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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Is it worth it to chop your own burgers? You bet!

I’m not going to tell you how to dress your burger. I’m not going to tell you what sort of bun to put your burger on. I’m not really even going to tell you very much about how to cook your burger.

But I am going to tell you how to make the best burger – ever. You start by avoiding the ground beef at the grocer at all costs. ...

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I’m not going to tell you how to dress your burger. I’m not going to tell you what sort of bun to put your burger on. I’m not really even going to tell you very much about how to cook your burger.

But I am going to tell you how to make the best burger – ever. You start by avoiding the ground beef at the grocer at all costs.

So let’s start there. Ground beef tends to be overworked during processing. And overworked beef is tough beef. Instead, you want to grab yourself sirloin steak tips, which are tender, meaty and full of flavor. But you’re not going to grind them. You’re going to chop them in the food processor. Not only does this prevent the beef from being overworked, it also gives the finished burgers a big beefy, tender steak-like texture.

The trick to chopping the beef is to cut it into 1-inch chunks, then freeze it for about 15 minutes until it is just firm. These partially frozen chunks chop perfectly in the processor without becoming overworked.

For seasoning, you want a blend of finely ground Parmesan cheese and Asian fish sauce. Don’t worry – the finished burgers will taste neither cheesy nor fishy. Both ingredients disappear into the steaky goodness of the beef without leaving behind noticeable flavors of their own. Yet they still impart tremendously savory flavors that produce an incredibly rich burger.

Once your burgers are formed, how to cook them is your call. I like to grill them briefly over high heat, then finish them over cooler flames until just medium-rare.

SUPER SAVORY CHOP-YOUR-OWN BURGERS

Start to finish: 30 minutes (15 minutes active). Servings: 4.

4 oz. Parmesan cheese

1 1/3 pounds sirloin steak
tips

1 Tbsp. fish sauce

2 tsp. soy sauce

In a food processor, pulse Parmesan until very finely ground; it should resemble breadcrumbs. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.

Cut steak tips into 1-inch chunks, then arrange them in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Place baking sheet in the freezer for 15-20 minutes, or until pieces of beef are firm, but not frozen solid.

Once beef is firm, place half of the pieces in the processor (there is no need to wash it out after the Parmesan), then pulse until well chopped, but not ground. This should take about one minute of on-off pulsing. Transfer chopped beef to the bowl with the cheese, then repeat procedure with remaining beef.

Drizzle fish sauce and soy sauce over chopped beef, then use your hands to mix everything together. Make sure cheese is evenly distributed, but try not to knead or overwork the meat.

Divide meat into four portions, then form each into a burger patty. As you form patties, use your thumb to press an indentation into the center of each burger. This prevents burgers from bulging in the center during cooking. Burgers can be grilled immediately or refrigerated for up to two days.

Grill burgers over high heat for 1-2 minutes per side, or until well-seared, then either move burgers to a cooler part of the grill or reduce flame and cook to desired doneness.

Nutrition information per serving: 380 calories; 200 calories from fat (53 percent of total calories); 22 g fat (9 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 130 mg cholesterol; 0 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 0 g sugar; 44 g protein; 1030 mg sodium.

J.M. Hirsch is the food editor for The Associated Press. He blogs at www.lunchboxblues.com and tweets at twitter.com/JM_Hirsch. Email him at jhirsch@ap.org.