I went through a big burger phase a few weeks ago (we may have had four burgers in three days), and this recipe really is the best burger ever. It was better than the $14 burger at the fancy butcher shop across the street. It’s better than any burger I’ve had.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good barbecue and grill marks and all that (in fact I had my first grilled burger of the summer last night!). But you just can’t get the same juiciness on a grill as you can in your cast-iron (because that juiciness will just drip down the grill and away from your burger). Honestly I’m not sure how much the “smashing” step does for the crust of the burger (wouldn’t throwing a patty into a searing hot cast iron sear it just as well?), but I do it anyway because this recipe has worked out so well for me. It’s also made me realize why people follow recipes closely- because they work, over and over again!
After we got that cast-iron for Christmas, I started cooking a lot more meat. By now I’ve made these burgers three or four times and they’re delicious every time. I also got a meat grinder attachment for my KitchenAid (thanks in-laws!), so the first few times I ground my own meat (half chuck, half sirloin). But we live across the street from an excellent butcher and their fresh-ground meat is just as good. However, if you don’t have access to fresh-ground meat and just see the stuff in the store, I highly recommend seeking it out.
I love ketchup, but these burgers are so good that ketchup would just distract you from the flavor-all you need is that melty cheese and sweet grilled onion (pressed right into the patty), and maaaaybe a slice of tomato/lettuce. Honestly I put on the tomato just to please my husband (because then there’s a bit of health on the plate).
Anyways, let’s start with meat grinding. If you’re using the one I used, you’ll want to slice your meat into strips (maybe 1-2 inches wide), and then throw it in the freezer while you put together your machine/do something else for awhile. Don’t forget when cutting chuck to AVOID the white ligament-y parts (they’ll get stuck in the grinder and be a hassle). Another reason to use sirloin (which is delicious!)
Apparently if you want it to be as finely ground as at the store, you should grind your meat twice. I didn’t do that and it was still delicious.
Next, start heating up that cast-iron skillet on medium-high or high if you like to live dangerously. The cast-iron skillet is key. Incidentally, the original website I got this from uses a big green egg for cooking, and a friend of ours has a crazy amazing website all about the Big Green Egg if you’re into that. I’m very impressed by it.
While that’s heating up, slice your onion up (not the smart way) laterally so you get some rings, and separate those out. Take out your cheese of choice. Defrost your buns. Slice your tomato. Then make some meatballs! Each of mine was 1/4-1/3 lb.
Now put two or three meatballs in your cast iron and let cook for 30 seconds (I used my microwave timer). Reset your timer for 2 minutes. Smash down the meatballs (I need a metal spatula!), and press some onion rings into each one. Then generously toss on some salt and pepper (THIS IS ALL THE SEASONING YOU NEED- use good meat!).
Now’s a good time to think about toasting those buns. I thought the next step would be hard, but it was actually super easy- flip the burgers so that they land on the onions. You can smash them down a little to hold the onions there. Let that cook for another two minutes, then put on a slice of cheese (if you want). If you don’t want the cheese, you should still do the next step: cover with a lid and let cook for one more minute.
I generally do a double stack of these for a meal, and a single stack for a snack (yes I’ve impulsively stopped at the butcher, bought a half pound of chuck, and made burger snacks for the two of us at 3 p.m. I also bought two slices of cheese from the butcher). You can always make more if people want them- it only takes 5.5 minutes from start to finish.
Best burger ever: link here (they also have better pictures than me)
Incidentals: this is my 100th blog post! Huzzah!
I am currently in Somerville, MA doing this super cool research program. What this means is that I don’t have access to a lot of my usual baking tools, or central air. So we’ll see how the posts go for the next several weeks (maybe I’ll be more mathy!). I am planning on making a rhubarb pie since the postdoc who was living with us for a week made a delicious and beautiful one twice.