Three Simple Steps To The Perfect Burger
I grew up in Mississippi, and my ideal burger is very much influenced by the tastes of the southern US. I add pimento cheese, which is a simple, spiced-up cheese relish known as the caviar of the South. It brings plenty of flavour, and transforms the whole thing into the ultimate in comfort food. As for the burger itself, I think premium-quality meat gets at least nine tenths of the job done. I get my meat from the guys at Turner & George, a London meat merchant. All its meats are dry-aged, which results in a natural concentration and development of flavour. The lean-fat ratio should ideally be around 80:20. Personally, I don’t like weighty 200g patties – I like about 120g maximum, shaped very thinly; the lighter texture allows the flavours to really sing. Lastly, I’d say you should put as much care into the sourcing of the bread as the meat. I like to use a squidgy potato roll to give the whole thing a real top-quality-fast-food feel. Top off with some tomato, lettuce and onion, and you’re ready to roll.
- 110-120g ground beef, the best you can find, preferably Angus, ideally 80 per cent lean
- Pimento cheese (see recipe below)
- 1 leaf iceberg lettuce
- Sliced red onion, to taste
- 1 slice heirloom tomato, in season
- 1 potato roll (if you can’t find them, go with a light brioche bun)
For the pimento cheese (mix to combine, makes enough for 8-12 patties):
- 500g super-sharp mature cheddar, grated
- 30g mayonnaise
- 3 egg yolks (50g liquid egg yolk)
- 2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- 6 drops Tabasco
- 175g jar pimento peppers, drained and finely diced
- 2 jalapeño chillies, grilled, peeled and finely diced
It’s in the mix
Don’t fuss with your ground beef too much. Season it with salt and pepper and mould into 110-120g patties. Keep it light; let the little chunks sit like a loose sausage. Refrigerate, just until the meat’s re-chilled; you don’t want your patties too cold.
Put your seasoned patties into a cast-iron skillet, plancha, or whatever you have, and sear for about 90 seconds on each side on a super-high heat. If you like your burger medium-rare, take it straight off; if you prefer well done, pop it in the oven for a couple of minutes. Either way, the total cooking time shouldn’t exceed 3-4 minutes.
Assemble and eat
Now we get to build our burger. I like to steam the bun a little so it’s nice and soft, then I put in a bottom layer of the pimento cheese, followed by the patty – or a double patty if I’m feeling particularly ravenous – and then the lettuce, onion and tomato, then the lovely yielding bun on top. Don’t be too clinical here – this isn’t a beauty contest. I like to see a little cheese oozing out of the bottom and the patty sticking out of the side.
Now comes the best part – eating it. Wear a bib because this is a messy burger to eat – that’s part of its appeal. I would even serve some extra pimento cheese alongside it, maybe coating the fries. I do love cheesy fries.
Burger making tips
MEAT AND GREET
I always go for prime Angus beef. If you can’t find it, look for the finest-quality, freshest-ground chuck you can get, from a specialist butcher such as Turner & George.
BLEND IT, SHAPE IT
If you’re going to grind your meat at home, collect it straight from the mincer, measure it by eye, and don’t bash it or mangle it. You want a patty that’s light and malleable.
CONDIMENTS TO THE CHEF
You don’t need to pack your patties with spices. If you’ve sourced great meat, it doesn’t need a load of bells and whistles to help it along. Salt and pepper, baby; that’s it as far as I’m concerned, on your meat and your dressings alike.
Vary your toppings depending on the time of year. In winter, there are plenty of indoor salad leaves you could use, such as baby gem lettuce or red oak and green oak leaves. You could even try sliced persimmon, rather than tomato, if you wanted to get really creative.
UNDER THE BIB
Illustrations by Ms Anje Jager