Diary of a Foodie


Diary of a Foodie: Season One: The Green Kitchen

Makes 6 burgers
  • Active time:30 min
  • Start to finish:24 hr
January 2007
Sometimes if you want the very best, you have to do it yourself. When it comes to making the ideal burger, that means grinding the meat at home rather than buying it already ground at the supermarket. Not only is it fresher, but you'll also get a coarser grind—plus you'll know exactly what cut it is. Burgers are best when made with fatty chuck that is well marbled, with a strip of fat running through the middle. Higher-end meat, such as sirloin, is often leaner and trimmed of excess fat, which makes for a dry burger. The step of chilling the salted meat for 24 hours before grinding it is one we learned from the San Francisco chef Judy Rodgers. In her Zuni Cafe Cookbook, she explains that a brief curing enhances the texture and helps the meat retain its moisture. Chilling it ensures that the fat doesn't soften during grinding and mixing. (If you don't want to salt the meat, simply chill it for two hours or so before grinding.)
  • 1 1/2 lb boneless chuck steak
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon feshly ground black pepper
  • Special equipment:

    a meat grinder with a 3/8 or 1/4-inch dice
  • Accompaniment:

    grilled or toasted hamburger buns or kaiser rolls
  • Sprinkle steak with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Transfer to a sealable plastic bag and chill about 24 hours.
  • Prepare a charcoal or gas grill: If using a charcoal grill, open vents in bottom of grill, then light charcoal. Fire is medium-hot when you can hold your hand 5 inches above rack for just 3 to 4 seconds. If using a gas grill, preheat on high, covered, for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to moderate.
  • Rinse steak under cold water, then pat dry and cut into 1-inch cubes. Feed cubes through meat grinder into a chilled bowl. Lightly mix meat with your hands to distribute fat evenly, then divide into 6 balls. Flatten balls into 3/4-inch-thick patties (about 4 inches across) and chill burgers until ready to grill.
  • Sprinkle burgers with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper. Oil grill rack. Grill burgers (covered only if using gas grill), turning over once, for about 4 minutes total for rare or about 5 minutes for medium-rare. (Burgers will continue to cook slightly off the grill.)
  • Serve burgers on buns.
Cooks' note: Burgers can be cooked in an oiled well-seasoned large (2-burner) cast-iron ridged grill pan over moderately high heat, turning over once, 5 minutes for rare, 6 minutes for medium-rare.
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