Home Made Burger Recipes
If you are lucky enough to have a good, local butcher you may be able to buy high quality burgers “off the shelf,” so to speak. More likely is that you buy your burgers from the supermarket chiller, or worse, from the freezer. Burgers are very easy to make at home, giving you have total control of the ingredients, and thus the quality and flavour. I am giving three home made burger recipes here, all using minced/ground beef, but you can of course use any meat you like, such as lamb, pork, chicken, rabbit or other game etc. Do make sure to add some minced fatty meat, such as pork belly, if you use very lean meat as the basis of your burger; perhaps around ten percent of the total weight, otherwise your burgers will be too dry.
You can also add any herbs or other flavourings as you like to the mix.
You can form the burgers by hand, as in the first recipe, or buy moulds from caterer’s suppliers or kitchen shops. I have managed over the years to accumulate a small collection of plastic lids from party-sized jars of peanuts etc which I use: one gives a pretty perfect quarter-pounder when packed tight. Whatever mould you use, line it with cling film/kitchen wrap, leaving plenty of overhang. Stuff it tight with your burger mix, complete the wrapping, tip out and re-line for the next one.
Although some people prefer their burgers quite rare, remember that with mince you are distributing the outside of the meat (where any bugs may lurk) right through the burger. Better safe than sorry; cook thoroughly – if you’ve used good quality meat with a reasonable fat content, your burgers will remain succulent.
Simple and Easy Burger Recipe
Minced/ground beef (1lb/500g for four quarter pounders, for example)
Plenty of salt and freshly ground pepper
A little oil if frying or barbequing
Tip: to check that you have the seasoning correct, take a tiny portion of the finished mix, and fry it in a little oil. It will only take a minute or so, then you can taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary. I like these burgers quite heavily seasoned, but it’s up to you.
Thoroughly mix the seasonings and meat. Divide into four equal portions. Shape by hand, firstly into balls, and then flatten them into a patty shape between your palms, tidying up the edges with your fingers if necessary.
Grill, pan fry in a little oil, or smear a little oil on them before barbequing. I prefer to use a medium to high cooking temperature, so the outside are nicely caramelised/lightly charred by the time the burgers are cooked through: so, if you also like yours done this way, turn on your extractor and/or open your windows wide.
Use the highest quality bun you can find (or even chunks of crusty baguette): don’t spoil your lovely burgers with a cheap bun made of plastic fluff.
This recipe (and quantity) is the one we used when I worked in a fine-dining restaurant that also made lunches for the adjoining pub, where these burgers were very popular. It makes around sixteen burgers, so is ideal if you are having a barbeque or similar (or run a pub with quality food!). If not, adjust the quantity proportionally, or make the sixteen and freeze the ones you can’t use immediately. Even frozen, these burgers will be far, far better than anything you can buy in the shops.
4lb/2kilo highest quality minced/ground beef/steak, not too lean
4oz/120g dry breadcrumbs, preferably home made
1 to 2 tablespoons to your taste of good made mustard, such as English or Dijon
1 tablespoon Worcester sauce
2 tablespoons tomato ketchup/catsup
2 eggs, beaten
Plenty of salt and freshly ground black pepper
Mix all the ingredients together thoroughly. Divide into sixteen by hand, or by using the mould as suggested in the introduction (doing it this way you may even get seventeen!). Check for seasoning and cook as in the method for the Simple and Easy Burger recipe above.
Serve on a good bun with your choice of relish and sauces, perhaps with a side of chips/french fries and a salad.
Boeuf Hambourg or Bismark - Haute Cuisine Burgers
This recipe is lifted directly from the English language edition of “Le Repertoire de la Cuisine”, the guide to the cuisine of Escoffier and the French Classical Kitchen. This extraordinary little book contains the instructions for over 6000 dishes in a tight, concise form and is sometimes known as the Chef’s Bible. It is certainly worth seeking out a copy; although it may take time for the non-professional to get their head around some of the instructions, it tells you exactly how to create pretty much every classic dish you have ever heard of. It is especially useful for its first section “Fonds De Cuisine” which explains all the basic foundations, stocks and sauces.
I was quite surprised to find what is essentially a burger recipe in there, but here it is, verbatim.
(Beef) “Hambourg, or Bismark. Chopped raw, seasoned with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add raw egg, chopped onion tossed in butter, mix together, divided and shape like a Tournedos, flour and cook in clarified butter.”
That’s all there is: you can see what I mean by tight and concise. It is pretty easy to follow, even for the non-professional, but here’s a few hints and tips from me.
This is not supposed to be made with standard butcher’s minced/ground beef, but rather with a good quality steak such as rump, trimmed of gristle, tendon and excess fat, minced by hand with a very sharp knife until you have extremely fine dice.
If using, for example, 1lb/500g of steak (trimmed weight), I would use at most 1oz/25g very finely diced onion, gently softened/sweated in a pan with a little butter until it begins to go golden – don’t allow the butter or onion to burn; a dash of plain oil in the pan helps here.
For this quantity, I would use no more than half a beaten standard egg (no, I don’t know what you’re going to do with the other half an egg, either) or the finished burger will become spongy.
To clarify butter: gently melt butter (eg 4oz/120g/1 stick) in a pan on the stove top, or even in a jug in the microwave. Remember the word “gently” – we are just melting it, not cooking it. The solids will fall to the bottom. Carefully tip off or otherwise decant the clear liquid – this is clarified butter. Discard the solids. Clarified butter will heat to a higher temperature without burning, and gives a cleaner, but still buttery, taste to the dish.
And as for “Tournedos” – well, that’s burger-shaped to you and me.
If you are going to attempt this recipe, then do follow it exactly, only making adjustments in proportion if you are using different quantities; don’t, for example, substitute oil for the clarified butter, because it seems too much fuss. The whole point of classic recipes is that they are followed EXACTLY – it is the tiny little twists, followed to the letter, that make the dish what it is.