashing will result in a dense, chewy burger.
B. COOK A PERFECT PATTY
Everyone has an opinion on what makes a great burger, but really, it’s all about the beef. That means treating it right on the braai. Try this go-to technique
1. Prep your grill
Preheat your braai for both direct and indirect heat. If you’re using gas, heat one side of the grill to medium high and leave the other side cool. Working with charcoal? Light your coals and then bank them to one side of the grate.
2. Flame On
Burgers sear best over medium-high heat, which gives the fat time to melt. Cook the patties until grill marks appear, 2 to 3 minutes a side. Move them to a cooler area of the braai, add cheese and put the rolls on the grill. Cook for another 2 minutes (covered, if possible) to finish.
3. Check for Doneness
Use this simple “rule of thumb”: open your hand and tuck your thumb against the side of that hand. Use the fingers of your other hand to press the pad at the base of your thumb; that’s the firmness of a medium-rare burger. Now poke the patty to check.
C. CRISP UP
While most bakeries simply inject steam into the oven to get a crispy crust, you get a softer roll by adding more sugar and fat to the dough. You should always choose crisp for less risk.
D. ADD MORE COW!
Processed cheese just isn’t going to cut it. Funk up your burger with these three options
Creamy and earthy, it’s delicious when heated. Skip the commercial blocks and opt for a clothbound variety.
Looking for that cheesy ooze? This is the cheese for you. Melt it on the patty and let its powerful aroma harmonise with the beefiness. Check out Klein River Cheese Factory.
A nutty-tasting cheese with a Swiss pedigree, Gruyère’s dense texture holds up well melted. Seek out the cave-aged variety. Check out Checkers Cheese World.
Better Burgers – with science
If your meat is sticking to the braai, then it’s sending you a message, says Dr Dana Hanson, a meat extension specialist at North Carolina
As burgers cook, their proteins undergo a range of changes. When the meat hits an internal temperature of 35° to 40°C, the proteins begin to “denature”, a process that drives out water and firms up the meat. (You’ll notice the red pigment of the meat beginning to turn brown at this point.) When the patty’s surface temperature reaches 85°C, the Maillard reaction commences; this process creates a rich crust that releases easily from a clean grill. If your burger clings to the grill when prodded, the crust hasn’t formed yet. Wait a bit longer and try again.
NOTE: The World Health Organisation recommends cooking burgers to an internal temperature of 65ºC to avoid the risk of foodborne illness.
Steal This Secret Sauce
Plain mayo is fine on a burger, but this mayo is truly sublime
• ½ cup chopped chives
• 1 tsp chopped garlic
• 2 tbsp white-wine vinegar
• 1 cup mayonnaise
• Juice of 1 lemon
• Salt and pepper to taste
Pulse the chives, garlic, and vinegar in a blender until a smooth sauce forms. Pour it into a medium bowl and add the mayo and lemon juice. Stir to combine; season with salt and pepper.