A true cheeseburger! It’s gorgeous! It’s epic! It’s comfort! It’s all you ever wished for and more. I wouldn’t exaggerate if I told you that this is as close to food porn as you can get. When I was shooting these goodies I was making all kinds of weird little noises – the ohhh… mmmm… I want to eat you right up… sounds. And Stefan just stood there laughing at me. That’s food porn, for real. But now I’ve embarrassed myself enough; so let’s move on to the next paragraph where I will tell you what I think makes the ultimate cheeseburger.
There are several things that are important in the cheeseburger making process to get that amazing burger we all dream of. I’m going to guide you through the important steps as thoroughly as I can. I’m not saying this is the right way, it’s my way and it happens to be so freaking tasty. You may fancy your beef burger in a different way or with other trimmings, but I hope these guidelines can give you a nice foundation to build your own cheeseburger on.
- The Meat. Let’s talk about meat – because it isn’t easy to choose what kind of protein to use in a burger. The plethora of information found on the web can be just as helpful as misleading. The thing that I find most important is the fat to meat ratio. Aim for no less than 20 % fat. A lean meat will result in a dry burger; some enthusiasts even claim that up to 30 % fat is a good amount. If you mince your meat at home it’s easy to adjust the fat content by simply mixing in a fatty cut. The minced chuck I got hold of only consisted 15 % fat; so to increase the fat content I browned a few nobs of butter and fried of some bacon and onion which I mixed and combined with the minced meat. This is a good way to pump up that fat content and make the burgers juicier. Besides browned butter bacon is always good and will enhance most dishes. It adds a nutty, salty and smoky vibe and gives the burger a more complex flavor. Besides from the burger being juicier the fat also increases the meat’s natural flavor. But what’s the best cutting detail for minced burger meat? The experts claim that cuts from the front of the cow are most beneficial, like chuck and brisket. These cuts are tougher, more flavorful and contains that oh so important fat. The one last thing to seek out is a quite coarsely ground piece of meat since it will enhance the texture of your burger.
- The Bread. As you probably already know I prefer a burger bun with some bite to it. A sourdough bun with a crisp crust and chewy but fluffy inside is just about perfect for me. But if you love Brioche go ahead and use that, the important thing is that you choose a high quality bread with some character. After all the burger consists of about 50 % bread so it’s not just important but crucial to your success.
- The Cheese. There would be no cheeseburger without the cheese. Personally I prefer a mature, sharp but yet creamy Cheddar since it’s packed full of flavors and matches the other burger trimmings in a splendid way. Melting is another important parameter. Young, soft cheeses with high moisture content tend to melt more easily than hard, aged ones. Brie, Monterey Jack, Tallegio and Emmenthal are examples of good melting cheeses. American cheese might be the best one to melt – this is due to extra added milk, proteins and some kind of chemical salts. But what if you want a hard flavorful cheese on your burger? Well there are ways to melt even the hardest cheese, but you can’t expect the same texture as from a young moist one. The trick is to add supplementary moisture in form of steam – simply fry the burgers in a skillet until they almost have reached your choice of cooking degree (rare, medium or well done), add some slices of cheese on top and pour in a small splash of water in the hot pan. Cover with a lid and let the burgers steam for half a minute. If you want to dig even deeper and ravel yourself in even more cheese melting chemistry check out Serious Eats by clicking here.
- The Trimmings. The trimming should make the burger complete and add different textures and flavors. I would go for something creamy, something sweet, something savory, something salty, something smoky, something spicy and something fresh and crisp. A nice dressing adds creaminess. I like to mix in some ketchup, gherkins and some kind of spicy heat with my mayonnaise to create a traditional burger dressing. If you ask me ketchup is a compulsory topping, preferably both a small squeeze on the actual burger as well as a seasoning in the dressing. The ketchup adds sweeties as well as a sour note. Pickled things also contributes with sweet and savory tones. Pickled red onions lift a burger to new dimensions both taste wise but also by giving it a super nice look. A crisp lettuce and maybe some other kind of raw vegetable will give your burger that fresh vibe which to me is quite essential. Since the rest of the burger holds quite a lot of fat it’s nice to have something fresh and crisp which cuts through that richness. Last but not least I would like to strike a blow for bacon; bacon with its smoky salty element. The bacon simply takes a nice cheeseburger to the top.
If you spend some love and time on your cheeseburgers it’s really going to pay off. You will experience the amazing gastronomical burger-heaven which makes you crave for just another bite even though you got full a long time ago. The taste and the textures are just amazing.
The Ultimate Cheeseburger – 10 Burgers
This cheeseburger is a true winner made to impress. Make it!
1 000 g minced beef from chuck (Swedish högrevsfärs)
200 g smoked streaky bacon
250 g yellow onion
3 garlic cloves
5o g butter
10 g Worcestershire Sauce (2 tsp.)
10 g Dijon mustard (approx. 1 ½ tsp)
30 g ketchup (approx. 2 tbsp.)
1 ½ tsp salt
1 tsp whole black pepper corns
250 g mayonnaise (homemade or store bought)
40 g ketchup (approx. 2 ½ tbsp.)
75 g gherkins (picked cucumber)
1 ml cayenne pepper
1 ml hot paprika powder
¼ tsp sugar
350 g red onion (2-3 pieces)
50 g vinegar 12% (½ dl)
85 g sugar (1 dl)
150 g water (1½ dl)
20 whole white pepper corns
10 burger buns (check out the best burger buns here)
20 rashers of smoked streaky bacon
Picked onions. Combine vinegar, sugar, water and pepper corns in a pot and bring to a boil. Peel and finely sliced the red onions. Pour the hot liquid over the onions and let them cool down a bit on the counter top before placing in the fridge to cool completely.
Dressing. Finely dice the gherkins. Combine mayo, ketchup, gherkins and spices in a bowl. Have a taste and adjust the seasoning if required. Let the dressing rest in the fridge while making the rest.
Trimmings. Rinse the salad and tomatoes in cold water. Shred the lettuce and cut the tomatoes into thin slices. Cut the burger buns in half and toast them in a dry skillet until golden. Fry the bacon on medium heat until nicely colored. Transfer to a plate and save the bacon fat for when it’s time to char the burgers.
Burgers. Sear the butter on medium heat in a small pan until golden and nutty. Let cool down for about 15 minutes. Peel and roughly chop onion and bacon. Fry on medium heat in a skillet until the onion has softened and the bacon is just slightly browned. Peel and chop the garlic and add that to the bacon onion mixture towards the end of the cooking. Grind the black pepper and introduce that to the pan as well. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and mix until crumbly. Add the minced chuck to a bowl alongside with Dijon, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, the bacon onion mixture, the butter and salt. Gently mix all the ingredient together with your hands or a wooden fork/spoon. Shape 10 burgers with a weight of approximately 130 g each. Use your hands to form them into round patties. Warm up a pan until screaming hot and add a splash of the leftover bacon fat. Fry a few burgers at the time for 1-2 minutes on each side or until nicely browned. Place a few slices of cheese on top of each burger and add a small splash of water to the pan, cover with a lid or aluminum foil and steam the burgers for about half a minute.
Assembling. Smear some dressing and ketchup on the bottom bun. Add the shredded salad and a few tomato slices. Place a burger on top of the veggies followed by two rashers of bacon and some pickled onion. Top with the upper bun smeared in some additional dressing. Take a big bite and enjoy!