You may have the perfect recipe for hamburgers — but chances are, you’ve been making the patties wrong your whole life.
Most home chefs dump their ground beef into a bowl and knead in all the fixings: chopped onion, ketchup, red pepper flakes. Then they roll the dough into balls and flatten them with their hands before tossing them on the grill.
But this method has some major drawbacks.
In a 2007 episode of the short-lived BBC show “In Search of Perfection,” Michelin 3-star chef Heston Blumenthal spent six months using science to create the “perfect hamburger.” His biggest revelation was that in order to achieve an “open,” juicy texture, the grains of ground meat should all fall in the same direction.
There are two benefits to keeping the grains of meat running straight: The first is to avoid the release of proteins that could act as binding agents, and the second is to keep the strings from becoming intertwined. Either could lead to a denser and drier patty.
This is when the famed chef’s method really veers off the path of the traditional burger patty. Instead of forming patties with his hands, he rolls the entire pile of ground beef into a sausage-like tube using plastic wrap.
He refrigerates the roll for at least half an hour, and then slices it like a sushi chef, ensuring that each patty’s meat grains stand parallel to one another, and that each is a consistent thickness all the way through, allowing for even cooking.
Blumenthal, whose burger blend is 50% chuck, 25% short rib, and 25% brisket, prefers to grind his own meat and have a sous chef pull the grains out of the grinder, to keep them parallel.
Blumenthal’s other big trick is to treat his pan like a rotisserie instead of a grill. He flips the burger every 20 or 30 seconds, a method he says “drives a much more even temperature through the meat,” resulting in a burger that’s “nicely coloured on outside, but evenly cooked through the middle.”
Now that’s some pretty revelatory stuff.
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