As Part 2 of 3 on perfecting homemade burgers, this one will focus on ingredients to add to the hamburger mix.
The next one will be on burger toppings and bread selection.
There are literally countless ingredients one can add to their hamburger mix to create a flavorful burger patty, and trying to cover all of them at once would be next to impossible.
Therefore, I will focus on some general tips and a handful of unique ideas for you.
Firstly, please understand that the burger patty itself should be flavorful and don’t rely on just the toppings to make it taste good. If it doesn’t taste good on its own, you are not done making the burger patty yet.
Let your pantry and spice rack be your guide. Think of the type of burger you would like to create based on what you have on hand.
Maybe you would like to create an Italian burger? Then use herbs such as basil and oregano and add lots of garlic.
An Asian type burger would be better suited with sesame oil, sesame seeds, and maybe some Chinese 5-spice powder.
A southern-Louisiana-type burger may come together with some cayenne pepper, onion, garlic, and a flavorful paprika.
A Greek burger could be made with oregano, rosemary, tons of garlic, and maybe some crumbled feta cheese.
Cheeses are a great way to not only introduce flavor, but also to add moisture. A dry burger patty is not very palatable.
Sometimes I will also include a chunk of cheese in the middle of each patty, like mozzarella, for a hidden cheesy centre.
Also, keep in mind the salt content of the cheeses you select; salt and pepper to your burger mix is crucial, but you don’t want it to be overly salty.
Breadcrumbs are not always necessary to make a good burger, and with the number of gluten intolerant people seemingly on the rise, this is more important to know than ever.
Breadcrumbs act as a good binder to help hold the burger together by giving it some stability, but breadcrumbs also tend to dry out the burger.
Some of my best burger creations were created without any breadcrumbs at all and just relying on eggs to hold the patties together when cooking.
Keep in mind that the number of wet ingredients one is adding to the mix must then be kept to a minimum as there will be no crumbs to soak up the excess moisture.
You can also serve burger patties in lettuce cups, which I find is a refreshing change from regular burger buns.
Probably the best tip I can share when cooking red meat is to add a small amount of dark berry jam, like blueberry or blackberry, to your raw hamburger mix. The dark full-bodied flavor of the jam compliments the full-bodied flavor of red meat. This is a trick I have used many times when creating such red meat dishes as meat loaf, tomato meat sauce, and burgers.
About two measured tablespoons of dark berry jam to each pound of red meat should result in a complimentary effect.
My last suggestion is to simply be resourceful. Armed with a knife and a cutting board, a look in the refrigerator may uncover such hidden gems to add to the mix, such as pickles, hot peppers, capers, anchovies, olives, sundried tomatoes, celery, and bell peppers.
Let your imagination run wild and you may become famous for your creation.
• Here is the previous column on meat selection.
Chef Dez is a chef, writer and host. Visit him at chefdez.com.