Best method for cooking hamburgers--sans grill?
- Eva and Ziv May 24, 2005 11:24 AM
With Memorial Day coming up, I'm getting a hankering for good old-fashioned barbecue fare (though it will most likely be no more than a 4-person affair). I'd like to cook up some delicious, juicy burgers, but thing is--I live in an apartment. So, I have no Weber, no George Foreman, not even a grill pan (though I'd be willing to purchase the last if necessary).
What's the best way to cook an indoor burger? Broiling? Frying in a skillet? Grill pan? I've got the burger recipe down, but I'd love specific cooking tips (timing, temperature, etc.). I have an electric stove/oven and I like mine medium rare. TIA.
My husband is the master of the grill pan, so when it is too cold or we are too lazy we use this rather than grilling. He usually lightly dusts the burgers with some dry spices and adds some A1 while cooking. Tries to keep flipping to a minimum.
He also 'grills' the buns before doing the burgers and keeps them in a tortilla warmer until ready for use.
Panini presses can work pretty well as grills also.
I'm a big fan of griddled burgers, whether homemade or short-order - if I could afford my dream kitchen, I'd have a diner-style frying surface alongside the Viking range for sure! In the absence of that, a plain griddle does just fine, or an iron skillet if that's all you have. Griddles fry dryer, and are easier to keep scraped clean.
The burgers should be formed gently, just patted into shape and not compressed, then put onto the hot surface and left alone until they're fairly well cooked. They'll sieze onto the surface right away - let that happen, don't try to scoot'em around - and then when the edges are betraying some doneness, slide the spatula under. If you've timed it right, you shouldn't have to scrape too hard to release the burgers from the surface, and there should be a lovely crust formed.
No way to tell you how long to cook - this is something you have to work out for your stove and your tools, so you might want to do some experimental burgers in advance. I can think of worse tasks...;-)
I'm also an grill-less apartment dweller and I swear by my grill pan. The only issue is that it gets pretty smokey -- so be sure to open a window or rev up your stovetop fan. Most recently, I made some delicious turkey burgers -- ground turkey, shallots, minced garlic and minced flatleaf parsley, seasoned liberally with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. I find that adding a bit of minced onion or shallot to the meat ensures a juicy burger.
I live in NYC so I share you're lack of a grill. I alway make my burgers in a cast iron skillet. They can be found for under $10 and I think they do a much better job than grill pans. The meat has more contact with the pan so you get a much better sear. I heat up the pan on high heat for at least 5 minutes, then put the burgers in and let them sear for about 3-5 minutes, then flip and let the other side sear for about the same time. The cooking times I use are for a medium rare burger, maybe a little more than half a inch thick. If you like thicker burgers, or a more well done burger, put the pan in the oven about a minute after you flip the burgers.
As for the construction of the burger, I like to just mix in some salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper into the meat and form the patties. Then lightly coat with oil and add some salt and pepper. Sometimes I'll add finely minced onion to the ground beef other times I'll cook the onion in the cast iron pan next to the burgers so they get nice and charred while the burger is cooking.
Also, for a little something different, after the burger is done cooking, put the burger in the bun and put the bun back in the pan with the heat off. Cook for a minute and flip onto the top bun and cook for another 30 seconds. The residual heat in the pan will lightly toast and crisp up the bun. Delicious.
I prefer to use an iron skillet too. I like to brown sliced onions and mushrooms in the skillet in a little olive oil first, then cook the hamburger, then remove the hamburger and throw the onions and mushrooms back in the skillet for a minute or two to reheat and soak up the burger juices. MMMM.
I agree with the cast iron pans. But if you don't have one or don't want to buy one. I think a regular non-stick or pan will work. If using a stick pan, just make sure it sears enough then it'll release.
And if you don't want to smoke up your house too much, you can try to sear on both side then pop inside a oven to finish off. I usually do 1-2 minutes on high on each side, then put the whole thing with the pan inside my toast oven, and just leave the door open, then it acts sort of like a salamander.
I use the broiler in my electric range. I douse the top of the patty with Lea & Perrins and broil 3 minutes, then flip, douse, and broil another 3 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes on the stovetop to let the inside cook a bit more, if needed.
If you're going to broil burgers, I recommend buying a small broiler pan. Much easier to clean, handle, and store. I ordered a little stainless steel broiler pan from a grill supplier.
Here are two details that make a burger great:
- I have my butcher grind the beef in front of me. Fresh!
- Form the patties delicately, handling the meat as little as possible. A mishappen patty is better than an over-handled patty.
This will smell and smoke up the kitchen but the results will be great. First start with good meat. don't buy pre-ground meat. Go to the butcher, get yourself a piece of round steak or chuck steak and have him grind it once...not twice. Even better, mix both types together or even add some brisket meat to them as well.
Get a heavy cast iron skillet. Lightly salt your meat and pepper it too. Do not over handle the meat! Lightly shape the patties uniformly..Not thicker in the center than the sides.
If the meat has some fat content, no need to oil the skillet. But, have one of those grease splatter screens handy. Het the pan till its very hot, throw on the burgers and get a good crisp exterior on each side and then lower the heat...Make sure you do not over cook them.
Then, take some Vadalia onions and throw them into the skillet and cook them for a few minutes...