Editor’s note: Cook Like a Chef is a feature designed to help you master cooking techniques that will give your homemade meals professional style and carefully crafted flavor. Each month, a chef instructor from Cascade Culinary Institute at Central Oregon Community College will walk us through a skill or recipe. See more Cook Like a Chef videos at bendbulletin.com/chef.
Today we’re cooking a hamburger like a chef and giving you easy recipes for a restaurant-style burger sauce, pimento cheese spread, smoked tomato aioli, bread and butter pickles and bourbon maple bacon jam that will take your home-cooked burgers from delicious to over-the-top incredible.
This simple sandwich can be remarkably tasty when you follow the lead of Cascade Culinary Institute Chef Instructor David Trask.
“The idea is a good, juicy burger, good ripe tomatoes, nice crisp lettuce, a nice slice of red onion and then one or two homemade condiments,” Trask said. “You don’t want to bury the burger under the condiments.”
Just for fun, we asked Trask for tips about grinding hamburger meat at home and whether that would make a better burger. He said it’s not something he does, but it can easily be done if you have a grinder attachment for your mixer.
“It’s not hard to do. Most ground beef is chuck or sirloin, so it tends to be a little bit cheaper cuts. For people who are into food, and when star chefs are grinding their own burgers, they’ll use boneless short rib, which has a pretty good fat content, and the leaner side of brisket — the brisket flat — and blend that with some of the chuck,” Trask said.
His directions for grinding meat are in the recipe below.
Trask said you might like to ask a butcher to grind a blend of hamburger meat for you.
“Bend has three or four markets with nice butcher shops. Buy the product from them, and have them grind it for you, like some brisket flat and boneless short ribs, or use flank, but that’s really lean, so you’d want to have them add some fat back to it,” Trask said.
Grilling a perfect burger
A perfect burger starts with a clean, hot grill.
Season the raw hamburgers well with salt and pepper on each side, set them on the hot grill and then don’t touch them.
“Be patient with a hamburger like a steak. After you put it on the grill, don’t mess with it. As the proteins cook, the burgers will release themselves from the grill. Let them sit for a couple of minutes, and then you should be able to get a spatula underneath them. If you want the fancy “chef marks” (grill lines), give the burgers a quarter turn, and then leave them alone for a couple of minutes,” Trask said.
Trask said he uses a Weber grill and keeps the lid down as the burgers cook.
He recommends setting up temperature zones, whether you’re using a gas or charcoal grill.
“I have the far right the hottest, the middle turned down to ¾ power and the third zone on the left turned down to half, so as I cook the burgers, I move them across the grill, and then you get nice even cooking the whole way through.
It’s the same with a charcoal grill. Pile the briquettes to one side, and on the hot area you’ll get your sear marks and cook the burgers for the first couple of turns, and then move them to the cooler side and shut the lid to get that convection oven kind of thing going to cook them the whole way through,” Trask said.
An 8-ounce, or half-pound, burger should cook for about five or six minutes on each side, Trask said.
“Medium rare is about as rare as I want my hamburger. When you order a steak rare or medium rare, that’s because that makes it more tender. With ground beef, you’ve already tenderized it by grinding it up. It should stay nice and tender and moist with the fat throughout it,” Trask said.
Top toppings: homemade condiments
What you put on the hamburger makes all the difference. Instead of bottled ketchup, mustard and pickles, try making some of your own sauces and seasonings.
Trask shared his favorite recipes for burger sauce, pimento cheese, smoked tomato aioli (mayonnaise) and homemade bread and butter pickles (see below).
At Elevation, the student-run restaurant at the Cascade Culinary Institute in Bend (elevationbend.com,) they serve hamburgers with a slice of tomato, red onion and a leaf of crisp lettuce on the side to prevent wilting. Other other condiments are offered on the side.
Trask recommended picking one or two condiments and not adding anything else.
“At Elevation, we serve the pimento cheese on the burger, so it melts, with the bourbon maple bacon jam on the side. You don’t want to overdo it,” Trask said.
Trask added that the burger sauce or the aioli makes a nice accompaniment. “Don’t use both, and try the aioli instead of the burger sauce sometime. It’s really, really good,” he said.
When you cook like a chef, a lowly hamburger can easily turn into a gourmet treat at home. Happy grilling!
— Reporter: ahighberger@ mac.com
Smoked Tomato Aioli
Makes 6 cups of aioli — enough to share with friends!
2 lg ripe heirloom tomatoes
2 egg yolks
¼ C Dijon mustard
¼ C diced shallots
2 TBS chopped garlic
2 C olive oil
4 C vegetable oil
2 TBS fresh lemon juice
5 TBS red wine vinegar
Cut tomatoes in half and smoke at 200 degrees F for 3 hours. Chill.
Combine tomatoes, egg yolks, mustard, shallots and garlic in blender or food processor.
Slowly add olive oil and vegetable oil, alternating with lemon juice and red wine vinegar.
Season with salt and pepper.
Store in refrigerator, covered, for up to 2 weeks.
— From Chef Instructor David Trask, Cascade Culinary Institute, cocc.edu/cascade-culinary-institute
Makes about 15 1⁄3 lb hamburgers)
3 lbs boneless chuck roast, with good marbling
2 lbs boneless sirloin
Salt and pepper
Red onion slices
Place mixer meat grinder attachment in the freezer.
Cut the meat into 1-inch cubes, place on a sheet pan in the freezer for 30 minutes. Do not freeze the cubes solid; you just want them very chilled.
Push the chilled meat through feed tube into the meat grinder. Grind through the coarse setting once. For a “steakhouse” burger, just use the coarse grind.
Change out the grinding plate to the fine coarse one, and run the meat through again, being careful not to over-handle the meat. When you over-handle, you’re breaking down the meat, and you want it to be ground beef, not pate.
Gently form the meat into patties. Place wax paper between each patty, and then loosely cover. Refrigerate the meat until ready to cook.
Season the raw hamburgers well with salt and pepper on each side. Put them down on the hot grill, and don’t touch them.
Trask uses a Weber grill and keeps the lid down as the burgers cook.
He recommends setting up temperature zones, whether you’re using a gas or charcoal grill.
• It’s very important to use clean and sterilized equipment, keeping everything as cold as possible. As the meat grinder spins, it generates heat that tends to melt down fat. Make sure everything is really cold when you’re grinding to avoid bacteria growth.
• Aim for a minimum of 80 percent lean meat to 20 percent fat; chefs generally prefer 25 to 30 percent fat for a juicier and more flavorful burger.
• If using lean cuts of beef like flank or skirt steak, or the flat of the brisket, you can add beef fat or pork belly to increase the fat level.
• You may be tempted to make an ultimate burger using wagyu or Kobe beef, which are popular for the intramuscular fat they contain, making them very expensive. But when grinding beef, you are adding fat to the product, so save your money and use choice grade beef for ground beef, not the more expensive “prime.”
• To serve the burger, put the lettuce, tomato and onion on the side. If you put it on the hot burger, it will wilt a little bit. You want it to look fresh on the plate.
Makes 3 cups
2 TBS horseradish
1 TBS Worcestershire sauce
2 C mayonnaise
1 C ketchup
½ C dill pickle relish
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
Combine all the ingredients and refrigerate, covered, for up to 2 weeks.
Spread the sauce on the bun, or serve it on the side.
Makes about 21/2 cups
2 C shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese
8 oz cream cheese, softened
½ C mayonnaise
¼ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp ground cayenne pepper
¼ tsp onion powder
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
4 oz jar diced pimento, drained
Salt and pepper to taste
Place the cheddar cheese, cream cheese, mayonnaise, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, onion powder, minced jalapeno and pimento into the large bowl of a mixer. Beat at medium speed, with paddle if possible, until thoroughly combined. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. This may be refrigerated, covered, for up to 2 weeks.
Spicy Bread and Butter Pickles
Makes 5 pints
21/2 lbs pickling cucumbers, cut into ½-inch rounds
1 lb (1 lg or 2 med) yellow onions, sliced
¼ C kosher salt
21/2 C white vinegar
2 C cider vinegar
31/2 C granulated sugar
2 TBS mustard seed
4 TBS crushed red pepper flakes
11/2 tsp celery seed
2 cinnamon sticks
12 allspice berries
12 whole cloves
5 pint jars with lids
1 tsp turmeric
Rinse and clean cucumbers. Slice off ends and discard. Slice the cucumbers into ½-inch rounds. In a large bowl, combine the cucumbers, sliced yellow onions and kosher salt, and let sit for 3 hours.
In a pot, combine the sugar, vinegar and spices and bring to a boil.
Fill pint jars with cucumber slices and onions and cover with the vinegar and spice mixture. Hand-tighten the lids and store the jars in the refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours before serving.
If storing outside of the refrigerator, pickles must be placed in sterilized jars. The empty jars should be boiled for 10 minutes with water 1 inch over the top of the jars. Next, fill the clean, sterilized jars with cucumbers and vinegar mixture. Place covers and lids on the jars and tighten. Return to boiling water for 15 minutes. Remove from the boiling water and cool at room temperature. As jars cool, the lids should “pop” as they seal.
Bourbon Maple Bacon Jam
Makes about 21/2 to 3 cups of jam
2 lbs bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
½ C bacon drippings
2 lg yellow onions, cut into very thin slivers
½ C brown sugar
¼ C garlic, minced
1 tsp ground cayenne pepper
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
1 C bourbon whiskey
1 C brewed coffee
½ C sherry vinegar
½ C maple syrup
¾ C ketchup
Cook and stir bacon in a large saucepan over medium high heat until bacon starts to brown, about 10 minutes. Drain the grease, retaining ¼ of the drippings. Stir onions into bacon and drippings; cook and stir until soft, about 10 minutes. Stir in brown sugar; cook until onions are sticky and browned, about 5 more minutes. Mix in garlic, cayenne pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg. Cook and stir until garlic is soft, about 5 minutes.
Mix in bourbon whiskey, coffee, sherry vinegar and maple syrup. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and cook until the bacon jam is thickened but not completely dry, stirring occasionally to prevent burning, about 35 minutes. Mix in the ketchup and cook 5 more minutes.
Remove from heat, let the bacon jam cool and pulse in a food processor to a slightly chunky, spreadable consistency. Bacon jam can be stored in the refrigerator, covered, up to 2 weeks.
— From Chef Instructor David Trask, Cascade Culinary Institute, cascade-culinary-institute