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