worth doing right

breakfast of champions

Of the foods that I love a lot, that take under 10 minutes of actual cooking time, hamburgers are the one thing that I generally opt to go out for, as opposed to cooking at home 9 times out of 10.

It’s not that I don’t make excellent burgers (I do make excellent burgers). It’s just that if I’m going to be putting in the legwork myself, they are going to be made right. Dammit.

  • Right means cooking on the grill, not the stove. That right there eliminates six months of the year, here in the Snow-ta.
  • Right means a charcoal grill, not propane. Which means that it takes longer for the coals to heat up than it does to actually cook the food — even if you are a member of the Better than Briquettes Brigade.
  • Right means knowing what the hell is in your patty. Preformed, frozen blocks need not apply.
  • Right means not fearing medium-rare. This means that those pre-ground tubes of beef that have been sitting in the cooler at your place of grocery-izing for FSM knows how long are not appropriate. This means that you either have to be one of “those people” who pesters the butcher to fresh grind up a roast or steak for you, or you do it at home, with your handy KitchenAid Food Grinder Attachment.

All these caveats means that doing burgers my way… is a bit of a pain in the ass. But a worthwhile one, especially when you make more patties than you need, and freeze the rest for those “I’m-willing-to-fire-up-the-grill-but-maybe-not-hand-select-and-twice-grind-a-3-lb-roast-today” days.

While it was Alton Brown who first introduced me to the joys of grind-it-your-damn-self burgers, he is also a bit too much of a purist for me, claiming that the ultimate burger should contain only beef, salt, and maybe pepper. I can see where the man is coming from, and those pure burgers do have their place (especially when you don’t fear medium-rare),  but I do like to opt for a little more excitement. Be it the chives that are always thriving in my garden during the 6 months of reasonable grill time every year, garlic from the farmers market/CSA, or maybe, just maybe some form of anchovy by-product, I like my burgers like I like my men. Adult. err… Adulterated. Or something.

Also, when cooking for a group, I do like to err on the side of fully cooked. People are picky. People fear medium-rare (even when I explain to them that the bacteria in the average cut of beef, as opposed to chicken, only exists on the outside, so if the meat is fresh ground, the bad stuff doesn’t have time to multiply all the way through the grind the way it can in pre-ground meat). When there’s a lot of stuff on the grill and people to greet and sangria to serve, it can be hard to get the timing exactly right, so things might over cook a tad. So, I need a standby burger template that can hold up to such abuse.

So, to continue the series of things that made last Friday delicious, here are…

Adult(erated), Abusable Burgers

– makes 20, 1/4lb burgers

(adapted from Cooks Illustrated’s “Well-Done Burgers on the Charcoal Grill”, and “Grilled Hamburgers with Garlic, Chipotles, and Scallions” recipes)

This really is a very flexible recipe. Skip the panade, if you don’t plan on cooking past medium. Change, or leave out the adulteration as you see fit. Use pre-ground beef, if you promise to cook to well done (or at least medium well), and maybe also pick up some pepto at the store. And yeah, divide this recipe as needed to make a more reasonable amount.

The Panade

  • Skip this, if you don’t intend on on cooking the burgers past Medium
  • 1 1/2 cups white bread, crust removed, torn to bits (should be 3 slices, I used the insides of 3 hotdog buns)
  • 6 tbsp milk.

The Meat

  • 5 lbs chuck roast, or 80/20 chuck.

The Adulteration

  • 9 cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 3 tbsp chipotles in adobo, minced
  • 6 tbsp chives, minced
  • 1 tbsp kosher  salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground black pepper

The Method

  1. Grind beef. Twice. Using the coarse grinder plate, into a large bowl.
  2. Run about half of the bread through the grinder to help clean it out. Try to capture the last 3rd or so of this in a separate container to help make the Panade.
  3. Combine the unground bread, the ground bread that isn’t too beefy, and the milk in a small bowl, stir to combine, and let sit while you prep the Adulteration.
  4. Toast the unpeeled garlic cloves over medium heat in a cast iron skillet until pale golden brown and delicious (8 mins or so). Shake pan occasionally.
  5. When garlic is cool enough to peel, mince it.
  6. Give the Panade another stir, and add to the beef, work it through a little with your hands (yes, this is where things start to get messy).
  7. Add the garlic and the rest of the Adulteration ingredients, and work through to combine.
  8. Form burgers.  (this is where things maybe get obsessive)The best way to do this is with a kitchen scale (4oz a piece!), wax paper, and a hamburger press to get them perfectly round and flat.  My press is a ridiculously cheap plastic thing that looks exactly like this one, and gets the job done.  You could maybe buy something fancier if you wanted.
  9. Cook the way the you would cook any other burger — even ones that you didn’t put so much love into.  You want your grill to be hot.  You want maybe 4ish minutes per side. If you want, you can wreck all your hard work by putting a slice of cheese on top for the last minute or so of cooking. Maybe consider toasting your buns, you know, go nuts with it.
  10. Freeze any burgers you don’t cook up between layers of waxed paper.
  11. Profit!

The Notes

  • I love me some chipotles in adobo, but to be honest, three tablespoons here was a little overwhelming.  The next time I make this recipe, I’ll probably cut the proportion of this by half or even two-thirds, to better let the toasted garlic and chives sing through.
  • This recipe is all about the cheap yet fatty meats.  If you want to splurge for sirloin, feel free, but know that your burgers will be a lot drier (even Alton only goes 50/50).
  • Just like yesterday, let me know what you think of this recipe if you ever to give it a whirl.


  1. Amber Jul 29

    These burgers were yummy at your party. You should have parties more often. :)

  2. tph Jul 29

    I’m glad you liked them!

    And yes, we do need to party more like it’s 2009.