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Jeffrey steingarten’s 8 steps to hamburger perfection

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  • Jhirshon
    Former Member
    • Sep 2018
    • 124
    • San Francisco

    Jeffrey steingarten’s 8 steps to hamburger perfection

    As noted here: https://www.thefooddictator.com/jeff...er-perfection/

    ...and for those who prefer not to click:

    Citizens – just in time for your 4th of July cookout, I give you the secrets to burger nirvana! Specfically, those communicated from on-high by legendary Vogue food critic, Jeffrey Steingarten!

    He is the *true* Master!

    Without further ado, I give you Jeffrey Steingarten’s 8 Steps to Hamburger Perfection!

    Battle on – The Generalissimo

    1. Chill Out: “Before grinding chunks of beef, before forming a hamburger, and before cooking a hamburger, make sure that the beef is ice cold. Otherwise, the fat may melt and separate from the lean.”

    2. Grind or Else: Steingarten concludes you must either grind your own meat or have a trusted butcher grind it for you, for reasons of taste and safety (or, perish the thought, be sentenced to a life of consuming well-done burgers). “Never buy supermarket ground beef unless the butcher there grinds it specially for you.”

    He explains in painstaking detail all of the ways supermarket ground beef can be contaminated. His solution, if you have any questions about the chopped meat you’ve just bought: “Drop the meat into a pot of boiling water for a minute, fish it out, and pat it dry. Yes, it’ll turn gray, but only on the outside, and this will get ground into the rest of the meat and vanish.”

    3. Fluff that Stuff: “When forming a hamburger, don’t compress the meat. The fluffier, the better. A raw burger should be airy and full of tiny holes that can hold the juices released during cooking, when the fat melts and water is squeezed out from between the proteins.”

    Steingarten quotes Harold McGee on this issue: “The gently gathered ground beef in a good hamburger has a delicate quality quite unlike even a tender steak.” Steingarten decides that one of the many reasons much of his hamburger experiments had gone awry is that “I don’t think I had ever gently gathered!”

    4. Just Add Water: Adding the liquid is literally the secret sauce that will make any burger sing. Here is Steingarten’s eureka hamburger moment. Forty-eight hours before the Vogue article was due, he discovers that adding a tablespoon and a half of liquid to the ground meat immeasurably improved the burger. He tried cream and water, and they both produced a superior, succulent, juicy, crumbly (which, Steingarten discovered, is a good thing) burger.

    5. Season Well: “Don’t salt hamburger meat either before or after it is ground. Just before you cook the burger, liberally sprinkle salt on both sides of each patty, and press it lightly. After they’re cooked, sprinkle with freshly ground pepper.”

    6. Flip Side: Searching for the proper and most delicious burger-cooking technique, Steingarten ends up asking for advice from Kyle Connaughton, the head chef of development at Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck in England.

    Connaughton follows Harold McGee’s finding that if you flip a burger or a steak every fifteen to 30 seconds, the outside surface will get nicely browned while the inside stays relatively cool.

    7. No Pressure: “While cooking your hamburger never press down on the patty with your spatula or with anything else.” An esteemed New York City chef, Lee Hanson, of Balthazar, Pastis, and Schiller’s Liquor Bar, further advises Steingarten that broiling from above is much less likely to dry out the burger.

    8. Buns and Brains: In searching for the perfect bun, Steingarten notes that “An article in Cook’s Illustrated said the best hamburger buns are Pepperidge Farm’s Farmhouse Sandwich Rolls (not the company’s classic hamburger buns).

    He tries them and finds them to his liking, though he says “they do need to be compressed a bit before using.” He does not tell us if he has found a hamburger bun compressor, though I am sure if I had 15 minutes to go through his kitchen, I would find a reasonable facsimile.
  • RonB
    Club Member
    • Apr 2016
    • 12583
    • Near Richmond VA
    • Weber Performer Deluxe
      Pizza insert
      Smokenator 1000
      Cookshack Smokette Elite
      2 Thermapens
      lots of probes.

    I might try the water trick.


    • tbob4
      Charter Member
      • Nov 2014
      • 2258
      • Chico, CA
      • BBQ's
        California Custom Smokers Intensive Cooking Unit
        California Custom Smokers Meat Locker
        Santa Maria Grill
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        Sierra Nevada IPA


      Good article. I don't have a favorite burger. I do them on a whim. Squished burgers, which defy the instructions above, might be to my liking on one day. Fat burgers SV'd and grilled might be my preference on another.


      • CaptainMike
        CaptainMike commented
        Editing a comment
    • Polarbear777
      Club Member
      • Sep 2016
      • 1662

      Interesting I actually don’t have much to disagree with here. Flipping constantly is an okay method but will still net some overcooked gray if you’re into that sort of thing and you want the interior to be safe.

      Burgers are a bifurcation. You either go thick and then reverse sear or SV-sear or you go smaller and smash immediately (only once, before anything heats up) on a crazy hot griddle to maximize crust formation on thin patties.

      In-between these two extremes is just not quite as good in my experience.


      • Steve B
        Steve B commented
        Editing a comment
        Good point. I’ve either done thicker burgers and seared the crap out of them to get a nice crust. But than the inside is almost always quite rare. Which the wife hates. Or much thinner and flip, flip, flip. And I don’t like the outcome of those.
        So I have come to love the “smash burger”. Well cooked and still juicy.
        But Steingarten’s method sounds pretty, well, pretty sound.

      • Henrik
        Henrik commented
        Editing a comment
        I’m with you Steve. Smash is the way to go.
    • jgreen
      Charter Member
      • Oct 2014
      • 2718
      • Winnipeg Manitoba Canada
      • Cookers:
        Broil King XL
        Broil King Smoke
        Weber Kettle 26
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        Capital 40 natural gas
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        Maverick 733
        Thermapen (ok..4 thermapens)
        Thermo works DOT (or two)
        Fireboard (probably my favourite)
        Thermworks Smoke (or two)

        SnS (original, plus and XL)
        DnG pans, 6 or 7 of these
        and, maybe some other toys as well

      Cool tip on adding water. Thanks.


      • Huskee
        Pit Boss
        • May 2014
        • 14901
        • central MI, USA
        • Follow me on Instagram, huskeesbarbecue

          Want a free bottle of whiskey? Check out my link to Flaviar.com, you join with it, we both get a $50 bottle free.

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          • Weber 22" Original Kettle Premium (copper)
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          • (3) Maverick XR-50: 4-probe Wireless Thermometers
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          About me
          Real name: Aaron
          Location: Farwell, Michigan- near Clare. (dead center of lower peninsula)

          • Healthcare- Licensed & Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) for MidMichigan Health, a University of Michigan Health System.

        I have only a couple minor disagreements...

        I say yes to salting ahead of time, don't mix the salt in the meat of course, just salt the patty itself, but do it ahead of time. And you don't need a full minute in the boiling water, 10-20 seconds will do. And pasteurization is a product of time and temp, so if you indirectly (slowly) cook a burger up to 145-150, it can be pasteurized before 160 if it spends a longer time at those lower temps. I shoot for 150 (155 max) myself when cooking front sear w/ indirect finish. So using supermarket ground beef does not mean you have to eat well done dry burgers, that it a myth. I've had plenty of memorable juicy medium-well supermarket ground beef burgers, you just have to be smart & informed when cooking. However I think grinding your own is still the best way.


        • Polarbear777
          Polarbear777 commented
          Editing a comment
          Right, If you mix the salt in the denaturing binds the proteins and you get a sausage not a burger.

          I do the thick style SV so I can pasteurize it and then cook to any temp I want safely.
      • Bighorn Dave
        Club Member
        • Aug 2018
        • 240
        • Nampa, Idaho

        A little question on the water suggestion. Any idea what portion of meat is used for that amount of water. I'll assume a 16 oz. portion.


        • fkrall
          Club Member
          • Jan 2017
          • 134
          • Northern NJ

          The water's a new one for me, but other than that, sounds like Steingarten studied Meathead: https://amazingribs.com/tested-recip...how-zen-master (AKA "Hamburger Secrets....")


          • Frozen Smoke
            Club Member
            • Nov 2017
            • 1528
            • Northern Mn

            Well griddle press sales are going to plummet and smash burgers will never appear on these pages again!


            • Bighorn Dave
              Club Member
              • Aug 2018
              • 240
              • Nampa, Idaho

              Originally posted by Frozen Smoke View Post
              Well griddle press sales are going to plummet and smash burgers will never appear on these pages again!
              This has the odiferous odor of fake news to it.


              • HouseHomey
                HouseHomey commented
                Editing a comment
                Frozen Smoke My brick wrapped in foil does just fine. It been a long while since I made a smash though. Has me thinking.
            • HouseHomey
              Club Member
              • May 2016
              • 5218
              • Huntington Beach, Ca. Surf City USA.
              • Equipment
                Primo Oval xl

                Slow n Sear (two)
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                The help and preferences
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                Erik S.

              The "Myth" is there is a "Best Way."

              No such thing. Only things not to do if you want xyz... or do "this" if you want "that."

              I cant believe he printed that. Seems below his paygrade.

              i agree with Huskee as well. Although I always grind my own I have in a pinch bought ground beef for various uses and it was just fine. Not as good but still delicious.

              The "Best" of things does not really sit well with me. I blame Meathead and amazing ribs for that.

              "No Rules."


              • Huskee
                Huskee commented
                Editing a comment
                Yep. Many authors/instructors/etc think their way is "best" which is why they're authoring or instructing. I happen to prefer the "here's what I personally prefer" approach instead of the "here's the best way" approach. It's only "best" if I'm making it for me.

              • HouseHomey
                HouseHomey commented
                Editing a comment
                Huskee yes sir! As for below I agree too. JeffJ I used to be that way too. Everything has a profile so I'm off the cheap buns as a rule. The combination of toasted pretzel bun, grilled red onion and charr d meat juice I am still in love with. A unique flavor. Awesome!

              • DeusDingo
                DeusDingo commented
                Editing a comment
                you can't sell it if you don't make it glamorous. everything someone posts has to be "the best" and everything else is "top 10 things you are doing wrong with your burgers"
            • JeffJ
              Charter Member
              • Feb 2015
              • 2406
              • Michigan
              • Jeff

              One of the earlier webinars was an hour long talk about burgers. The only thing mentioned above that I don't think was in the webinar was adding water. I'll definitely be trying that. My favorite part of the webinar was when Meathead asked him about buns. The reply, "I like a shitty bun." Cheap white bread buns are what was recommended. Fancier buns detract from the star of the show - the burger itself.


              • HouseHomey
                HouseHomey commented
                Editing a comment
                That's funny!

              • JeffJ
                JeffJ commented
                Editing a comment
                Huskee I agree that a good, quality bun accentuates rather than obscures a good burger. I just thought the notion of a cheap, bland bun was interesting and has some merit.

              • Huskee
                Huskee commented
                Editing a comment
                Surely. To be brutally honest, i use the cheap white burger buns better than half the time, and broiled with butter until toasted they are just fine!
            • CaptainMike
              Club Member
              • Nov 2015
              • 2423
              • The Great State of Jefferson
              • Weber Summit Charcoal Grill w/SnS and DnG (Spartacus)
                Old school big'ol Traeger w/Pro controller (Big Tex)
                2 W22's w/SnS, DnG (1 black, 1 copper) (Minions 1 and 2)
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                20 x 30 Santa Maria grill (Maria, duh)
                Bradley cabinet smoker (Pepper Gomez)
                36" Blackstone griddle (The Black Beauty)
                Thermoworks Smoke and Thermapen.

              Good post, good discussion.


              • Polarbear777
                Club Member
                • Sep 2016
                • 1662

                So the water thing. How much and WHY does it work if it does. What’s the theory? If we can’t explain it and test it we don’t really understand it and it heads straight for meatheads “husbands tales” folder.


                • JimLinebarger
                  JimLinebarger commented
                  Editing a comment
                  I can understand adding a liquid can increase the juiciness, but so can good fat. If you add a liquid, add some flavor with it. Water is bland. Still would like to see this really tested to verify/debunk. But in the article about adding water, it says he added cream and water. What type of cream? Heavy cream, sour cream, coffee cream, Brylcreem? At least some sort of cream will add some oil/fats.
              • Potkettleblack
                Club Member
                • Jun 2016
                • 1960
                • Beautiful Downtown Berwyn
                • Grill: Grilla Original / Weber Genesis EP-330 / OK Joe Bronco Drum
                  Thermometers: Thermapen / iGrill 2 / Fireboard
                  For Smoke: Chunks / Pellet Tube / Mo Pouch
                  Sous Vide: Joule / Nomiku WiFi (RIP Nomiku)
                  Disqus: Le Chef - (something something something) - it changes

                Aside from the water, which is not specific as there is no ratio, there is nothing remotely novel or counter intuitive here. Why you’d ask an English chef about the proper way to cook the American, classic, I have no idea. It’s like asking an American chef about fish and chips. Sure, we make that, and folks here eat it, but they are known for it.

                If he’s legendary, it’s not for an innovative burger technique. Sous Vide solves so many of the problems that these rules for perfection are designed for. So does reverse sear.


                • Polarbear777
                  Polarbear777 commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Maybe you are supposed to add several quarts of water on the outside of an airless sealed container. :-)



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