The “best” burgers – satisfy the kids and the grownups

On Saturday, my friend Kim came over for dinner. She had a hankering for homemade burgers, and how could we refuse when we love them too! So, with the platonic ideal of the perfect burger in my mind, I headed over to the Grand Lake farmer’s market with my daughter for burger fixings. After a quick ride in the jump house for my daughter, and then a nice snack of home-baked salty pretzels from the bread vendor, we journeyed over to the Prather Ranch stall.

For anyone unfamiliar with Prather Ranch, they are, as far as I’m concerned, the premier local grass-fed beef ranch around. I love them for many reasons (not necessarily in this order).

  1. They are located in Northern California and I’ve been trying to buy food raised and grown locally (or as close as possible).
  2. The cows on their ranch are raised humanely and get to roam around and eat grass (I call this good Karma meat, although my vegetarian friends would point out that they’re still slaughtered).
  3. From what I hear, grass-fed beef has a lower risk of E-coli than corn-fed beef, which eases my mother’s mind. This also means you don’t have to cook your burgers until they’re well-done and hard as hockey pucks. (This isn’t to say you should give your kids rare burgers. It just means that I personally feel I can give my girls medium burgers instead of well-done ones.)
  4. Their beef just tastes better than any other beef I buy. It’s fresher and the flavor is just hands down yummier than other ground-beef choices.

So, with all this in mind, I bought two pounds of ground beef at the Prather Ranch stall. I knew the beef would make great burgers as soon as I looked at it because I could see it was permeated with delicious flecks of fat. Although making burgers out of lean beef may make you feel like you’re being healthy, lean-beef burgers are never worth eating, and therefore not worth the calories, as they always end up dry and tough. A good burger needs some fat to be juicy and flavorful. So when buying beef, try to resist the lean stuff. A little fat in moderation is fine. Just be sure not to eat burgers every day (although once you make the perfect burger it will be hard not to).

Anyway, that night, we set out on our mission to make the best burgers possible. We didn’t want extra trimmings (such as stuffing the burgers with cheese or poblanos). We wanted that great meat to be the star and to simply highlight its natural flavors. Kim finely chopped a quarter of a red onion and added it to the meat along with some salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce while I made some homemade French fries (I mean, you HAVE to have homemade fries with homemade burgers). She then shaped the meat into burgers about 1/3 pound a piece. Tony, my husband, then fired up the grill.

He heated the grill to about 500-600 degrees and then placed the burgers directly above the flame, which dropped the heat to about 350 -450. He then shut the grill cover and cooked them for about 4-5 minutes on each side. This got them to about medium-rare. He then placed a slice of colby cheese on them (although Kim, the purist, resisted the cheese), and covered them for about another 30 seconds until the cheese melted. Tony kept our daughters burgers on for about a minute longer to make sure their meat was about medium. He then toasted the buns on the grill while the burgers rested (note: always let your burgers rest for a couple of minutes before devouring them. Resting allows the juices in the meat to settle throughout the burger so the entire burger is juicy without being too drippy).

After that, we all happily settled down to what, I feel, were the best burgers we’d ever made and maybe ever had. They were pink on the inside without being too rare, which is just the way we like them. The minimal seasonings let that wonderful grass-fed Prather Ranch meat shine, and our toppings of ketchup, mayonnaise, bread and butter pickles were a perfect match. The fries were also great, but that’s another post.

My only regret is that I’m not having burgers again tonight.

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