What is summer without the olfactory assault of something sizzling away on the grill? The answer: nothing but a meaningless stream of dog days, punctuated by the birth of baby Jesus and a booze-fuelled entrée into the new year. A burger is, without a doubt, the foremost accompaniment to the season’s customary activities that include, but are not limited to, beachside frolicking, backyard barbecues and liquid overindulgence (there are few better gastronomic objects with which to soak up our sins). Lovingly prepared with a beer in hand, ideally overlooking a well-manicured garden, or perhaps, more intrepidly, one of our fabulously proximate beaches, the simple and superbly gratifying construction is something worthy of acclaim.
In light of as much, we’re paying homage to the delicacy with a blow by blow account of how to assemble the most delicious burger ever. And we’re not talking about those new-age ones with Korean fried chicken and bao buns either, but the quintessential cheeseburger; a patty of humble minced beef origins with a slab of gloriously mundane cheese melted over the top. Salad, not made up of sesame-dressed slaw, but of a single piece of Cos, and a sauce that could rival McD’s top secret variety. With each ingredient as pedestrian as the next, this, my friends, is the perfect burger.
This might be a straightforward component but let’s not forget it has naming rights. A cheddar is the safest bet for its tang and bold taste. Call us lackadaisical, but our favourite way to buy it is pre-sliced, ready to slap onto the semi-cooked patty.
The burger’s only source of verdancy is one of great contention. While many prefer the gratifying crunch of an iceberg specimen, we’re partial to the sturdy form of Romaine or Cos. Robust by nature, both breeds have the constitution to hold up the inner workings of your burger.
You might be fooled into thinking that any old tomato is up to the task — ‘tis not the case. While the vine variety will lend your creation more flavour, a Beefsteak has the benefit of providing a one-slice solution to avoid cheeky tranches escaping out of your burger’s back end. Salt the slice a few minutes before assembly to help reduce excess liquid.
We dallied with making our own before deciding that the juice isn’t worth the squeeze. After all, the burger exercise is all about ease. Paneton makes excellent brioche buns that are available from Farro Fresh and New World stores. We suggest browning them face-down in the pan with butter before popping them in the oven to keep warm while cooking the patties.
Nailing the sauce is one of the most important things to do. More than just a tomato sauce x mayonnaise mash-up, we like one with a little tang and smokiness too. Try the following and adapt to taste: ¼ cup Best Foods mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon spicy pickle juice, 1 teaspoon tomato sauce, 1 teaspoon yellow mustard and a pinch each of smoked paprika, onion powder and garlic powder. Stir and season.
Prepare a simple hand-mix of 200g lean ground mince with an egg, salt, pepper, a teaspoon each of mustard, crushed garlic and a finely chopped onion. Shape into fist size patties.
Never quite been able to mimic that ‘crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside’ effect they do so well at your favourite burger joint? We have the answer: put your patties into the freezer for 15 minutes before they hit the grill to slow down the cooking process just enough to get that deep brown, flavoursome crust Heat the grill (or cast iron skillet) to high heat and add a couple of tablespoons of oil. When it starts smoking, add the patties and use a grill-press (pictured) to smoosh them down for as much surface area as possible. After 1½ minutes on one side, flip, season, add cheese then leave for another minute, before sliding onto an awaiting bun.