Step 1 – The Beef
First, you have to start out with good beef, not anything frozen as the thawing process adds a lot of moisture to the mix. I like to go to my local butcher and get ground sirloin at an 80/20 grind.
This means you get 80% beef to 20% fat. Any more lean and the burger can become dry, any more fat and you lose weight and size when cooking. Fresh ground isn’t necessary to make a great burger (yes it is), but it will give you the freshest flavor.
It also has the advantage of being less likely to contain E. Coli bacteria, and therefore can safely be cooked to rare. Rare burgers, or even medium rare, are not advised when using prepackaged ground beef, too dangerous.
Step 2 –Mushrooms
Next, the mushrooms, I am blessed to live in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, where both onions and mushrooms are available locally. We have an incredible choice of wild and cultivated mushrooms, from morrels to chantrels on the wild side, to portobellos and oysters cultivated. Any of these work fine, but for the sake of this article I will assume that you only have access to white or crimini mushrooms.
I prefer criminis to whites, but use what ever you can get your hands on. Start by washing your caps and laying them on a towel to dry. Then remove the stems, and gills if using portobellos. Then dice finely, you want them to be as small as possible.
Next, saute them in butter or oil, with a pinch of salt and pepper, and remember that mushrooms absorb a lot of fat, so go heavy, we will be draining them when they are done. Saute until the mushrooms have good color and have released most of their liquid. Then strain them either in a fine mesh strainer, cheese cloth, or wring them out in a towel. We want most of the liquid out or they will make the burger too loose.
Step 3 – Onions
Now the onions. I prefer a good sweet white onion like Walla Walla’s, but any white or yellow onion will work fine. Dice the onions to about the size of a pencil eraser, if they are too big the burger mixture will be hard to work.
Now saute them over medium heat in a small amount of butter or oil, salt and pepper lightly. We want to caramelize the onions to bring out all of the sugars in the onion. We’re looking for a good, dark brown color, but without burning. I prefer to deglaze my onions with a dry sherry, this speeds up the process and adds sweetness, but isn’t necessary.
Now we want to strain these as well, a mesh strainer works perfectly.
Step 4 – Bring it together
To bring it all together, we need a large mixing bowl, salt and pepper, some Worcestershire sauce, and some bread crumbs. We want the onions and mushrooms to make up about a quarter to a third of the total mix. Any more than that can make the burger fall apart when cooking. If you have left over mix save it for an omelet or put it on top of you burger in the last few minutes of cooking. Put the beef in the mixing bowl, then add enough mushrooms and onions to equal about a third of the total mix.
Season the mix with Worcestershire sauce (just a dash), salt and pepper (on a side note, salt and pepper are in everything I make, I use sea salt and fresh ground pepper exclusively, you use less to get more flavor – than if you used mined salt or pre-ground pepper).
Now knead the mix until it is uniform. If it seems a little wet, add some breadcrumbs, slowly, and knead some more. If too much breadcrumb is added your burger will be dry and have a weird texture. If you think you added too much breadcrumb, add more of the mushroom/onion mix, some more Worcestershire sauce, or even a little catsup. I like to form 6-8 ounce (about 200g) patties and let them rest for about 15 minutes so the mix can set up.
Step 5 – Cooking
For cooking burgers, I prefer a broiler. I like the fast, hot heat you get from a broiler, and the fact that most of the grease drips away, but any cooking method will do. Remember though, that these are going to be very juicy burgers, so if grilling be ready for some flare-ups. These burgers are best cooked medium rare to medium as rare burgers may fall apart, but whatever suits your tastes.
Finally, I like to top these with a very sharp cheese, Gorgonzola works well, but my kids prefer Cheddar. What ever you prefer. Enjoy!
Would love to hear your burger bad boy stories…share your burger love in the comments below!
What about the bun? Would love to know about your selection process of the bun.
In my opinion it should be a soft vessel to get meat to the mouth.
Good question AL, I look for a good firm bun, I like the contrast of the crunch. I love a good, toasted brioche bun personally.
Really good article Sean – I tried my own brioche buns over the weekend and they went down really well. I’m still experimenting with all types of beef cuts for that perfect taste (chuck/short-rib/brisket etc) so its good to hear your views on it too.
We made your burgers last Sunday and they were absolutely delicious! We had so many mushrooms that we put them in the meat but also added them into the burgers instead of using tomato – bang on!