Plain Ol’ All American Hamburgers
Plain ol’ hamburgers. What’s so good about them? Everything. Identified as decidedly American, hamburgers are a connectional food within our culinary melting pot. They’re eaten in every culture and cuisine that consumes beef.
Backyard cookouts will feature hamburgers and hotdogs more often than anything else. When we had out-of-town company at our house, one meal was sure to be grilled hamburgers. They were quick, easy and crowd pleasing. My mother didn’t enjoy cooking and she found preparing large meals stressful. Hamburgers filled the bill for a stress-free meal that everyone enjoyed.
My grandparents loved homemade hamburgers. They loved hamburgers in general, but homemade hamburgers were a special treat for them. They looked forward to those with the same anticipation as I do Thanksgiving Day. Beef wasn’t a staple for them in their earlier years. If they had meat at all, more than likely it would be chicken or pork. Perhaps that contributed to part of their excitement over hamburgers. And you can’t escape the fact that grilled hamburgers just flat-out taste good. The lilt of Granddaddy’s diction resulted in hamburger being pronounced as ham – BUR – ger. He placed the emphasis on the second syllable instead of the first. It wasn’t done to call attention to the word or himself, that was simply his pronunciation. I loved it when it talked about homemade ham – BUR – gers. The music still rings in my ears and I consider that a blessing. May I remember that the longest day I live.
After I was grown and returned to visit my grandparents, I would always suggest that we take a drive around. As I child, they would take us on drives frequently. We would drive around town and out in the country with Granny narrating the trip and pointing out the high points such as who lives in which house and who had recently died. A drive was entertainment to them. Granddaddy had stopped driving anymore than was necessary and Granny never learned to drive. I was sure they were missing their drive times. So, off in the car we would go with me asking them to tell me what they wanted to see. It wound up being the same thing every single time. ‘Let’s go on the highway t’wards Samson.” Lest you be under the delusion that the Sampson highway was scenic, let me reassure you there was nothing to see. Well, almost nothing. There was a grain silo. Granddaddy would tell me each time, “You see that grain silo, Jack? I delivered either the first or second load of peanuts they ever was delivered to that sil0. I delivered ’em with a mule and wagon.” We talked about that and how he waited in line to deliver his load and how he always wondered how many acres he could plow if he’d ever had a tractor instead of mule and plow. Then, they would suggest that we go to the first fast food restaurant that came to their town of Geneva: Hardee’s. Granddaddy would say, “They make good little ham – BUR -gers. I would have taken them anyplace they wanted to go. They always wanted to see the grain silo and get a Hardee’s hamburger. While that might seem boring and uninspired to some, to my grandparents it was Disney World. I was happy being the engineer driving the monorail.
Y’all come see us.
Plain Ol’ Hamburgers
You need ground beef that’s an 80/20 composition. If it’s any leaner, you’ll need to use a binding agent like bread and/or eggs. It’s hard to pin down a cooking time because of so many variables: thickness of the patties, cooking temperature, personal preference for doneness. When the edges of the burgers have started to turn grayish/brown, that’s a good time to flip them. Then, it’s up to you how much longer you want to cook them. The second side takes a few minutes less than the first unless you want to cook the burgers to death. The FDA recommends that ground beef ‘s cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees which is well done. I didn’t make up the rules, I’m just reporting them. The 3 inch wide, 1 1/2 inch thick burgers that I had today cooked a total of 18 minutes, 10 minutes on the first side and 8 minutes on the flip side, and were juicy and just a tad bit pink on the inside. They were perfectly suited to my liking.
For juicy burgers,you must follow two rules. Rule number one: Only flip your burgers once. That means one time. That means you’re not going to stand there flipping the things back and forth like they’re soccer balls. Rule number two: (I’m so sorry, but I have to yell this one) DO NOT SQUISH DOWN ON YOUR BURGERS WITH THE SPATULA YOU’RE HOLDING IN YOUR HANDS. WHEN IT COMES TO BURGERS, SPATULAS ARE FOR FLIPPING, NOT SQUISHING. (Back to normal voice now). Every time you squish down on your burgers, you are sending flavor and juice right down to the grates of your grill. Unless you plan on eating your grates, you’re losing flavor and juice that you’ll never get back. That’s a cryin’ shame in this world.
For beef patties:
1 pound 80/20 ground beef
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon Season-all Seasoned Salt
salt and pepper
Mix ground beef, water and Season-all.
Cook until the edges lose their pink color and turn grayish/brown. Flip one time. DO NOT SQUISH. So sorry that I had to yell again. Meanwhile, drizzle olive oil over the buns and sprinkle with salt and pepper. If you’re not accustomed to seasoning your bread, you should try it. Salt, pepper and olive oil adds flavor to bread just like it does to anything else.
Cook the burgers to your liking, top with a slice of cheese and place the bread, cut side down, on the grill to toast. It will take about the same amount of time to toast the bread and melt the cheese.
Time for burger making. Let’s start with the toppings: lettuce, tomato, sweet onion and dill pickle slices. We are between tomato seasons now. The only tomatoes I can find that are consistently good are grape tomatoes. My preference for a good hamburger is a thick slice of big, great tasting tomato. Instead of buying big tasteless grocery story tomatoes, I would rather use grape tomatoes with taste even though the grapes tomatoes will keep falling off the burger while you eat it. I refuse to compromise flavor for convenience. You can’t eat convenience.