Yes, You Can Screw Up a Hamburger

A homemade hamburger is one of the easier foods you can make, all you need to get started is some ground beef, a bun and the rest is left to your imagination. How hard can it be to mess up a meal as simple as this? Not hard at all actually…

I recently had a friend tell me about her dinner out at a co-workers home, the main dish was to be homemade hamburgers. A hamburger can range from something as complicated a stuffed burger or one with lots of assorted spices and things like this one to something as simple as a glob of ground beef stuffed into a patty shape and then cooked.

So what ended up going wrong here? Nothing was said regarding what went into the burgers, it was how they were prepared that was the issue. They were pan fried (not that there is anything wrong with that) but the “chef” wielding the spatula was squishing each burger down as it was flipped thus squishing out all of the flavor and juice as well. The finished product was a bland, dry hockey puck of a burger. This coworker and his wife also have the peculiar habit of not serving hot foods hot or cold foods cold, they let the food sit around until it is barely warm or cold and then serving it.

In the past, I have had my own bad burger experiences, a highly defective couple who I had the misfortune to have once called friends were the guilty party on both occasions. On the first occasion, I was informed that we were having burgers and was asked if I could bring down my mini Foreman grill. What then transpired was me working two mini Foreman grills on the kitchen countertop. Again, as mentioned above, squishing a burger while it is cooking causes all the juices and flavor to run out and be wasted. It didn’t help matters that these people liked their burgers well done, which though a bit more of an opinion then a mistake runs counter to what I consider a properly done burger, where I consider medium to be a job “well done”. The second occasion was not the burgers fault, the burgers were turkey burgers which had been acquired from a reputable source (though only after raving about how good the burger itself tasted did they admit that they were not homemade, I strongly suspect that had I not pressed the subject they would have happily passed them off as homemade) the issue was the condiment situation. Now a good hamburger can stand on its own with few condiments, but a burger that is lacking condiments seems naked and missing something. The right blend of condiments and add-ons can turn a good burger into a great one. So what went wrong this time? All of the condiments (ketchup, mustard and a single solitary packet of mayo) came from found packets found in drawers and the only add-on available was lettuce. Sigh…

Have I ever screwed up my own hamburgers, on a few occasions…. I once grilled up a batch of burgers that had the barely there taste of unlit lighter fluid due to an uncooperative grill and charcoal. If you can call cooking a burger well done by mistake a screw up, then there is another yes. On another occasion I over salted the meat and that is just one of those things that you cannot undo.

As long as you don’t squish a burger while it is cooking, you are well on your way to preparing a successful homemade burger.


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