I HAVE a general rule of thumb when it comes to cooking: Never take advice from a two Michelin-starred chef.
In their Willy Wonka world pretentiousness rules.
The whole point of a barbecued burger is to let it touch the flames[/caption]
The BBQ crew in their natural habitat, pictured left to right: Artur, Colin and Will[/caption]
Chef David Chang haughtily declared that the humble burger is not fit for BBQs[/caption]
A Shepherd’s Pie is no longer a moreish mound of crispy cheese-topped mashed potato and lamb mince.
Instead it becomes a “marriage” of lavender-fed Welsh hogget ‘sweet meats’ with foam “aux Jersey royals” served on a bed of carrot flowers hand-picked by Umbrian peasants and drizzled with a newborn lamb amniotic fluid jus.
“Grills suck for the burger . . . I think it’s a horrible thing,” he announced. “A juicy burger is going to turn into a grease fire. Why use it?”
And Dave’s beef doesn’t end there. He reckons the burger won’t take the smoke, adding: “The only flavour that’s being imparted is the carbonised crap that’s on it.”
Oh Dave, you really need to cook out more.
Because I’m afraid this pan-banger — who charges $280 a head for his you’ll-get-what-your given tasting menu at two-star joint, Ko — is talking out of his buns.
He knows this too. As he admitted: “This viewpoint could get me in trouble.”
Indeed, there are few finer things on earth than a perfect patty of (slightly) charred cow, served al fresco with a can of cold lager. A barbequed burger is summer on a paper plate.
I have skin in this game, so I know why he’s wrong.
While Dave, 45, may have learnt his craft at Manhattan’s French Culinary Institute before working at some of the city’s best restaurants, I was engaged on my own gourmet odyssey.
Now try this one
- 1 large iceberg lettuce (shredded)
- 1/2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 x 500g pack British Beef Steak Mince 15 per cent fat
- 1 tsp mixed dried herbs
- 1 egg, beaten
- 4 slices smoked mozzarella (or cheddar)
- 4 seeded lightly toasted brioche burger buns
- 1 beef tomato (sliced)
- Sauces Eg: ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard (optional)
Method: Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, add the onion and cook until softened and starting to turn golden. And set a side.
In a bowl, combine the beef steak mince with herbs, egg and season sufficiently then add the onions and mix well. After that shape the mixture into 4 patties.
Cook the burgers on a pre-heated barbecue for approximately 5 minutes on each side.
After the 5 minutes add your mozzarella slices and cover using a metal bowl for 30 to 60 seconds (until cheese has melted).
Toast your brioche burger buns on the barbecue for 1 minute.
Now time to assemble your burgers, put down the bottom off the bun then add your burger followed by the lettuce and tomato. If you are adding sauce, use the back off a spoon to spread on to the underside of the bun.
Years of Colin’s Annual Summer BBQ and FOUR (count ’em!) years as Burger Station Chief at the North Harringay Primary School summer fair has schooled me well in the art of the backyard burger.
Last Saturday I served 250 burgers to hungry families for £4.50 a pop. Complaints, there were none.
Because what makes the perfect burger is exactly what deluded Dave decries.
BBQ actually stands for Burn Beef Quickly (don’t look it up).
The whole point of a barbecued burger is to let it touch the flames – “gimme that grease fire,” squeals the meat as you press it on.
Boffins call it the Maillard reaction — a chemical reaction between the protein and sugars that give meat its delicious brown crunch.
I love the way the heat transitions quickly from “I think that’s hot enough” to “where’s the fire extinguisher?”
As the flames lick the meat adding the smoky taste it reminds you: You’re not in McDonald’s now.
Besides, one man’s “carbonised crap” is another’s charred champion.
Of course, you need to pick your meat well. A good blend featuring chuck steak and aged fat is tastier and will give you a more substantial disc to press and flip.
Too minced and they’ll fall apart and you’ll turn the drip tray into an archipelago of Aberdeen Angus.
Whatever you do, you should always make them yourself so your carbonised crap contains no actual crap.
Still not convinced, Dave? Well don’t just take my word. Let’s look at history.
Oscar Weber Wilby, from Oklahoma, is widely regarded as the inventor of what we know now as the classic burger.
Way back in 1891 he ground Angus meat into patties, grilled them, then his wife Fanny served them on yeast buns.
They took off and the world was hooked.
And how did he cook them? On a BBQ, of course.
- Use freshly ground beef
- Keep ingredients well chilled
- Ensure burgers are well rounded and of the right thickness and size
- For intensifying your flavours, try using anchovies, capers, mustard and chilli