With the seeming rise in recognition of lacy-edged, thinly smashed hamburgers, many dwelling cooks have turned to changing their backyards into makeshift diners by putting metal griddles or giant forged iron pans atop their grills at yard cookouts.
This is a development I can get behind. Occasionally, I could also be within the temper for a behemoth half-pound burger (the sort that finally ends up obliterating its personal bun with juices earlier than you get midway via), however, more and more, I discover myself craving — and happy by — a extra fairly sized burger, with thinner patties that maximize taste over quantity.
For all the thrill that smashed burgers provide, they lack some important summer season flavors: smokiness and char. We dwelling cooks smash our burgers on the yard grill not as a result of it’s inherently constructed for it, however to save lots of our kitchens from the grease splatter. And should you’ve ever tried to cook dinner a skinny patty on a grill and choked down the dry, shrunken outcomes, that including smoky char will not be a easy matter if you need your burger to remain juicy.
So what makes a grilled burger so essentially completely different from a smashed burger? Why are smashed burgers so profitable in smaller sizes? It has to do with the cooking course of. Direct contact with a screaming-hot griddle yields intense browning (and thus taste and texture). This intense warmth additionally cooks them very quick, and quicker cooking makes it in order that much less juice is misplaced via evaporation. Using a strong griddle additionally prevents rendered fats from escaping.
Grilled burgers have none of those benefits. Grills cook dinner primarily via infrared warmth — the electromagnetic radiation that travels from scorching coals or grill bars the identical approach the solar’s warmth power travels via house — an altogether less-efficient type of warmth switch than direct conduction from a scorching griddle. Browning and taste improvement take longer, giving the patties extra time to dry out. Rendered fats instantly drips off the burger and vaporizes within the hearth beneath. That vaporization and the sooty deposits the fats subsequently leaves on the burger’s floor are important to the flavour of char-grilled meals, however much less trapped fats additionally means drier burgers.
There are structural points as effectively. For thicker grilled burgers, I usually desire beef that’s floor contemporary and dealt with as minimally as potential to be able to preserve its texture gentle and tender. (Small air pockets in a loosely packed patty additionally act as insulators, retaining the burger’s inside a shade pinker as the outside browns.) Try this with skinny patties, although, and even those who survive the preliminary switch to the grill will crumble while you attempt to flip them, falling via the grates like a smoky, fiery recreation of Kerplunk.
Solving this structural downside is easy. In some ways, floor meat resembles bread dough. Both of them get their construction via a matrix of interconnected proteins — animal protein within the case of floor meat, gluten within the case of dough — and depend on that construction to ensnare water, minerals, fragrant molecules and fats. We all know that the extra bread dough is kneaded, the extra sturdy this construction turns into. The similar is true for floor beef.
Kneading the bottom beef in a bowl will trigger proteins to turn out to be entangled with each other: That’s dangerous information for large, fats burgers, however crucial for thinner burgers. I knead my beef till it types a mass that’s simply cheesy sufficient to stay collectively. (Incidentally, don’t be tempted so as to add salt to the meat throughout this kneading section. Salt will dissolve some muscle proteins, inflicting them to hyperlink collectively excessively: Your burger patty will come out with the bouncy, easy texture of breakfast sausage.)
This kneading introduces one other downside: geometry. As a burger (or any little bit of meat) cooks on the grill, a number of components can alter its form. Solid fats renders and drips out, water evaporates and flies off into the ambiance, and proteins coagulate and contract. Any burger will lose girth because it cooks, however a skinny, well-kneaded patty particularly so. With loosely packed burgers, I intention for patties which can be about an inch wider than the buns to account for shrinking throughout cooking. With skinny patties, I needed to virtually double this pre-cooking overhang, and shaping just a few ounces of floor meat right into a patty with a half-foot diameter is not any easy job!
I attempted it by hand. I attempted it utilizing a hoop mould. I attempted it utilizing a tortilla press. In the top, I found that the simplest technique was to position balls of well-kneaded beef between two sheets of parchment paper, then press on them with the underside of a sheet pan or skillet to make them into a skinny, even circle.
To type the patties, well-kneaded beef is positioned between two sheets of parchment paper.Credit…Bryan Gardner for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Barrett Washburne.Then, the meat is pressed with the underside of a sheet pan to create giant, rounded patties.Credit…Bryan Gardner for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Barrett Washburne.
The trick to seasoning and transferring them to the griddle was to peel off one sheet of parchment, then season the patties, return the parchment, flip over the complete parchment-and-patty sandwich in order that you might peel off the second sheet of parchment and season the second facet. This loosens the meat from the parchment sufficient that it may be simply flipped out onto a scorching griddle.
Once flattened, the patties are able to be seasoned. Credit…Bryan Gardner for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Barrett Washburne.Then flipped, sandwiched between parchment…Credit…Bryan Gardner for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Barrett Washburne.… and seasoned on the opposite facet.Credit…Bryan Gardner for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Barrett Washburne.
Structurally and geometrically, issues have been understanding effectively. My patties held collectively on the grill and shrunk to simply the best measurement for a burger bun. Flavor and juiciness have been nonetheless probably the most tough components to grasp.
I targeted first on my warmth supply. Grills can range wildly of their most warmth. Lump charcoal burns hotter than compressed charcoal briquettes. Both burn considerably hotter than your common fuel grill. Gas grills with ceramic “sear” burners (additionally known as “infrared” burners) can rival coal. But, even with the most popular hearth, my burgers have been drying out earlier than they browned correctly on each side.
That’s when it occurred to me: I’d been cooking my skinny burgers the way in which I’d cook dinner fatter burgers, by flipping them to get even browning on each side. But that’s not how a skinny smashed burger is usually cooked. Rather, with a skinny patty on a griddle, you cook dinner it on its first facet for almost all of the time, flipping solely on the final second. The concept is that deep, darkish browning on one facet will present extra taste than reasonable browning on two sides.
Does the identical technique work for skinny grilled burgers?
Indeed it does.
By laying patties on the most popular a part of my grill and letting them sit undisturbed till the primary sides have been deeply browned and charred and the highest sides confirmed simply the faintest remnants of pink coloration, I may then flip them, and let the flame simply kiss that second facet, whereas I melted a slice of cheese on prime. Finally, I acquired them straight into their ready buns. (These skinny burgers don’t do effectively with sitting or cooling, so be prepared for them!)
In the temper for an unreasonably giant burger? No downside.
These patties are constructed for stacking — ideally with a slice of melty cheese between every layer.
Recipe: Thin however Juicy Char-Grilled Burgers
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