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How to cook a beef patty?

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 
Hi everybody,

Can someone help me with my beef burger? ha.... How long should i cook my beef patty for if i want it medium??
i'm using an open stove, so shld i use small fire or medium fire or high??
post #2 of 24
Depends how thick your patty, and how lean the meat. Thicker patties should be cooked with relatively less heat. Leaner meat cooks faster. I like to cook my hamburger at medium high heat.

Shape and season your hamburger outside the pan. When you shape your patty, shape it so it's slightly dished into the center. That way when it cooks and tightens up, it will cook itself flat rather than round.

"Regular" hamburger is 80/20. That is, 80% meat and 20% fat. Let's assume you're making your patty with "regular," and shaping quarter-pounders about 1/2" thick. Don't forget to use wet hands when your forming your patties. After they're formed, season each side with a few drops of Worcestershire, salt, pepper, and a bit of granulated garlic. If you put the Worcestershire on first, you can spread it around with your finger and it will hold the seasoning. If you put the Worcestershire on last, the seasoning will clump unevenly.

Once your patties are formed, preheat your skillet over a medium-high flame. If it's non-stick ([I,]and ideally, it should not be non-stick[/I]), add a few drops of regular vegetable oil to the hot pan. You don't need much, you're not trying to fry the hamburgers; you're prepping the pan so the meat will release when it's seared, and to facilitate the rendering process so more fat cooks off. Roll the pan to make sure the oil flows easily (that means the pan is hot). Then add the meat to the pan, and JUST LEAVE IT. Don't flatten it, don't move it around, don't do anything. JUST LEAVE IT ALONE. Got it?

After two minutes (exactly) shake the pan and see if the hamburger moves on it's own. If not, wait 30 seconds, and shake again. If, after another 30 seconds the burger won't move by shaking alone -- push the burger on it's side with the flat of your turner to release it. You don't want to slide your turner underneath unless the burger can slide -- or you might tear up a perfect crust. Turn, and cook the second side for 2 minutes.

If you want cheeseburgers, have the cheese and the bun ready so they can go on the burger as soon as it's turned. This will melt the cheese.

Using medium heat will take longer, cook the meat more evenly, but ultimately give you a harder crust. Your choice. Very lean meat, like ground sirloin, will cook to medium-well in the center within seconds of getting hot. Not only do you have to watch it like a hawk, it's less tasty than regular. Also, enough of the fat will render out of regular that the cooked burger doesn't carry much more fat than lean or extra lean. Furthermore, lean and extra-lean meat will deform more as it cooks; your patties will look more like meatballs. On the other hand, economy 70/30 will always stay a bit greasy unless cooked medium well or well.

Note: If you see drops of blood rising up to the surface of the uncooked side, you're looking at a hamburger which will be medium-well at least. If you see blood, turn immediately and cook the second side just until browned.

That's it.

post #3 of 24
I usually agree with you, but in this caseI question your reasoning. Why should the pan be non-stick? What's wrong with cast iron or stailnless, or even carbon steel. FWIW, I've gotten good results with cast iron, stainless, and non-stick.

Also, I don't see any reason to add oil when using a non-stick pan. Again, FWIW, I've cooked a fair amount of hamburger, turkey burger, and a few pieces of rib eye, on stainless, using no additional oil, and didn't have sticking problems in any case.


Confused in California
post #4 of 24
I made beef burgers this morning, pretty much as you said BDL. Got a nice crust on them then turned the heat down. I like to dust them lightly with cornflour(cornstarch) before putting into the pan, gives a bit more crust. Once the burger is going a touch firm, I take it off the pan, into the roll, top with cheese and its good to go.

I cooked them for the kids, so they prefer them almost well done, but I'm gradually weaning them onto less well.....step-by-step, inch-by-inch...they'll get there eventually :)

 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

post #5 of 24
Major oops, I meant to write "should not be non-stick" and dropped a word. I'll return to the original post and edit. Shel, thanks for the good catch.

However, there is a reason to add just a little bit of oil, and that is to begin the rendering process of excess fat. Try adding a 1/2 tsp of oil or less, and see how much more fat you get back. From a cooking phsyics/chemistry standpoint I don't know why this works, but it does.

Finally, preheated pan, cold oil, come to temp before cooking is basic searing technique. Part of the reason is to prevent sticking, and part is to facilitate the Maillard reaction. The trick is to use little enough oil that the primary heat type is contact conduction, rather than immersion conduction (and there's your chemo/physics).

post #6 of 24
I don't eat many burgers, but do enjoy one on occasion. I think I did recently tell about a fellow I knew who ate ground beef each and every meal of each and every day, but that's different.

If you have a meat grinder you can make burgers that definitely surpass store bought ground beef. One of these days I'm going to try using my food processor to "grind" the meat, see how that works. That utensil is more commonplace than a real meat grinder.

Anyway, grinding your own can take a lot of guesswork out of wondering exactly what it is you are getting, provide a fresher, more flavorful result and reduces risk of contamination from poorly handled, processed or stored ground meat from who knows where. And with less worry about contamination, one can enjoy juicier, more rare burgers.

Chuck steaks and roasts are good burger fodder, having a decent fat content to provide a flavorful end result. Tri-tip roasts are also great for burgers, but these days who wants to spend 7, 8, 9 bucks a pound for burger? Ah, the good ol' days when few knew what tritip was, other than cheap. Maybe someday I'll grind up some tenderloin just to see what it's like in a burger...

Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
post #7 of 24
Like you, I don't eat many beef hamburgers, but when I do, I like to prepare my own beef using a combination of techniques learned from the Time-Life Beef volume of the Good Cook series, Judy Rodgers of the Zuni Cafe in San Francisco, and Alton Brown on the Food Network. I don't have the right knives to chop the meat by hand, which is what I'd like to do, so the food processor is used instead for the chopping process. There is a technique for "grinding" meat in the food processor that works very well. Also, as BDL suggests, making a depression in the center of the patty is very helpful.

You're absolutely correct that chopping/grinding your own meat produces a superior product. The only other option that comes close is to use a real butcher, pick out your own meat, and have the butcher grind it to your specifications. I no longer buy pre-packaged ground meat (beef, turkey, lamb, pork, etc.) - haven't done so in more than a year. Apart from controlling the quality and getting results exactly as you want them, pre-packaged meat may not be as safe as preparing the meat yourself, especially if you like your burgers rare.

post #8 of 24

Making Good Hamburgers

Just one thing.......In addition to all the other points on hamburger making, the instructions that I follow say that the meat should be a coarse grind! If you are having a butcher custom grind, ask him to put the meat through the grinder ONLY ONCE. This is important to the flavor of the hamburger (I prefer chuck).

(I am also a fan of BDL !......The man absolutely is a master in his craft!! Am looking forward to that book that he is working on.) :)
post #9 of 24
That's very interesting. I'll give it a try some time. Usually the meat I use is pretty low in fat - the 80/20 is fatter than I'd use. Would the fat content of the meat affect the way the oil works?

Cooking in fat seems to imply more of a frying technique than a nice, Maillard reaction. Comments?

post #10 of 24
I don't like to go much leaner than an 85/15 for a "cooked" hamburger. Any leaner than that, and I just brown the outside and leave the middle between rare and underdone. So, in addition to being lean that's either meat I ground myself or know fracking everything about. Knowing you, you (a) like your hamburgers very rare, (b) mince your own meat sometimes; and (c) know everything about your butchers who are honest and artisanal.

With meat leaner than 80/20, you don't want much if any rendering; nor is there much rendering to be done. So, in the case of leaner meat the oil would be unnecessary from a rendering standpoint. Still, there is the lubrication aspect. You want to turn the burger without tearing the crust of sear and seasoning; and you want to leave as little fond in the pan as possible since you won't be using it to build a sauce. And no. don't even try going there.

A little fat in the pan to start with, doesn't inhibit the Maillard reaction. Nor for that matter does frying. You absolutely can deep fry hamburgers -- or meatloaf for that matter (as done on Top Chef under extremis). Ground meat gets a very hard crust when fried. Also, most suitable hamburger meat ends up frying in own fat very soon after it's in the pan.

I have to admit to groping a bit for the "why" answers. I wouldn't submit them as part of my doctoral thesis. On the other hand, you can take the "how" to the bank.

A word on "grinding" meat in a food processor. A food processor is not a good grinder. Heat is the enemy, and the speed of the processor's blade generates quite a bit as it cuts. Also, the processor's blade frequently cuts incompletely. You can do a decent job if you cut the meat very small to begin, work in small quantities, and put it in the work bowl very cold. Otherwise the processor will significantly overwork the meat, and the product will be dense and feel fatty. In all the times I've used a processor, I've never got the kind of fluffy product one gets from a grinder.

If it's something you do often, it's worth buying a grinder. A good electric stand alone suitable for hamburger, chili, and sausage making runs well under $100. The KA grinder attachment (which I use) is reasonably convenient, works very well and doesn't take much storage space. The major drawback to grinders has been solved by an appliance we call the "dishwasher."

You can take meat down to "minced" with a very sharp knife. It's no different from mincing anything. Chill your meat well. Use a very sharp chef's knife. Section the meat into roughly rectangular pieces no more than 2" thick and 3" wide. Then cut 1/4" thick "leaves" from the sections. Cut the leaves into lengths from which you can take a nice cut with your chef's knife -- no more than 3". Sort the leaves by length if you have any shorties; stack like lengths four or five high, then cut battonet (formally a "twig" 1/4 x 1/4 by 2, but we're playing it as it lays and using the longest lengths we can handle comfortably). Organize your battonet by the handful, so they're all running parallel. Cut fine dice, one handful at a time. Reserve in a covered bowl and refrigerate. Make sure you knife is still very sharp, by steeling it again. Put a handful of cold, diced meat on your board and mince it by two hand rock-chopping through it repeatedly, just as you would mince herbs or garlic. When the meat clings together, it's sufficiently minced. Continue working in small portions. Tedious. Would take me forty five minutes or so to take down 3 lbs of meat. Worth it only for tartare. Compare to 10 minutes in a grinder, and 15 with a processor.
post #11 of 24
Got any tips for that KA attachment. I always feel like I need a third hand.

And stuffing sausages with it is tricky for the solo chef too. One hand feeding meat, one hand guiding the casing, one hand coiling the stuffed sausage, one hand adding meat to the feed tray...
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
post #12 of 24
When I first started using the food processor, I had problems such as you mentioned. However, a little research gave this technique:

Meat is pre-cut into 1-inch pieces, never larger than 1 1/2-inches;
Meat is pulsed;
batches are relatively small - no more than about 1/2-lb per batch, often a little less;
a very sharp blade is used - I have one just for meat which is sharpened every now and then;
meat is cold - right out of fridge.

At some point I'd like a matched set of knives and the skill to use them with a two-knife mincing/chopping technique. I've not been able to get good results using one knife - maybe more practice is needed, maybe a better/different knife, maybe a conversion to vegetarianism ...:D

post #13 of 24
a bit of oil in the pan helps with the initial heat transfer.

once the burger / patty warms up, it begins its own rendering -

as you mention tho, meat direct onto a hot pan = sticking; for intentional browning that's a good thing, it does eventually release.

but for a burger / patty, any need to move / flip prior to it's natural release point usually results in more than one piece. when plopping a burger in a dry pan, better plop it in exactly the right spot because you don't want to have to move it anytime too soon.

if the pan temp is just right it'll get to a natural release point before you get the tooth busting hard&crusty bits - that takes a little experience and attention but it is worth the effort to achieve a slightly charred / browned flavor.....
post #14 of 24
I grew up next to a nuclear plant. Always seemed to have enough hands for such a task <LOL>

post #15 of 24
Yes .... still working on my mincing skills, though.

When in the mood, I don't mind the tedious work, in fact, I enjoy it. When I made bread, never used a mixer, always did everything by hand. Refinished the dining room table - all with hand sanding . Made fresh pasta, all by hand. I like that kind of thing. Also, I can't imagine doing 3-lbs of meat. I cook mostly for one or two, work in small batches. Most I'd ever do would be about 1-lb (two, three burgers)

BTW, I have my grandmother's meat grinder - big, heavy, hand-cranked, cast iron thing. Pre 1920s, definitely. Lost my brother in it one summer <LOL>

post #16 of 24
Northern Tool ( Portable Generators, Grounds Maintenance, Lawn Mowers, Pressure Washers | Northern Tool + Equipment ) has a grinder thats frequently on sale of $89 that works very well. They also have a $79 piston stuffer thats decent. That makes the grinder not that much more than the KA attachment and it can grind a lot more per hour. For the occasional pound or two pick up one of the hand operated grinders, they are usually around $20 or even less at a second hand store. Ground chuck makes a good burger as does ground brisket.
post #17 of 24
Just give me a burger that's plain and simple.

I've never been one for the pan frying method. Not even in the dead of winter living in the Genesee Valley of New York would we trade a char grilled burger for the pan. Don't get me wrong I'll eat'em if presented to me but would much prefer the grill. I guess it's just preference.

With that said gordon, I'm gonna offer a completely different method for you.
You didn't mention size of patty so I'll just say take approx 8-10oz of the meat of your choice and make it into a meatball. Not too tight but just so it holds together. Place it on the table and with your left hand cup the meat and press down. At the same time and using your right hand press the butt of your palm against the meat. Apply a slight amount or pressure down with your left hand and in with your right and turn both your hands simultaneously to form the burger. The burger should be approx 1/2"-3/4" thick and 3"-4" around.

Salt and pepper both sides lightly and use a bit of oil to season the pan but wipe out the excess. Place in the seasoned skillet, what ever you have is fine; cast iron, stainless, aluminum or nonstick. Be warned! Cooking this is gonna be a splatter mess so be prepared.

Cook the burger for approx 1-1/2 to 2 minutes over medium high heat and turn. Continue this process until you have turned the burger 3 times or cooking twice on both sides. This method is usually to perform the marking but also serves a purpose to help in cooking on the flat-top grill or pan. Also never press down on the burger. Resist all temptation to do this. There is nothing that will ruin a burger quicker and contrary to popular belief it doesn't help the burger cook quicker. Anyhow by flipping the burger 3 times you evenly cook the burger on both sides allowing the juices in the meat to not drain out of on side, have the burger warp or cup or get an uneven degree of done.

Remove the burger from the pan, and place on a burger bun of choice. I prefer mine toasted or grilled with butter. All of my condiments, ketchup, mayo, pickles and onion go on the bottom of the burger and the cheese, lettuce and tomato slices go on the top.

Cap it off with the bun top and have at it. It should be a very nice medium.
post #18 of 24
Thread Starter 

medium high heat?

Sorry guys, i know i'm gona sound stupid..but i tink i'll be more stupid if i don't ask wat i wana know with all the experienced people here in the forum giving advice and guidance...hahaha...okok....Now the Q.... how do i know if my stove is on medium high heat???
post #19 of 24
Thread Starter 

Thanks for all the tips

Hey guys...thanx for all the tips....

post #20 of 24

I take it your dial isn't marked for medium high. Most stove dials are at least marked for high, medium and low. Sometimes the mark is on the stove above the dial. Set the fire on high, and look at it. Medium, and look at it. Back and forth again. Now split the difference by eye. Don't trust the distance on the dial between medium and high as being medium high. Trust your eye looking at the flame.

Some stoves have "click" stops. If your stove has nothing, try and find the lowest point where you can trust the flame to stay on. High is obvious. Then establish medium and medium high. This is a never ending process of educating your self to your stove. People who have used the same stove for years, even pros in restaurant kitchens are constantly calibrating their stove and their eye to each other.

One of the most important parts of learning to cook well is learning to make these kinds of distinctions. Even more important is learning to trust yourself. Everyone is wrong sometimes, so if you're wrong and doesn't work out perfectly the first, second or even the third time, don't let it throw you. Just learn and move on.

post #21 of 24
Well, the obvious smart-alec answer is to look at the knob :D

But there is more to it than that. It depends on what sort of stove you have, natural gas, propane, electric or an old wood burner like in my Grandma's kitchen way back when. Consistent cooking on that thing must have taken some talent!

A new, efficient unit will work differently than some old beater that came with the rental of the place. Sure, a clapped out electric stove may have markings from 1 to 10, and a top grade, industrial quality gas range may also have markings from 1 to 10. On the old beater, '7' might be too wimpy to fry an egg, on the fancy, rocket powered unit '4' could turn that egg into a carbonized fossil in the blink of an eye.

And stoves often have different sizes of burners. My current gas range has 1 big burner, 1 small burner and 2 medium sized ones. The vast majority of the time I use one of the medium burners. Boiling pasta and pan seared steaks go on the big one, simmering stocks on the little guy. On the previous electric stove, I scrambled eggs on 4 and did omelettes on 5. On the gas stove most things are about half to a full mark lower than what I used on the electric.

It takes some practice with your equipment and a bit of experience to equate medium-high with some setting on your particular device. A really rough guide is that a pot of water will keep a vigorous rolling boil on high, a gentle but constant boil on medium, and barely simmer on low.

Practice. Cook a lot. Play with your food, you'll get the hang of it.

Oh, and if you're getting lots of smoke, turn it down.

Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
post #22 of 24 do i know if my stove is on medium high heat???

I go by sound. put a patty in the pan on low turn up the heat gradually - allowing time for the pan to come to temp - at least 2-3 minutes.

as the temperature increases, you notice the sizzle gets louder more frantic until finally it's popping, spitting and sputtering grease all over creation, then you get smoke . . . <g>

frying an egg takes less sizzle than frying beef - and frying chicken a bit more sizzle than that. if you pay attention you'll find you can cook from a distance - or at least know that it's right / too hot / too cold.

beef takes a moderate sizzle, very little popping.

of course, you could buy a fancy ir non-contact thermometer . . . .
post #23 of 24

Cold or cool food in a cold or cool pan is almost always bad technique. The reasons include uneven cooking, sticking, bad fond formation, and drying. Your examples, hamburger, chicken, and egg, are very much not the exceptions. Before you ask for one: bacon. You can start bacon in a cold pan. It even helps keep the bacon flat -- as long as you turn it a couple of times as the pan heats up.

On the other hand, your suggestion that the way to tell what's going on with the pan is by observing and using all of the senses is on the money. In fact, enlarge that to all of cooking. Touch, listen, smell, taste, look. But no more cold pans.

And please don't let Catbert help you in the kitchen anymore,
post #24 of 24
heehee - if I made the impression <cold pan start etc> is "good" that was a booboo.

the suggestion was made as a learning experience to "train an ear" - well, that's what BunnyBert said . . . .

(the cat's name is: Bunny. it'ssss a loooong story . . . .)

....Touch, listen, smell, taste, look.
okay but,,,, when it smells burnt I find it's usually just too plain late <g>
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