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Wednesday, June 20, 2007 04:36 am

Zen and the art of making burgers

All you need is salt, pepper, olive oil, and mindful restraint

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Untitled Document A good hamburger is hard to find but shouldn’t be. It’s one of the easiest things to make, but most cooks want to make it complicated. All a burger needs to taste lip-smacking are salt, pepper, olive oil, and mindful restraint. A few notes on those four ingredients: Salt and pepper — Use kosher salt and use it liberally. For every pound of meat, use one teaspoon of salt. Although it’s less critical, pepper is best when freshly ground because it yields more fire and flavor. Oil — If you’re grilling at the home of a friend who doesn’t own measuring spoons, go by the glug method. Two healthy glugs (a.k.a. alcohol pours) will do. Extra-virgin olive oil offers aroma and flavor that you won’t get with less neutral options, such as canola or corn. Mindful restraint — This means minimal touching, fondling and fussing with your patties while shaping and grilling them. Let the darn things cook in peace. Flip them only once. You know that guy who likes to show off, flipping and prodding those burgers? He’s a misguided feller. Do the right thing and show him some burger Zen.  

Culinary questions? Contact Kim O’Donnel at kim.odonnel@creativeloafing.com.
Simple-but-Luscious Burger 

1 pound ground chuck or sirloin, about 80 percent lean 1 teaspoon coarse salt 3/4 teaspoon black pepper 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat gas grill or fire up charcoal- or wood-burning grill about 20 minutes in advance. In a large bowl, add all ingredients and mix with your hands until well combined. Tear a hunk of meat that fits comfortably in the palm of your hand. Gently press and shape into a somewhat flattened ball. The grill should be hot enough that you can barely place your hand 3 inches above the grate. Place the burgers on the grill and let them cook for about four minutes, then, using tongs, turn them over onto the other side. For cheeseburgers, place the cheese after turning. Continue cooking for four more minutes; a total of eight minutes should yield medium-cooked burgers. For the most accurate (and safest) results, a meat thermometer inserted into a medium burger should between 135 and 145 degrees. More than 10 minutes of cooking will likely result in fossil-like burgers.      Toasted English muffins, rubbed with a clove of garlic, make sublime burger bookends.
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