Beef aficionados love a medium-rare burger, but many people are wary of meat that's on the pink or red side since it might contain bacteria. Is it possible to enjoy a burger that's perfectly juicy and yet also cooked thoroughly enough to destroy all traces of salmonella, E. coli, and other microbes that cause foodborne illness? Absolutely! You just need to know a trick (or three).
Texas chef and grillmaster Tim Love recommends mixing 1 to 2 tablespoons of mayo per pound of ground meat to keep it moist and juicy even as you cook it thoroughly. And yes, Tim is a spokesperson for Hellmann's Mayonnaise, but that doesn't change the fact that this actually works. He points out that this trick also works great for turkey burgers, which should always be well-done.)
After you mix the mayo into your ground meat, let it sit in the refrigerator for an hour so it's easier to form the meat into patties. And don't forget to add a thumbprint to make sure they cook up nice and flat.
According to Food Republic, you won't be able to taste the mayo once it's mixed in, but if you're the type whose soul dies a little bit at the mere thought of mayo, you can add the same amount of full-fat Greek yogurt for the same effect.
You can also grind up a strip or two of bacon (or the fatty ends of bacon) in the beef to make it moist and extra-tasty. This does necessitate having a meat grinder or going to a higher-end supermarket that has a butcher, but it's worth it.
You can also mix in a tablespoon of bacon fat per pound of meat, but keep in mind that the patties will be greasier than normal when you fry or grill them.
My friend Maggie is a personal chef for some high-end corporate types, and she has a secret trick for making sure that her burgers stay moist: she includes ice chips (for the more health-conscious) or a disc of butter (for those who say to hell with having low cholesterol) at the center of the patty to keep it from drying out.
I was surprised at this technique, but it turns out it's been around for a while, as you can see from various recipes, including this one from the incomparable Julia Child. Making burgers this way is a little more labor intensive, but it is worth it. You can get detailed how-tos here and here.
If you really want to get fancy, you can make your own spreadable herbed butter (although it's still pretty delicious with just plain ol' butter). You could also try your hands at DIY compound butter.
What tricks do you have for cooking up juicy burgers?
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