August 23, 1995 in Food

Nothing Beats A Juicy Burger Topped With Homemade Ketchup

Michael Roberts Los Angeles Times Service

My taste for hamburgers has changed over the years. I can’t imagine craving the well-done, dense meat patty of my childhood. These burgers were cooked in a skillet or under the broiler until they were dead, then drowned in ketchup.

In the summer, they were cooked outdoors, and any charm that may have been added by the flavor of an open fire was negated by the strong taste of lighter fluid. City folk considered lighter fluid the barbecue’s most important ingredient.

Whether you’re making beef, lamb, turkey or chicken burgers, the most important factor is juiciness. Meat ground for burgers should be only moderately lean, with about 12 to 14 percent fat. Check the labels on packages of ground beef.

If you’re grinding your own lamb, use shoulder meat. Ground turkey or chicken should be at least 30 percent, but preferably 50 percent dark meat. This is very important, because burgers made from poultry should be cooked until well done.

Form patties that are about 1/4- to 1-inch thick. If you season the ground meat with herbs or spices, do so not more than 30 minutes before cooking, or the flavor will “bleed.” Don’t add salt to ground meat, but do salt both sides of the patty just prior to cooking.

After you’ve made the patties, chill them for 20 minutes before cooking. They will better retain their juices, and will be easier to both char and cook medium rare or rare.

When cooking your burgers, use intense heat. If you’re grilling, use one-third more charcoal than required to completely cover the grate, and let the coals turn white before cooking. Lightly oil the burgers so that the drippings will flame and char the surface of the meat.

Cook them on the stove in a smoking skillet with no fat added, or place under a preheated broiler, close enough to the heat that they cook rapidly.

No matter how you cook them, turn the patties only once; it’s important that ground meats form a crust on both surfaces so that the juices remain inside. When properly cooked, even a medium-well burger can be juicy.

If you’re going to melt cheese over the patties under a broiler, do so a minute before they have reached desired doneness. If you’re cooking in a skillet or on a grill, you will have to place a lid over the patties, so make sure that the burgers are still rare when you add the cheese.

And, of course, we can’t forget the ketchup. Most people have never made their own, but when you do, you’ll be a “happy camper.”

Spiced Hamburgers

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small onion, finely minced

1 tablespoon finely minced garlic

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground coriander

2 pounds ground beef, lamb, turkey or chicken

4 toasted hamburger buns

4 thin slices red onion

4 slices tomato




In small skillet over medium heat, combine oil and onion and cook, stirring, about 4 minutes, or until onions soften. Add garlic, pepper, nutmeg and coriander and continue to cook another minute.

Scrape onion mixture into mixing bowl, let cool, then add beef and mix well.

Form 4 patties, place on plate, cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Light grill, preheat broiler or place large, heavy skillet on stove over high heat until nearly smoking. Salt patties on both sides. Cook 2 minutes. Turn patties and cook on other side until desired doneness, about 2 minute for very rare, 5 minutes for medium well.

Arrange burgers on hamburger buns and garnish each with 1 slice of onion and tomato. Offer ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise and encourage mass slathering.

Yield: 4 servings.

Open Face Burgers “Au Poivre”

1-1/2 pounds ground beef, lamb, turkey or chicken

2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper

1/3 cup red wine

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon leaves or 1 teaspoon dried

1 tablespoon green peppercorns

1/3 cup whipping cream

4 hamburger buns, bottom half only

Form ground beef into 4 patties about 3/4 to 1-inch thick. Press coarse black pepper into both sides to taste. Place patties on plate, cover and place in refrigerator.

Combine red wine and mustard in saucepan and place over medium heat on stove. If using dried tarragon, add it now. Simmer until reduced by half.

Add green peppercorns and cream and simmer until liquid becomes sauce-like. Remove from heat and add fresh tarragon.

Light grill, preheat broiler or place large, heavy skillet on stove over high heat until nearly smoking. Salt patties on both sides. Cook 2 minutes. Turn patties and cook on other side until desired doneness, about 2 minute for very rare, 5 minutes for medium well.

To serve, arrange burger on toasted bun bottom and generously spoon some sauce over top.

Yield: 4 servings.

Burgers with Mushrooms

If you prefer to cook the patties on a grill or under a broiler, saute the mushrooms separately in butter.

2-1/2 pounds ground beef, lamb, turkey or chicken

1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage leaves, or 1/2 teaspoon dried

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 pound mushrooms, thinly sliced

4 toasted hamburger buns


Mix together ground beef and sage. Scrape into bowl and form mixture into 4 patties. Place in refrigerator, covered to chill for 20 minutes.

Heat butter in medium skillet over medium heat. Add patties and cook 4 minutes. Turn, add mushrooms and continue to cook 5 to 7 minutes more.

Remove patties from heat and place on hamburger buns. Garnish with some sauteed mushrooms. Serve immediately and offer mayonnaise.

Yield: 4 servings.


10 pounds tomatoes, preferably overripe

1-1/4 cups wine vinegar

2 tablespoons salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon allspice

1 tablespoon mustard powder

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 cup brown sugar

Place tomatoes and vinegar in large saucepan over medium heat. Cover and cook until soft, about 30 minutes.

Strain tomatoes or run through food mill. Discard seeds and skins and replace tomato pulp in clean saucepan.

Add all other ingredients and let simmer over medium heat about 2 hours, or until reduced to 6 cups. Stir occasionally. Mixture should be thick.

Yield: 6 cups.

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