Discussion in 'UK Smokers' started by kc5tpy, May 6, 2015.

  1. Hello.  I feel a little silly even asking this but I sometimes have trouble and I am sure others do as well.  You would think this is "old hat" and a burger is grilling 101.  Is it?  Burgers can be a bit hit and miss for me.  Maybe cold beverages affect my burgers more than I'd like to admit.  [​IMG]   I know this is more grilling than smoking  but I throw in wood chips when I grill steaks and burgers.  So looking for your thoughts.  I want to develop a meat mixture of more than just the locally available mince to make a burger.  But that's another story.  So here is my question:  If you go to the local fast food joint you get a "burger" that is always the same size, more or less cooked medium to well done, BUT "tender and flaky" if you can use those words to describe a burger.  .  When I grill a burger it CAN come out "heavy and sometimes tough" even when served medium rare.  Yes I do season my burgers and sometimes add things like onion and even jalapeno to the meat mixture.  Things that the local joint does not do.  I know the more you mix mince the "tougher" it can become; especially if you use your hand as it adds heat which melts the fat to a degree.  I have even tried using a fork to mix the mince.  Not always successful and sometimes the burger falls apart when grilling.  My mind is telling me to use a fork to mix, weigh the meat so that each burger is "roughly" the same thickness, use a chilled burger press to form the burger and then chill the meat before cooking??    I never add an egg to the meat mixture???  I know their "burger" is not 100% percent meat.  Do you reckon that makes all the difference?  I do from time to time fry a burger in a way my Grandmother taught me; your gonna think I have lost my mind.  Don't know how she came up with it but you add some PLAIN crushed cornflakes to the mince, celery, onion ( maybe jalapeno ) mixture.  Make a brown beef gravy in the same frying pan and serve over mashed potatoes.  WOW!  Those are never heavy or tough but they just don't work for a burger.  The "solid" beef taste is not quite there.  While writing this I just had a thought, the local burger joint cooks from frozen??  Ya reckon?  Interested in your thoughts, ideas and methods.  Keep Smokin!

  2. timberjet

    timberjet Master of the Pit

    I get my Burger from the butcher twice a year when dad and I split a steer. Mom, likes it lean so it's like 90/10. It's a pain to work with so I add a little non fat powdered milk and ground bacon and an egg and a little worchester sauce to it and mix it up in my stand mixer just enough but not too much. I smoke my burgers to med rare and then reverse sear. I usually stuff them with something too, at the very least cheese. That's how I do mine anyway. 

    This here was a mushroom swiss cheese burger with spinach and pickles. It was good too.
  3. fwismoker

    fwismoker Master of the Pit

    Danny all I know is you can never have a dry burger if the ground isn't too lean and its not over cooked.

    If I'm not using my stuffed burger maker I'll just judge the size by the feel in my hand while making a ball before the patty.

    You can make a dimple in the center of the patty and it wont shrink up on you.
  4. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Teaching a Texan how to make burgers - I will be able to dine out on this for years [​IMG]

    In the past I have had a few burger disasters too however now I now get consistently good results. Many of the things i tweaked were as a result of watching too many Saturday morning TV cooking shows and reading a range of BBQ cookery books. I lead a very sad life I know !

    The first thing I changed was that I started to use a blend of meat - 3:1 beef:pork. I use the minced beef steak and lean minced pork from the supermarket so that the meat does not contain any hard minced gristle. According to the packaging the beef is typically about 8% fat and the pork is about 10% fat.

    The next thing was to stop adding any fillers. I now don't add any onion, cereal, egg etc. The only thing I add now is seasoning. Mostly just salt and pepper and maybe a little ancho chilli poweder. Also I have found that adding a little garam masala adds a nice depth of flavour. If I really want to push out the boat then I may also add some garlic powder. As the meat is relatively low in fat then at this point it is important to add in some oil. I usually add a tablespoon or two of rapeseed or groundnut oil.

    As you say, Danny, mix by hand. I don't find that you have to be too gentle here and i usually just fold and squeeze it together until it is all mixed.

    At this point fry a small patty to check the seasoning and adjust if necessary.

    To help with the cooking I accurately weigh the mix into portions. I find that 6 oz (170 g) give a nice size serving burger. Form them into rounds that are about 1/2" (12 mm) thick. This makes big patties but they do shrink in diameter and thicken as they cook. Place these on a baking sheet and freeze. Even if you are using them that day you should still freeze them as they are best cooked from frozen. Freezing them first helps keep the patty together as it cooks as there is no added binder and helps retain moisture. 

    Now for the cooking. This needs a classic graduated cooking grate. Hot coals on one side and no coals on the other. You then place the frozen burgers over the hot coals and grill them on high for a minute or two on each side until they are nicely caramelised. The insides will still be quite cold at this stage. Then move them to the "cold" side of the cooking grate and put on the lid. Continue to cook using indirect heat until the internal temperature has reached 185 F (85 C). These can be served straight into the bun but I find they also benefit from being wrapped in foil and allowed to rest for a few minutes.

    With good quality meat, ensuring there is enough fat and by cooking in a way that retains moisture, you should never get a hard dry burger.
    Last edited: May 7, 2015
  5. mdboatbum

    mdboatbum Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Salt and fat. Not enough of either and you'll have a dry, mealy burger. All the other add ins are great and all, but you were asking how the burger joints get their burgers tender and juicy.
    Start with 75/25 beef. Then add salt. Use nearly the amount you would if you were making sausage. This simple addition makes all the difference. In addition to enhancing the flavor of the beef, it denatures the proteins, allowing them to unwind and form a sponge like mesh that will trap moisture. It's essentially an internal dry brine.
  6. Hello.  Thanks for the info guys.  I will give your ideas a try.  For many, many years I would not fire up the grill for burgers but I can't find a burger I like here.  Burger King is the best I can get and I NEVER went to Burger King when I lived in the States.  SO, like sausage I need to start doing my own.  I even have to buy good dill pickles off the internet that have been shipped over.  I am experimenting with my own.  The Wife likes burgers and I like a good burger but I just haven't played around with them much.  Yes Wade; I know I'll never hear the end of this.  [​IMG]   Any other ideas appreciated.  We can't know it all.  We all have things to learn.  Keep Smokin!

  7. mdboatbum

    mdboatbum Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Danny, I have a little update.
    The Mrs. and I were talking about making burgers for dinner, so I picked up the most marbled piece of chuck roast I could find. It was about 3 lbs, so I ground about half for hamburger. I purposely picked the fattiest parts, basically trimming around the "eye" so I I ended up with what appeared to be about 75/25 lean to fat. Ground it through the fine plate on the Kitchenaid.
    Then added a couple teaspoons of salt, a quarter cup of water and as a little experiment, a quarter cup of nonfat dry milk.
    I already had a baseline on what would happen if I just ground it without seasoning (dry and mealy) and if I added salt (nice and juicy) so I wanted to see if I could put it over the top.
    So after the additions of salt, water and NFDM, I mixed it in the kitchenaid with the paddle until it came together and was sticky. I was basically making sausage. Ended up with just about 28oz, so made 4 7oz patties and let them sit in the fridge for about an hour. I figured it couldn't hurt to let the salt have some time to work its magic.
    When it came time to cook, I wanted to replicate the method used by most restaurants. So I seared them in a cast iron skillet over medium high heat for about 4 minutes on side A, then flipped and popped the whole pan in a 425° oven for 10 minutes. They temped at about 135° when they came out. Just about the same medium well most restaurants here insist on cooking their burgers. (After a brief rest anyway. Didn't temp them again but there was no pink remaining).
    Result? Very good "beefy" flavor, wonderful not too dense texture with no "flaking" and juicy enough to require extra napkins and a spare shirt. I mean just silly juicy. They also browned very nicely, the crust was almost crunchy.
    Now I normally would have done them a little closer to medium, probably pulled them at 125°, but I kinda wanted to see how they'd hold up to a little abuse.
    I think a reverse sear and a lower finished temp would be out of this world. I'll let you know this weekend, as this experiment isn't finished. 😀
    And sorry for no photos, but I didn't even really think of it.
  8. Hello.  Thanks Andrew.  Wade mentioned adding oil and you mentioned adding some water, and NFDM.  You both mention chilling well.  2 steps I had not tried before.  I thought about chilling as only I wrote my question.  I know this whole thing sounds silly.  You would think anyone who can fire up the smoker and smoke a 15lb. brisket could do burgers standing on his head.  As I said I never really did a lot of burgers and I will admit that mine are too hit and miss.  Thanks guys.  Keep Smokin!

    wade likes this.
  9. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    The important thing i think Danny is to ensure that the centre of the burger cooks slower than the outside and so retains the moisture. Making sure thee is sufficient moisture/fat to begin with is important and then the chilling followed by the searing and subsequent indirect cooking does the rest.
  10. mdboatbum

    mdboatbum Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    You would think burgers would be easy wouldn't you? But how many bad burgers have we all had compared to really amazing ones? I'd guess the ratio is about 20:1.
    I started grinding my own beef for burgers a few years ago. I of course felt all superior and convinced myself I was making the best burgers on earth. Except I wasn't. They were, like you experienced, dense, dry and crumbly.
    The talking heads on tv all day to be gentle with ground meat, and to just lightly press it into a patty without compressing it. I've found the opposite to be true.
  11. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Yes, i have found that thee is no need ti be gentle. Get all those invredients well mixed...
  12. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Sorry for the typos. I am on my mobile phone at the moment on a train
    Last edited: May 14, 2015
  13. smokewood

    smokewood Smoking Fanatic Group Lead

    I use the mince from Aldi, the one with the 20% fat content, and only add 1 Tbsp dried onions and salt and pepper.   If i lightly mix it together the burgers have a course texture but they tend to fall apart on the grill, so I scrounged some burger "binder" from Morrisons Butchery counter and that did the trick, no more burgers falling apart.  Alternatively if you really mix the burgers really well you loose the course texture so the meat is more processed but the burgers do not fall apart.

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