Most recipes I have come across insist you need an egg to bind a burger, that is, to stop it falling apart as you fry it. You don’t. Nor do you need breadcrumbs or anything else. If you use decent quality minced beef all you need to do is season the meat with salt and pepper and maybe some herbs of your choice. A well made, home made burger will taste way better than anything you’ll get in a take away and with a little effort you can even rival what they come up with in the plethora of ‘Gourmet Burger’ restaurants that have sprung up over the last few years. I prefer to use bread rolls like a crusty bap or suchlike over the made-for-purpose burger buns the supermarkets sell. Ironically, these are far too flimsy and fall apart very easily, at least in my experience. Use whatever you like or whatever you can find though, if it falls apart you can always use a knife and fork. What I outline below is a little more than basic, I even made a little relish from bits of things I had in the fridge, but you can make them as plain or exotic as you like and use whatever toppings you like. A plain burger with a little cheese melted over it is just the ticket sometimes.
Makes 4 good sized burgers
It’s just a bleedin’ burger
- For the burgers
- 700 g lean minced beef that just happened to be the size of the pack I bought
- A small onion or large shallot chopped as finely as you can
- A sprig of fresh rosemary minced or dried, or any herb you like
- Garlic Salt or fresh, or both!
- Salt and Pepper
- Burger ‘buns’ of your liking baps, ciabatta, whatever
- Oil for frying
- A good sized gherkin
- Two jalapeno peppers from a jar I bought when I was messing around with homemade kebabs
- Half a tomato that was on the turn
- Some hot chilli sauce
- Some mayonnaise
- A few slivers of cheddar
- Anything you like!
There are a couple of tricks and tips to making a decent burger, the first of which is not to ‘overwork’ the minced beef as you mix the other ingredients into it. I am not entirely sure why this is a thing, maybe it loses air or something but if you use a lighter hand when you mix, your burger will end up less chewy. But maybe you like chewy so don’t worry about it too much!
So, throw your mince into a bowl and add the onion, herbs, garlic salt, paprika and a good amount of salt and pepper. If you are using fresh garlic I would be inclined to gently fry the garlic and onion until soft before adding. It is a step I couldn’t be bothered with on this particular day so raw minced onion and garlic salt did the trick for me. Gently mix together until it is all reasonably well incorporated. Divide the mix into portions of a size and shape to your liking.
Here’s the second tip, burgers tend to expand as you cook them, shrinking in diameter and fattening up in the middle in an attempt to turn themselves into meatball shaped things, so make a depression in the middle of the burger with a fat thumb or the back of a spoon which will help them retain more of a burger shape as they cook. I found this tip late in life but it does work. Most recipes will recommend you chill them in the fridge for an hour before you cook them and I do if I have the time but mostly I am too hungry and they go directly into the frying pan and are still perfectly delicious.
This time I chilled the burgers for a few minutes while I made a quick relish by finely chopping a gherkin, some jalapeno peppers and half a tomato with the gooey centre and seeds removed. I mixed these with a little mayo and some chilli sauce I had to hand. I suppose it was a half-arsed attempt at the kind of thing you find in a Big Mac or Whopper but it tasted not half bad! I shredded some lettuce in a pathetic attempt to make this healthier and thinly sliced myself a few shards of cheese because… cheeseburger!
How you cook your burger is up to you. I like a medium burger I suppose, just cooked through with little juice squirting out of them as you tuck in. Others like them more pink or cooked until they resemble an ice hockey puck. Your choice.
I fry them on a medium high heat squishing and flattening them with a fish slice or spatula until the juice that emerges is clear and free of anything resembling blood. When they are cooked through and nicely browned take them off the heat and leave aside while you toast your ‘buns’.
Serve on the toasted buns topped with the cheese, relish, lettuce and anything else you like!