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Salting your burger before cooking

Bob Brooks Dec 31, 2009 02:15 PM

This food lab report seems to suggest that the conventional wisdom of salting meat in advance isn't the best approach when it comes to burgers. Anybody's experience different from what the article seems to say?

http://aht.seriouseats.com/archives/2...

  1. goodhealthgourmet Dec 31, 2009 02:44 PM

    i've *never* salted mine in advance. kosher salt gets sprinkled on the patty immediately before it hits the pan.

    1 Reply
    1. re: goodhealthgourmet
      todao Dec 31, 2009 06:16 PM

      Ditto ... "never" may be a strong adverb, but in this case IMO, it's appropriately used.
      I suspect that mcsheridan's enjoyment of the burger's saltiness came from the salt in the cheese. Cheddar cheese contains about 10% sodium.

    2. mcsheridan Dec 31, 2009 03:13 PM

      Interesting timing. I just finished eating a burger that was seasoned Just before cooking. It was Marvelous (with caramelized onions, a mix of sharp and mild cheddar, and organic ketchup).

      I've cooked them many times with the seasoning mixed Into the meat and let to sit for 10 minutes; and other times seasoned on the surface 5 minutes before cooking, and neither method produces results that come close to the one I just ate.

      I've been doing it that way since I read (and tested against) two pieces of chef advice about burgers: One, treat a burger like a steak. Season just before cooking, turn only once and let rest before eating. Two, season a bit more than you think you should, as some will certainly come off on the grill or in the pan.

      It works for me. :)

      1. steve h. Dec 31, 2009 06:22 PM

        We salt thick slices of chuck the night before grinding it.

        1. pikawicca Dec 31, 2009 06:26 PM

          I always mix S&P into the mix before forming burgers.

          1 Reply
          1. re: pikawicca
            Soop Feb 10, 2010 01:15 AM

            me too.

          2. Will Owen Jan 1, 2010 04:17 PM

            Nancy Silverton is widely regarded as THE Burger Queen of LA County; her favored meat mixture (sirloin and chuck, I think) is sold as such at Huntington Meats in the old Farmer's Market, and the LA Times Food Section gang devoted an article to her advice on the subject. One of her rules is to salt the meat an hour or more before you cook it. ANY meat, in fact. This draws juices from the meat, yes, but given time the juices are drawn back in. I tried it. It works. So I continue to do it and have for several years.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Will Owen
              l
              lostinether Sep 1, 2012 09:56 PM

              Um...I found an LA Times article at http://www.latimes.com/features/food/... featuring Nancy Silverton's take on the perfect burger. Silverton regarding seasoning the burger patties with salt: "It's important to do this only just before cooking them," she added, still salting. "Otherwise the salt will draw the moisture out of the meat."

              Her rule of salting an hour or more prior to cooking may only apply to whole cuts of meat.

              1. re: lostinether
                tommy Sep 2, 2012 06:22 AM

                Um. I

            2. alanbarnes Jan 1, 2010 09:21 PM

              Great article. IMO, conclusive proof that you should never salt your meat before grinding it or forming it into patties.

              But it leaves unanswered the burning question of our time: whether salting a formed patty and letting it sit for half an hour has any deleterious effect as compared to letting the patty sit for half an hour and then salting it.

              Anybody up for some rigorous testing?

              8 Replies
              1. re: alanbarnes
                Will Owen Jan 1, 2010 09:59 PM

                My rigorous testing involves eating what I cook and what others cook. My steaks, chops and burgers are consistently flavorful, others not reliably so. After having asked a few of them when they season their meat, I am convinced that the hour or more pre-salting I do and they don't makes all the difference.

                1. re: alanbarnes
                  maria lorraine Jan 2, 2010 08:04 PM

                  Not at all a scientific study nor conclusive.

                  Lopez-Alt manipulated experiment variables to produce an invalid result and an inaccurate comparison.

                  The first is the use of a completely unrealistic amount of salt. Lopez-Alt uses a whopping teaspoon per 5-ounce patty!! This is far more salt than what would be used for seasoning.

                  Let's put aside that this much salt would produce a burger too salty to eat, and instead concentrate on the effect this quantity of salt has on meat structure.

                  One teaspoon of salt will have little effect on the patty's structure when applied externally just before cooking, or to meat that is seasoned with salt and then quickly formed into patties and cooked.

                  But salt combined with TIME has an extremely powerful effect on meat fibers. The protein myosin produces stickiness immediately. The meat fibers collapse and turn to mush. That's with a normal amount of salt. But Lopez-Alt uses a huge amount of salt so the effect he "documents" is exaggerated and inaccurate.

                  He then skews experiment results even further to force a dramatic comparison: He GRINDS the meat WITH the large quantity of salt -- something never done in a kitchen. This pushes the salt violently into the meat fibers, and the result is even more destructive. The meat fibers are even further degraded -- obliterated, actually -- and this is what Lopez-Alt uses as his comparison. It's a bogus, manipulated result.

                  Lopez-Alt's comparison -- his photos, his strand measurements, his smashing tests -- are all inaccurate because of this.

                  Had Lopez-Alt used a normal amount of salt -- the amount used to properly season a patty externally, and used that same amount of salt to season meat that was formed into patties and cooked, he would have had an accurate comparison. Furthermore, he could evaluate patties that were cooked 15 minutes after mixing with salt, 30 minutes, 1 hour, and 2 hours to get an accurate read on the powerful effect of salt on meat fibers.

                  But Lopez-Alt manipulated the experiment to produce a dramatic -- and invalid -- comparison.

                  1. re: maria lorraine
                    alanbarnes Jan 2, 2010 08:25 PM

                    Good point. Although the comparison was accurate, one of the compared methods is somewhat absurd. No home cook is going to salt meat prior to grinding, especially with that much salt. The author set up a straw man and very effectively dismembered it.

                    Still and all, I'd like to know the effect of a reasonable amount of salt applied to the exterior of a burger and allowed to penetrate for half an hour or an hour. The changes may be subtle but detectable. And if you're looking for the best possible burger...

                    1. re: alanbarnes
                      maria lorraine Jan 2, 2010 10:09 PM

                      <Although the comparison was accurate, one of the compared methods is somewhat absurd.>

                      Respectfully disagreeing, the comparison(s) were all inaccurate.

                      In meat experiments involving seasonings (like salt) and marinades (especially those with tropical fruit enzymes), TIME is the pivotal factor. Salt dissolves meat fibers and extracts moisture. Salt needs time to do its work, and more time means its effect has more impact.

                      Time was alluded to the entire experiment, and specifically in reference to Patty 2, but never quantified. And Patty 1 vs. Patty 2 was the only comparison that had hints of validity. But without quantifying time, the whole experiment was bogus.

                      1. re: maria lorraine
                        Phurstluv Feb 5, 2010 02:41 PM

                        But you're not allowing for the fact that after the salt draws the moisture out, it denatures the protein molecules, which is to say unwinds the tight coils, and then with TIME the meat reabsorbs said surface moisture, that is what ever has not drained onto a paper towel or such. It is the basics of Dry Brining, and I do it every time, with almost every piece of meat I cook. Never have suffered for it.

                        Another bonus to having the exterior of said meat a little dry is that the sear that develops when it hits a hot pan is usually imcomparable to a wetter piece of meat.

                        1. re: Phurstluv
                          maria lorraine Feb 5, 2010 09:02 PM

                          <<the fact that after the salt draws the moisture out, it denatures the protein molecules, which is to say unwinds the tight coils, and then with TIME the meat reabsorbs said surface moisture>>

                          Most of the inter-cellular water molecules and intra-cellular water molecules are released and lost when the meat is cooked, especially at the temperature burgers reach doneness.

                          Lots of factors are involved, and comparisons with dry brining aren't accurate. Mainly because, the size of a dry-brined item is enormous compared to tiny ground globules of meat whose cell walls have already been violently torn apart by grinding. Salt has a different effect when cell walls are already destroyed, and its effect on the remaining inter- and intra-cellular water is going to be different also. Yet other osmotic principles govern wet-brining.

                          Lots of good food chemistry reading on this subject (protein and fat cell structure, effect of salt on osmotic balance) from Harold McGee, Robert Wolke and others. I read up a bit before I posted.

                          Agree with you on dry brining to increase flavor, and that a dry meat surface is essential for a good sear.

                          1. re: maria lorraine
                            Phurstluv Feb 6, 2010 08:31 AM

                            Since you did the reading, what do they say the effect of salt on "destroyed cells" is? You don't make that clear.

                            1. re: Phurstluv
                              maria lorraine Feb 8, 2010 11:33 PM

                              Sorry, thought it was obvious...ruptured cells lose their contents, including water, and can no longer hold water.

                              I read some more about dry-brining. It ultimately plumps meat by removing water. Usually the water drawn out by salt drains off (using a strainer or perforated pan). But if using a Ziploc, the drawn-off water is reabsorbed and then lost again during cooking.

                              Back to salting burgers: Salting just before or an hour before is fine. Just don't let the salted burgers sit longer than that before cooking.

                2. tommy Jan 2, 2010 06:27 AM

                  the only thing I took away from that article was that you shouldn't drop a 7 pound cast iron pan onto your hamburger from 2 feet.

                  the article on the whole seems like an attempt to end up at a predetermined conclusion, using some pretty poor scientific methods in order to lead the average person to believe that there was rigorous valid testing at work.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: tommy
                    alanbarnes Jan 2, 2010 08:41 AM

                    Other than the obviously dubious comparison of dropping a dutch oven on a patty to a human bite, what are your complaints about the blogger's methodology? The difference in observed strand length struck me as significant, and the photos of the burgers that had been cut in half are markedly different. I don't think the article would survive the peer review process, but it seemed like pretty good home science to me.

                    1. re: alanbarnes
                      Bob Brooks Jan 2, 2010 08:55 AM

                      Just as an FYI, this particular blogger is an associate editor at Cook's Illustrated.

                      1. re: Bob Brooks
                        Will Owen Jan 2, 2010 10:52 AM

                        That explains a lot. Those people are to gastronomy what Ralph Nader was to automotive engineering.

                        1. re: Will Owen
                          goodhealthgourmet Jan 2, 2010 11:47 AM

                          LMAO!

                  2. ChristinaMason Jan 2, 2010 10:08 AM

                    So interesting!!

                    1. shaogo Jan 2, 2010 11:05 AM

                      I only ever introduced salt into the meat mixture before forming patties when I'd use Lipton onion soup mix in my burgers years ago.

                      I've graduated to a grown-up burger that's usually ground by my butcher, and that I salt and pepper liberally on the outside of each patty before cooking. That makes for a tasty crust that then seasons the rare meat inside well when eaten.

                      1. KaimukiMan Jan 3, 2010 04:38 AM

                        the way to salt a burger is to put about a half teaspoon of salt in the bottom of a preheated cast iron pan and then put the unsalted patty into the pan on top of the salt. do that with FRESH ground round, at a medium high heat and you have an outstanding burger.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: KaimukiMan
                          m
                          MazDee Feb 9, 2010 07:11 PM

                          Absolutely! Heat the iron skillet, pretty hot, sprinkle salt in there, put in the burgers! I usually sprinkle my patties with Worcestershire, and let them marinate for a bit before cooking. I suppose that is a nono, too. KaimukiMan, we both will be laughed at by the scientists! But, boy, those burgers are good.

                          1. re: KaimukiMan
                            buttertart Feb 12, 2010 05:47 AM

                            My mom did that with all panfried meats - as I do now. They don't stick. I think it was an early 60's diet tip (don't use oil, use salt bla bla).

                            1. re: buttertart
                              ChristinaMason Feb 12, 2010 05:57 AM

                              Does this only work with cast iron?

                              1. re: ChristinaMason
                                buttertart Feb 12, 2010 06:02 AM

                                Nope, any surface, even non-stick. My mom never owned any cast iron (too "oldfashioned"...). For that matter, I haven't had a cast iron pan in ages (left one behind in a move and never replaced it), should get one.

                          2. ChristinaMason Feb 5, 2010 01:21 PM

                            I tested out this theory tonight, and I have to say, I've been won over to the salt-just-before-cooking camp. I made hamburgers in a grill pan. I formed the patties about 20 min. beforehand, mixing in only black pepper and granulated garlic. Right before cooking, I sprinkled the burgers on both sides with seasoned salt, sea salt, and more freshly-ground black pepper.

                            The burgers ended up more done than I usually prefer, but they were *still* amazingly flavorful, tender, and juicy. Especially considering I felt the meat was overdone, I was surprised by how good it tasted.

                            Just my 2 cents.

                            1. Phurstluv Feb 5, 2010 02:35 PM

                              I season ground beef for hamburgers with steak seasoning & worcestershire sauce, even before I freeze them!

                              I treat them like a steak, and season it the minute I get home and rewrap it (or not if it's to be cooked that night) for the freezer. I don't know of ANY type of meat (not fish, mind you) that doesn't ultimately and consistently benefit from this.

                              1. breadchick Feb 9, 2010 03:28 PM

                                Please don't pre-mix ingredients into burgers. (Save that for your meatloaf.)

                                The only thing I can add to this is that I won't mix anything into my fresh ground chuck prior to grilling. The reason is that I don't want to manhandle the meat any more than I have to - it compacts the meat too much.

                                The only ground chuck I use comes from our local butcher down the road. He sells prime. People come from all over to visit his shop. We chat a lot. He has the meat, I have the recipes.

                                I barely form the patties, so the meat keeps some little divots (this allows the butter - yup, I brush melted garlic butter on them on the first side after turning) to soak into the meat. I'm ahead of myself, though.

                                I liberally sprinkle kosher salt and fresh ground pepper just before they hit the grill. Charcoal, never gas. Get good rolls, toast them and brush with a bit of butter, set aside. I know - again with the butter. Butter and beef are meant to be together!

                                My grill raises and lowers, so I can control how close the meat is to the charcoal. That is awesome, and provides total control. It only takes about 4 minutes per side and I pull them off and let them rest. Gives everyone time to assemble what they want: thin red onion, tomato, lettuce, bacon, blue cheese (yes!) etc.

                                People come to my house just for these burgers - no lie. I take no credit - it's the quality of the beef, a gentle touch, and good fire. Nothing to it.

                                We can't eat like this all the time, typically we're chicken and green salad people. I'm not even fond of too much red meat usually. But these burgers - I make an exception around once a week or so!

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: breadchick
                                  Phurstluv Feb 9, 2010 04:16 PM

                                  I don't premix, that would be overhandling and toughening the meat unnecessarily. I barely even form the patties before I sprinkle them with seasoning. My burgers are never tough and don't taste like meatloaf.

                                  1. re: breadchick
                                    tommy Feb 9, 2010 05:04 PM

                                    Are you of the opinion that a USDA grading of Prime (which is based on inspection of the rib section) really matters when you're grinding up a chuck?

                                    I'm not convinced. Part of the grading is related to the flecking of fat throughout the muscle. Once you grind it, I believe a reasonable case could be made that the flecking doesn't matter. But, if it's working for you, then go right ahead and use it. I actually grind my own meat, and it's usually Prime graded, as that's all the local store carries. But I don't think their ground beef is exceptional or any better than any other 80/20 mix.

                                    1. re: tommy
                                      breadchick Dec 26, 2012 07:00 PM

                                      (Sorry this is late to the reply, but with the new features at Chow I can see what I've missed, and apparently I've missed a lot!)

                                      Here's a link to my butcher, so I hope this answers your question. Hey, since 2010, they have a website!!

                                      http://www.falvomeats.com/

                                      All I know is that the ground chuck is perfection, however they do it.

                                  2. Soop Feb 10, 2010 01:29 AM

                                    Ok, here's what I do:
                                    I don't grind the meat, I chop it finely, usually chuck steak.
                                    Then, S&P, a chopped onion (to about 450g of beef) and I use less than a teaspoon of salt.
                                    Touch of olive oil for flavour, 1 egg to bind, and then mush together with your hands.

                                    Form into patties, leave in the fridge for an hour to firm up, then into the hot pan.
                                    They can fall apart sometimes, being quite chunky, but it doesn't really matter. And they're awesome with a seared crust, a tough roll and some gorgonzola.

                                    33 Replies
                                    1. re: Soop
                                      k
                                      KTinNYC Feb 10, 2010 01:34 PM

                                      Egg makes this a mini meatloaf.

                                      1. re: KTinNYC
                                        Soop Feb 10, 2010 02:02 PM

                                        no, try it! I've never eaten meatloaf (very American) but honestly, it's perfect!

                                        1. re: Soop
                                          k
                                          KTinNYC Feb 10, 2010 02:06 PM

                                          Nope, no binder in hamburger. No egg, no breadcrumbs. Egg changes the whole equation.

                                          1. re: KTinNYC
                                            Soop Feb 11, 2010 12:57 AM

                                            I've just googled "hamburger recipe" and although many of the sites list a bunch of recipes, many of them feature egg as a binding agent.

                                            And since the meat I use is very lean, mine probably wouldn't stick together at all otherwise.

                                            1. re: Soop
                                              k
                                              KTinNYC Feb 11, 2010 03:06 AM

                                              The internet is filled with bad information.

                                              1. re: Soop
                                                ChristinaMason Feb 11, 2010 03:13 AM

                                                Soop, not to gang up on you, but I think hamburger is a good place not to skimp on fat. Make a couple 80/20 patties (don't manhandle them, just form into a burger and indent the center a bit), salt just before cooking, and grill or griddle them. Eat salad for dinner a few nights to make up for the calorie-cholesterol bomb or just have a small one. The flavor difference is worth it.

                                                Granted, I've had good chicken burgers (which, IMHO, beat turkey burgers by a lot), and I'm pretty sure we used an egg as binder. But not in a beef burger. Think of it as chopped steak---pure and unadulterated.

                                                Agree with KT, breadcrumbs don't belong in burgers either.

                                                1. re: ChristinaMason
                                                  Soop Feb 11, 2010 03:36 AM

                                                  I won't eat ground meat.

                                                  KY, that was to prove a point; the source of my information was my nan, from about 25 years ago. Now, it's probably not an American recipe or anything but it's gonna be based on some kind of knowledge.

                                                  Do hamburgers have a set standard? I'm not so sure...

                                                  1. re: Soop
                                                    k
                                                    KTinNYC Feb 11, 2010 06:52 AM

                                                    Do you mean you won't eat ground meat at all or won't you eat supermarket ground meat. If you grind your own or have your butcher grind a single piece of meat I don't see the differance between that and you dicing your own meat.

                                                    The hamburger, when done right is transcending. The absolute beefiness and texture is exquisite. Using lean meat and egg does nothing to enhance the best characters of a hamburger.

                                                    1. re: KTinNYC
                                                      Soop Feb 11, 2010 07:07 AM

                                                      It started by being supermarket ground meat, but I've since decided that I really don't like the texture (I substitute chopped steak in everything from lasagne to chili, which I prefer infinitely). the exception is sausages, which you can't really get away from using ground.

                                                      Anyway, I'm a regular steak eater, so I know what beef tastes like. And IMO, you don't get much more beefy tasting than a steak, which is 100% beef. And in my humble opinion, chopped steak, onion and egg tastes very similar to steak and onion. I actually quite like steak and eggs for breakfast, I think they go.

                                                      I think you're being quite... I guess snobbish, which I'm quite surprised about for you tbh. Maybe it's just something you feel strongly about.

                                                      But at the end of the day, if I'm going to use chopped steak (and I certainly am) I need to bind it somehow, and egg is working well. Plus, finest, most expensive or whatever, these are the only burgers I ever eat these days. I can't go back.

                                                      I'll take a photo next time - I know it's not the same as making one for you to eat, but it's the closest I can get :(

                                                      1. re: Soop
                                                        k
                                                        KTinNYC Feb 11, 2010 07:15 AM

                                                        Your not liking ground meat certainly has an impact on the discussion. I suggest next time try using a fattier cut of meat that will hold together and exclude the egg just as a comparison.

                                                        You can call my definition snobbish, I have no issue with that. There certain words that, to me, have very specific definitions and hamburger is one of them.

                                                        1. re: KTinNYC
                                                          Soop Feb 11, 2010 07:25 AM

                                                          What would you suggest? Brisket maybe? No, it would need the fat to be marbled in...

                                                          Tell you what, I'll head to a butcher on Saturday and look around. I don't know whether I'll be making burgers this weekend though, as we've planned steak for Valentines.

                                                          Also, I'm surprised you haven't said anything about the chopped onion in the actual patty.

                                                          1. re: Soop
                                                            d
                                                            danieljdwyer Feb 11, 2010 07:40 AM

                                                            Marbling doesn't really matter for ground meat. I buy my ground meat from a butcher - who grinds it right in front of me, which to me is just as good as doing it myself at home - and he uses the trimmings from the primals he breaks down into steaks and roasts. Some of the pieces he puts in are pure fat, some are nearly all lean meat. It comes out completely mixed thoroughly.

                                                            1. re: Soop
                                                              BobB Feb 17, 2010 10:33 AM

                                                              KT, Soop - you're into a cultural thing here. American hamburgers (as in "inNYC") tend to be pure ground beef with little or no additions. British burgers (you know where you are, Soop!) tend to have lots of additives, even though they do get served on buns with the usual accompaniments.

                                                              I'm not saying one is right and the other wrong (well, OK, I will admit I greatly prefer the American style, despite all the time I've spent on the other side of the pond), but they are culturally different approaches.

                                                              1. re: BobB
                                                                d
                                                                danieljdwyer Feb 17, 2010 11:21 AM

                                                                I wonder, how does this vary, if at all, across the US? Morton's hamburgers have eggs and tomato juice mixed in with the meat. Is this common in Chicago? I don't really know any other non-Northeastern steakhouses, but I wonder if the only meat rule applies south and west of New York.

                                            2. re: KTinNYC
                                              greygarious Feb 11, 2010 09:05 AM

                                              I agree with you, KT - there was a burger thread a couple of years ago that took them even further afield, binding them with both egg and bread. If memory serves, the support for this was largely from U.K. hounds. Again, these were folks who wrote that they had never eaten meatloaf (or meatballs) but insisted that what they were making was a burger. Another instance of two nations separated by a common language.

                                              1. re: greygarious
                                                Phurstluv Feb 11, 2010 10:04 AM

                                                It could be, that in the UK, their beef is very lean. A lot of beef that comes from here, SoCal is also very lean and tough, because the pastures they live on and eat on are very hilly. So they develop a lot more muscle than say, the beef raised on plains in Texas and the mid west. I noticed a huge difference from the mid western beef for example.

                                                And not to bust the Brits, tho I will anyway, it's taken them a LONG time to finally get on the culinary wagon, so maybe if we just give them a little more time.......LOL!

                                                1. re: greygarious
                                                  k
                                                  KTinNYC Feb 11, 2010 10:12 AM

                                                  I remember that thread. Like I said, hamburger, to me, is a pretty specific thing. The day I get one with loads of filler and herbs and spices, unless mentioned, will be the day I stop ordering them out.

                                                  1. re: KTinNYC
                                                    Phurstluv Feb 11, 2010 10:56 AM

                                                    Totally agree. The simpler, the better.

                                              2. re: Soop
                                                alanbarnes Feb 11, 2010 07:26 AM

                                                No doubt this is a tasty patty, but I tend to agree with KT that from a purist's perspective it's not a burger. Nothing wrong with that; I'll take flavor over semantics any day. But if you have an opportunity, try a more traditional burger some time. You might find it revelatory.

                                                First, as to grinding. I don't buy ground meat, either, but I do grind my own. A grinder (or a "meat mincer," as they're apparently called on amazon.co.uk) is fairly inexpensive and opens up a world of interesting possibilities. Not just burgers, but homemade sausages, too. And if you like those patties you're making you'll love meatloaf!

                                                Anyhow, for an ultra-traditional burger, just take a nice fatty piece of chuck, grind it, form it into 5-6oz patties, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drop into a hot pan. IMO they're best served medium-rare on a relatively tender bun (for the ultimate in decadence, a brioche roll is perfect). A little lettuce, a slice of ripe tomato if they're in season, maybe a smear of mayonnaise and a little mustard. Delicious.

                                                1. re: alanbarnes
                                                  Soop Feb 11, 2010 07:35 AM

                                                  I'm thinking about convincing my girlfriend to get a kitchenaid stand mixer instead of magimix food processor... Home made sausages certainly have a strong appeal.

                                                  One question though; Can you cook even freshly ground beef medium rare? I know that the problem with bacteria won't be nearly as bad as a stored product, but could it end up being dangerous?

                                                  Oh, and as a slight aside, has anyone here ever eaten steak haché?

                                                  1. re: Soop
                                                    k
                                                    KTinNYC Feb 11, 2010 07:50 AM

                                                    Absolutely you can cook freshly ground beef medium rare, rare, or even eat it raw if you are confident of the source and it was handled properly.

                                                    1. re: Soop
                                                      alanbarnes Feb 11, 2010 08:30 AM

                                                      Fresh-ground beef is not 100% safe, but it's safe enough for me.

                                                      The outside of a muscle cut presents relatively little surface area for bacteria to breed on, and it's not a particularly hospitable environment for them. So I have no qualms about steak tartare or a medium rare burger **if** fresh-ground from a clean, solid piece of meat.

                                                      Once you grind the meat, you push the bugs to the inside, where they'll find nearly ideal growth conditions, especially if temperature protocols aren't strictly observed. And commercial grinders put all kinds of scraps and trimmings into the grinder, some of which may have come into contact with the primary source of coliform bacteria (ie contents of the gut). Start with a little contamination, age for a few days or weeks so the little guys can multiply geometrically, and you have a recipe for an e. coli outbreak.

                                                      For people who are especially susceptible to infection - the very young, the very old, and the immunocompromised - eating rare or raw meat is probably not a good idea in general. But for a healthy adult, it's far from the most dangerous thing you're going to do on any given day.

                                                      1. re: alanbarnes
                                                        Soop Feb 11, 2010 08:33 AM

                                                        Nice, thanks AB

                                                      2. re: Soop
                                                        pikawicca Sep 2, 2012 07:17 AM

                                                        Steak hache is lovely, but it's a far cry from hamburger.

                                                      3. re: alanbarnes
                                                        k
                                                        KTinNYC Feb 11, 2010 07:52 AM

                                                        I know what I'm having for dinner tonight.

                                                        1. re: alanbarnes
                                                          e
                                                          ESNY Feb 11, 2010 02:23 PM

                                                          You lost me at brioche bun!! Most are too sweet. I'll take a potato roll any day of the week.

                                                          1. re: ESNY
                                                            Will Owen Feb 11, 2010 03:50 PM

                                                            Best buns I ever had were ciabatta rolls from Trader Joe's. Those plus their Angus Steakburger patties made the best burgers I have ever cooked. Alas, neither item is carried at TJ's anymore.

                                                            Yeah, brioche is the big deal at a lot of the fancyburger joints here in LA County; it's generally better than regular buns because it holds up longer without disintegrating - usually - but it does tend to be sweet. And the only sweetness I'll ever want on a burger is the occasional application of bread-and-butter pickles instead of dills. That can be fun.

                                                            1. re: Will Owen
                                                              tommy Feb 11, 2010 05:17 PM

                                                              I like brioche if it's not overly sweet, and i cut back on the sweetness by using good ripe tomatoes, rather than ketchup, which is filled will corn syrup. it's all about balance. cut out the ketchup, and you have more freedom with your bun.

                                                              1. re: tommy
                                                                e
                                                                ESNY Feb 12, 2010 05:16 AM

                                                                Dont use ketchup or tomatoes. If anything, a very light coating of hot sauce (green el yucateco) on the bun. If not, its just beef, cheese and bun.

                                                            2. re: ESNY
                                                              alanbarnes Feb 11, 2010 05:56 PM

                                                              Not all brioche is sweet. For buns, I make it with a pound of flour, a stick and a half of butter, four eggs, and only a tablespoon of sugar. Not diet food, by any means, but IMO the perfect platform for a burger.

                                                              1. re: alanbarnes
                                                                maria lorraine Feb 11, 2010 07:48 PM

                                                                Can I come for dinner? I'll bring panforte and wine.

                                                                1. re: maria lorraine
                                                                  alanbarnes Feb 11, 2010 08:00 PM

                                                                  Any time! Email's in the profile...

                                                                2. re: alanbarnes
                                                                  e
                                                                  ESNY Feb 12, 2010 05:20 AM

                                                                  Touche. i was overgeneralizing, mostly related to store bought brioche buns

                                                          2. Perilagu Khan Feb 10, 2010 08:22 AM

                                                            I mold my patties around a disc of steak butter. People seem to like the results.

                                                            5 Replies
                                                            1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                              Soop Feb 10, 2010 08:24 AM

                                                              What's steak butter?

                                                              1. re: Soop
                                                                Perilagu Khan Feb 10, 2010 09:12 AM

                                                                It's butter with various spices and other additions (thyme, oregano, salt, pepper, lemon juice/zest, etc.) creamed into it and then rolled into a "snake" in plastic wrap and chilled or even frozen.

                                                                1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                  Phurstluv Feb 10, 2010 12:38 PM

                                                                  AKA a compound butter.

                                                                  1. re: Phurstluv
                                                                    Perilagu Khan Feb 10, 2010 02:01 PM

                                                                    Or composed butter.

                                                                  2. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                    Soop Feb 10, 2010 02:03 PM

                                                                    I've always wanted to do that

                                                              2. Soop Feb 13, 2010 08:09 AM

                                                                I got 2kg of chuck today, and I've used 1kg already for chile. It's really really good stuff so far. But what I've done, is separate the meat by cut, cutting down the connective tissue. So I've got a kind of central bit that looks quite lean, and two well-marbled flat pieces, one I think might be the flatiron.

                                                                The one I think is the flatiron I might cook as a steak, but I've saved some fat, and I'll make a few burgers with the rest. I might do some kind of comparison

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: Soop
                                                                  Will Owen Feb 13, 2010 03:42 PM

                                                                  Flatiron is typically not marbled. It's from a longish tapered muscle with a layer of sinew down the center. It used to be cut crosswise into steaks and sold as "mock tender" or "mock filet", until some genius figured you could just slice the two sides off the sinew and sell each one as a steak. The cheap ones (only kind I get!) are from Kroger (Ralphs in SoCal) and usually have some extra sinew that needs cutting out... but no visible fat at all.

                                                                  1. re: Will Owen
                                                                    Soop Feb 14, 2010 12:56 AM

                                                                    Oh right. I have one bit that's real lean, but it's kind of round. maybe there's no flatiron in mine

                                                                2. Soop Feb 17, 2010 01:24 AM

                                                                  Ok! I made 2 burgers yesterday with just meat, and they did taste pretty damn good (although I expect it's a lot to do with the great chuck).

                                                                  I cut it into very fine strips which seemed to work fine. I might do this in the future. In fact, I might do it tonight.

                                                                  5 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Soop
                                                                    ChristinaMason Feb 17, 2010 02:34 AM

                                                                    congrats!

                                                                    1. re: ChristinaMason
                                                                      l
                                                                      lilmomma Jan 8, 2011 07:08 AM

                                                                      do I understand this correctly....I gently form the ground meat into patties without any seasoning to avoid handling the meat too much which will toughen it. Then, heat up my pan, sprinkle salt (sea salt? coarse? fine? seasoning salt?) on my pan that has no oil on it, and then put the burgers on there. Fry on each side. That's it? That will make a tasty crust? I am very intrigued. Tell me more.

                                                                      1. re: lilmomma
                                                                        buttertart Jan 9, 2011 06:33 AM

                                                                        It works with any meat, it was one of my mom's favorite techniques. Just sprinkle salt into the pan until it's very lightly covered. Any salt will do, we used the Morton's equivalent at home.

                                                                        1. re: buttertart
                                                                          KaimukiMan Jan 9, 2011 04:25 PM

                                                                          thats how my mom and both grandmothers did it. there is a name for the technique, but its the best way to cook steaks, burgers, chicken that you just want to brown and eat (as opposed to adding a sauce etc)

                                                                          1. re: KaimukiMan
                                                                            buttertart Jan 10, 2011 04:48 AM

                                                                            No added fat, either!

                                                                  2. Novelli Jan 8, 2011 07:27 AM

                                                                    Believe it or not, but I usually salt my beef ahead of time, such as a steak.

                                                                    The way I see it, the salt draws water soluble proteins to the surface, which then evaporates and provides a wonderfully seared crust when cooking. Never dry, always juicy.

                                                                    1. m
                                                                      MonMauler Dec 26, 2012 11:59 PM

                                                                      I've tried every way of cooking burgers, and the best, in my expeience, is salting and pepperIng the ground meat (preferably 80-20 or 70-30) and letting it come to room temp. Three minutes on each side for a 1/2" burger is perfect.

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