We all love going out for a burger, but sometimes we wish we could make them properly ourselves, in the comfort of our own home.
Here are Iain’s five easy steps to creating the perfect burger at home – plus some tips from the professionals on which drinks to match with your burger.
1. Choose the right meat
Iain chose a selection of three meats for our burgers, from the award-winning WH Frost Butchers in Chorlton – brisket, hanger, and intercostal meat from between the ribs. Proportions were roughly half brisket, and a quarter of the others.
“Two thirds brisket to one third skirt is another good mix for a burger,” Iain added, whilst Lee Horsley-Frost, director at WH Frost Butchers – who supply The Dockyard, Gorilla, Trof, Common, Tib Street Tavern, Blue Pig and more in Manchester – likes to use “a mixture of brisket and dry-aged chuck steak, with a good amount of marbling and fat, minced together twice.”
“Use your local butcher, not the supermarket,” said Lee. “Look for locally sourced, high welfare, grass fed meat, with good marbling – the flavour is in the fat”.
With a bit of notice, your local butcher should be able to help you source the meat you need, and grind it for you if you don’t have a grinder at home.
“Don’t worry about ordering the meat in larger quantities than you actually need,” said Iain. “The burgers freeze well once you’ve formed them into patties – just defrost them thoroughly in the fridge before you want to use them.”
2. Don’t add binders and fillers
Iain explained that “while sausages tend to need some rusk, I don’t add any fillers when I make burgers – they are pure meat.” He doesn’t add any egg to bind them, either.
Lee agrees that you shouldn’t use binders and fillers, adding “there’s just no need to add breadcrumbs, chopped onions and so on – let the meat speak for itself.”
In fact, the only thing Iain adds to the ground meat – which he mixes together by hand – is a generous pinch of salt, “which helps break down some of the fat in the burgers and starts to emulsify the meat.”
3. Use a patty former or cutter
Whether you’re grinding the meat yourself, or getting your butcher to do it for you, “you’ll want to rest the mixture of ground meats (with salt) in a covered bowl in the fridge for around three hours before you form the patties,” Iain suggests.
You can form them by hand, but a patty former makes the job a lot easier and ensures they are evenly sized.
4. Use the right pan
“A pan which is too small can overcrowd the patties, which causes them to steam rather than sizzle,” Iain explained. “Use a big, cast iron pan if you have one, and preheat it to a medium heat in advance.”
Use plenty of oil in the preheated pan – more than you might think – as “too little can mean they’ll stick and potentially fall apart when flipping,” Iain told us.
“Plenty of fat in the pan ensures the burgers form a crust quickly, and you can always drain them afterwards if you need to.”
Cook the patties on each side until they are cooked to your liking – in our case perfectly pink. “Don’t be afraid to cut into one to check it’s cooked if you’re not confident,” Iain suggested.
5. Pick the accessories
We used brioche burger buns – Aldi do a very good (and inexpensive) version.
Iain likes to roast the buns lightly in the oven for a few minutes before assembling the burger, as it makes them “a bit studier and drier, ready to hold the juicy burgers and sauces” – a good tip!
Iain made triple-cooked fries – first the cut potatoes are blanched, then cooked on a low heat of about 110 degrees in a deep-fat fryer, and finally a high heat of around 185 degrees. He recommends Heston Blumenthal’s recipe for triple-cooked chips.
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Hawksmoor, who make a spectacular burger, use Ogleshield, a wonderful unpasteurised cheese which melts beautifully – “an artisanal Kraft cheese slice,” as they refer to it.
Iain and I went with burger cheese slices (yes, “plastic cheese”!), which are actually pretty perfect on a homemade burger, and don’t distract from the meat. Iain melted cheese slices onto the buns as they were in the oven, as well as directly on the patties in the pan once they were nearly cooked.
Whatever cheese you use, just make sure it’s a good melter.
Beyond the usual shop-bought sauces and ketchups, Iain introduced us to a Finnish condiment (Felix Sinappikurkkusalaatti, if you fancy trying to get hold of some!) “made with mustard and finely chopped gherkins, onions and red pepper which perfectly matches the burgers.”
He also let us try one of his homemade sauces – mayonnaise blended with lemon and a dash of Lea & Perrins – a great partner for beef.
Iain made us onion rings – the sliced red onion rounds were soaked for an hour and a half in lager before being coated in seasoned flour and deep-fried; plus some delicious deep-fried pickles. “Perfect on the side, or piled into the burger for added crunch and texture”.
What to drink with your burger?
We asked three experts for their top tips for a tipple with your burger.
Specialist beer shop Beermoth recommend a Pale Ale: “They’re usually hop forward, bitter, and refreshing. The bitterness and carbonation cut through the fat of a burger and reset the palate for another bite. If the burger is particularly rich (fatty/with blue cheese, for example) choose a more intensely hoppy, and more full-flavoured beer.”
Try Taras Boulba – De La Senne (Brussels, Belgium); MAMA – Oedipus Brewing (Amsterdam, Netherlands); or Dale’s Pale Ale – Oskar Blues (Longmont, Colorado / Brevard, North Carolina, USA).
If you prefer a darker beer, Beermoth suggest trying a Porter, “which tend to go well with the flavours produced in the Maillard reaction. The roasted, dark malts of a porter compliment the richness of the meat and a sweet BBQ sauce. Heavily hopped Porters (The Kernel East India Porter is a good one) work particularly well with fatty, char-grilled burgers.”
Salut Wines suggest a Cabernet Sauvignon to match a beef burger: “Get one from California or South Africa and the ripeness of the fruit will work beautifully with the meat, and won’t be fazed by the cheese or accompaniments. It will also work for any vegetarians with a portobello mushroom version.”
Cocktail bar The New York Street Alchemist believe that a Smokey Paloma is the perfect match for a burger: “It is a lighter cocktail that complements the subtlety of salad, but its smokiness enhances the smoky flavours of the chargrilled beef patty.”
Here’s the recipe if you want to make one at home:
30ml El Jimador Blanco Tequila
15ml Grapefruit Liqueur
10 ml Agave Syrup
22.5ml Lime Juice
25 ml Freshly Squeezed Grapefruit
Smoked with oak woodchips and served over ice.
Burger photography by Tobias Alexander