People frequently ask: “How do you decide what to post?” Often it’s about how much time we have to prep, so we come up with recipes that can be made with ingredients picked up on the walk from the subway home, or with bits that were lurking in the fridge and pantry. Cravings, as we mention often, also fuel our posts. And holidays, of course. Thanksgiving is in the works!
Another one, illustrated here, is a hole in our portfolios. As professional photographer and food stylist, our body of work is constantly expanding, but that growth lacks structure and direction. For instance, we might spend months working on packaging for frozen food, or on healthy cookbooks, which translates into a library of images that represent only a corner of our market. Clients will approach us and say, “Have you shot any drinks? What about cakes?” When this happens, we need to be ready to say, “YES!” and supply them with examples. When not working for pay, artists turn to tests to flex their creative muscles, and also to stock their image libraries.
I approached this burger primarily from a food styling angle, rather than the usual recipe one, therefore, no official recipe. However, I can give you a few tips on what to do when making a burger at home so it tastes great and looks picture-perfect (we did eat this one and it was delicious, if you were wondering).
HERE’S THE BEEF Grind your own beef (I have attachments for my KitchenAid stand mixer) or ask a butcher to do it. It’s impossible to tell what’s in those Styrofoam trays in the meat display at the supermarket #mysterymeat.
I usually go with chuck, which comes from the shoulder, and has a good balance of meat and fat. If you read enough articles about famous burger joints, you’ll find out about special blends, but chuck is a standard. Do not ever make a burger with lean beef. I mean it.
GET IN SHAPE I’m a condiment addict, and grew up eating proteins like grilled chicken and beef patties that were marinated with Worcestershire sauce and French’s mustard. Save the condiments for the finished burger: you want the beef to be the main event.
Don’t salt the beef until the patty is formed. It sounds insane, especially if you season like I do: one ingredient at a time and progressively as the dish develops. Salt messes with muscle proteins and toughens the meat. I actually just found a note about that in one of my abuela Muriel’s recipes from the 1950s.
When do you season, then? Once the patty is shaped. Salt and pepper it liberally on both sides. Go with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.
How do you shape? Quickly and gently. Divide your beef into equal amounts (I make 6 ounce patties), shape into a patty about 3/4-inch thick, then press into the center to make a little well. This will prevent the patty from bulging in the middle. Cover and refrigerate the patties if you’re not cooking them immediately.
FLIPPING OUT Heat your grill or a large skillet with a teaspoon of vegetable oil over high heat until it begins to smoke. Add your patties and flip them once they’ve started to darken and set. I like a rare, bloody burger, so my patty’s done when it’s charred but still oozing red juices (about 125°F when tested with an instant-read thermometer). Squeamish? 140°F for medium, and then, you’re on your own.
ON BUNS AND TOPPINGS Have at it. I like a squishy potato bun that’s really only there to soak up meat juices and condiments, but a buttered and griddled brioche roll is lovely. Mustard. Ketchup. Pickles. Hot sauce. Onion slices. Lettuce. Ripe tomatoes. Go nuts, and don’t let anyone harass you if your condiment of choice is MAYO.