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Welcoming a friend back to red meat

I've been charged with making the introductory burger for a pal who hasn't eaten red meat in years. It's a lot of pressure, and frankly, I don't cook burgers that often. And here's another hurdle: she keeps kosher. Sigh.

So, what's the ideal mix of (obv's kosher) meat and what do I put in it and how long do I cook it. This is all going down in Texas next week, so I assume we're grilling.

I'm probably going with a sesame seed bun and a minimum of toppings (although she can put whatever she likes on it- I don't care). But any suggestions are appreciated.

I can handle it, really. I think I can. I think I can.

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  1. Kosher is not hurdle just means no pork - I do not think you will need to mix in any other meats just go all beef and since you are grilling I would not choose an extra-lean groud beef because the burger would dry out -

    In terms of season you can go really simple just salt and pepper - but I like a little more flavor - so I would put some garlic powder and some sweet paprika - all mixed in with ground beef - - I also like to press an onion in to the ground beef when grilling and have it on the cook while grilling -

    1 Reply
    1. re: weinstein5

      actually it also means no sirloin, tenderloin and a few other parts as well.

      "Certain parts of kosher animals are non-kosher. One such part is the sciatic nerve in the hindquarters, which is extremely difficult to remove. Thus some of the choicest cuts of meat - like filet mignon and sirloin steak - are forbidden. The fat surrounding the animal's organs is also trayf. Interestingly, there is a biochemical difference between the this fat and the fat surrounding the muscles (which is kosher)."


    2. Go to a butcher shop and get fresh ground meat, preferrably chuck or a combo of chuck and sirloin (I like to add other meats such as hanger or brisket but it might not be worth the effort for a first time (in a while) meat eater. Don't settle for supermarket pre-ground beef, if you can avoid it. You definitely want to find out how strict your friend as far as keeping kosher. To some people it means not mixing milk with meat and others require kosher beef and kosher cooking equipment, etc. Find out before you start buying anything.

      I usually make 4-6 oz patties. That gives a decent meat to bun ratio and is thick enough to get a good char without overcooking it. I season with lots of salt and pepper and nothing else. The put on a hot grill and cook for a few minutes per side. For a burger that is about 1 inch thick, it should take maybe 3 min per side for medium rare.

      It goes without saying that you can forget about making your friend a cheeseburger. I'd just keep the veges on the side and let her choose. Def. some sort of crisp lettuce, maybe a raw or grilled onion slice or two, some sliced tomatoes and pickles are the standard. I usually keep it to maybe a few grilled onions and a lettuce leaf, at most. I like to taste my burger. Also, lightly toast the buns on the grill for about a minute so they can get enough texture to hold together after getting soaked with burger juices.

      1. I made burgers the other day with lean beef and a good amount spicy hummus mixed in. Maybe a 1/4 or 1/3 C over about 10 ounces of beef. Very tasty and it kept the lean meat moist. And it should be kosher. Maybe this is a bridge for your newly carnivorous friend?

        3 Replies
          1. re: LoDega

            It was VERY good, and the hummus really helped with the caramelizing

            1. re: heatherkay

              Definitely something to try at some point. Thanks!

        1. Kosher?

          It's a whole lot more than "no pork," believe me. If your friend is truly kosher, you can't serve her meat that you buy in any regular market. You need to go to a kosher butcher and get kosher ground beef.

          Kosher is complicated and very specific. If you meant that she's not eating shellfish or pork or other treyfe (non-kosher foods), that's one thing. But, if she's keeping kosher, you can't cook regular meat for her.

          Check with her before you start.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Atlantis

            Ok, gang. Sorry if this was misleading. I know she keeps VERY kosher, and exactly what that means in terms of where I can get the meat and what I can't put into it. I only mentioned it so I wouldn't get any pork or cheese suggestions. The kosher part isn't scary, it's the making the perfect burger that matters to me. Thanks for all the suggestions so far. Keep 'em coming, please!

          2. Most times, in my experience, when I've been told someone keeps Kosher, it's really a "Kosher-style" diet wherein they don't eat pork or shellfish nor do they mix meat and dairy. There are some other fairly simple rules as well but nothing to get crazy about. I have many friends who fit this category and have found them easy to accomodate. If someone is Orthodox, however, that is a completely different matter and it's unlikely that they would be leaving their dietary and religious life in your hands. She would not be able to eat things from your kitchen or dishes.

            What this means is that you should plan a simple hamburger but not a cheeseburger. Check that the roll is kosher or neutral. Lots of ordinary condiments are - they have a K or a U in a circle on the label. Tomato, lettuce, onion are all fine.

            The best burgers are the most simple, from meat that is not too lean and has been handled the least. Make a simple patty, without adding other stuff (good meat doesn't need a thing) and don't compact it tightly. Flip it once and resist the urge to flatten it with a turner which pushes the juices out. If she hasn't eaten meat in a while, don't make it too large for it may simply be too rich.
            Sometimes simple is the best. And not worrying or making a big deal out of stuff gets you through just fine.

            Kosher and halal are actually quite easy to accomodate and those who follow them are generally quite gracious about helping us to understand their needs. After all, they live that way and are used to it. It's only unusual to us.

            1 Reply
            1. re: MakingSense

              I do think that simple will be the best plan. Thanks.

            2. My first thought: make the burgers on the small side. When I went back to meat, I couldn't eat much of it at one time in the beginning.

              5 Replies
                1. re: LoDega

                  As a former vegetarian who recently started eating meat again, I agree that they should be on the small "thinnish" side. I've been enjoying meat, all kinds, in small quantities, but I still do not think I would be tempted to bite into a big thick burger.

                  1. re: pescatarian

                    I would not be tempted to bite into a burger of whatever size. And I eat meat.
                    Short ribs, brisket, rib eyes, flank steak, shanks, now that's something to come back over for from the vegetarian side!

                      1. re: pescatarian

                        yes pig! bacon, pancetta, prosciutto. Nothing goes better with pork than . . . pork!

              1. A mixture of sirloin (for the rich taste) and chuck (for the fat content) is ideal. A ratio of 1 tsp of salt to 1 pound of meat is great as well. Put in other ingredients to your taste. Don't overmix, as the heat from your hands will make the burgers tough by melting some of the fat before the patties have a chance to cook and form a crust that will keep it in.

                I would do the patties 1/4 pound, for a few minutes on each side. Medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes usually cooks, without drying out. Dry overcooked burgers are horrible, but you should cook it medium so that not too much juice comes out (may freak out a former no-red-meateater)

                (I entered recipes for the burger contest this year and that's why I am a fountain of knowledge about burgers!) Good luck!

                1 Reply
                1. re: Main Line Tracey

                  Very good info. I hope you did well in the contest!

                2. In addition to the above I would also suggest if your friend is VERY kosher - Find a good kosher butcher in your are to get your meat - you might post that request on the kosher board of CH

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: weinstein5

                    Decent Kosher meat is also available at Trader Joes...

                    I also suggest you mix meats. Although I love the flavor and richness of Chunk in a burger, it might be too much for her. Instead you can get ground Chuck at Trader Joes, and grind a sirloin at home (Like in a food processor) and mix... :)


                    1. re: Dommy

                      Kosher butcher is a must. Or Trader Joe's. Will have to check with the diner in question. I wonder if anyone has ever gone to this much trouble to feed me? I kind of doubt it and I kind of hope not. Although I find it totally fun.

                      1. re: LoDega

                        Also be aware you can not get kosher sirloin in the stated - the reason is too long to explain but has to deal with removing a nerve in the rear of the animal - in the US it is too costly to do this so the portion of the cow where the sirloin comes from is not processed at kosher meat packing plants and butchers -

                        1. re: weinstein5

                          I appreciate this, although I think sirloin is too fancy for burgers. Isn't it?

                          1. re: LoDega

                            personally I agree with you - but I have even heard of a recipe for burgers using ground ribeye - if you can believe that!

                  2. And you want to be sure that you check the ingredients on your hamburger rolls - there might be dairy lurking there. Milk or milk solids, butter.... might be safer to make your own buns.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: sheiladeedee

                      maybe a stop at a kosher bakery is in order as well -

                    2. Fatty beef (80/20 or 75/25) and cook it well done. With enough fat, you can cook the crap out of it and it'll still be moist.

                      Well done is important. The last thing an ex-veggie wants is a bloody burger. Not even pink.

                      Make it thin, but, at the same time, make sure it covers the bun. A bun that's too big for the burger is a sorry sight.

                      I'm probably being a little paranoid here, but, if you can, make sure the butcher grinds a completely boneless piece of meat. I get a piece of bone in ground beef every once in a while. I think a piece of bone would be especially unpleasant in this instance.

                      And have a few burgers pre-formed. If you do this right, I get a feeling that she's going to want more than one. When I rejoined the carnivorous ranks after 10 years of vegetarianism, I hit the beef HARD. I had a lot of years to make up for :)

                      Lastly, are you sure she's completely committed to 'falling off the wagon?' You might want to have some boca burgers on hand, just in case she wimps out.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: scott123

                        She is totally committed to this. Entirely her idea and she won't stop talking about it. I'm really hoping not to make a letdown burger here.

                      2. I was just thinking that for a sortof new to meat person... don't go with anything less than well done..i guess it depends on their reason for not eating meat for so long. i like most meat rare, but the sight of pink hamburger turns my stomach, plus the risk of her getting sick on her first meat meal. ok, nvm, i just read the last post lol..ditto.

                        i would season the burger with S&P, some garlic, maybe something a bit spicy.. actually i usually just throw in anything and everything that looks good.

                        1. ok, I would do an avante garde burger to show her the wonderment that she has been missing.

                          May I suggest a hamburger "Tartare" prepared tableside? Have the ruby meat all trimmed (No filet mignon, its not Kosher!), and all your other ingredients set up along side the table. Finely mince the meat and then toss the ingredients together. Spoon small "patties" of the uncooked tartare onto thinly sliced and oven crisped toasts which serve as the bottom "bun". Garnish with a few thinly sliced raw onions and a dollop of garlic aoli on the side.


                          1 Reply
                          1. re: krushdnasty

                            Whoa. Sounds great to me, but I think it might just blow her poor meatless mind. I think we're looking at something pedestrian to start, and maybe wild and crazy by the end of the week. Who knows? I'll report back, I promise.

                          2. One of the best burgers I've ever had was simply ground beef seasoned with salt, pepper, and ground garlic and cooked on a mesquite grill. Mesquite gives it such a wonderful flavor and if this is all going down in Texas...

                            Keep little dishes for sampling the different condiments easily: a variety of pickles, onions, lettuce, mayo, ketchup and the reddest tomato you can find. You need a good source for buns.

                            1. This is starting to sound much more like work than vacation. You're going to have to make sure the grill is ready for kosher time.
                              And as for the thin, well done burger approach, it might be what's needed now. But as I remember, the last vegetarian you led down the meaty path soon made his way to giant drippy beef ribs that looked like they came from a dinasaur. Good luck with this. And give my love to the original Fuddrucker's. You spent many a happy meal (not HappyMeal) there long ago.

                              1. Well, guess what: all that trouble for nothing! We got to San Antonio, and someone else had already made the burgers! Tasty, but not what I would have done.

                                She liked it in any case, and vows to eat more.

                                Thanks for all your suggestions!