Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Bittman, you've gone one step too far

I like Mark Bittman, "The Minimalist," who is a frequently published food writer for the NYTimes. I like the concept of minimalistic cooking. And even more than those things, I LOVE hamburgers (and so does my Aunt Helen, so it must be genetic). So when today's NYTime's Food Section cover article was "For the Love of a Good Burger," I was pretty excited. In fact, I had been craving red meat and so for dinner last night I made burgers.

Mark kicks off the article about how most burgers are mediocre, at best. And I agree. It is very hard to find a good hamburger. I like mine medium-rare and I almost always get them served to me medium-well. And the quality of the meat is often questionable. Yuck.

He spends nearly the entire article speaking to his idea that the only way to get a decent hamburger is to ground your own meat. He cautions to not buy packaged ground beef in any form. What? Are you kidding? I have a job. I am not grinding meat at 7:30pm to get a hamburger after I have been "grinding" away at the office for the last ten hours. Not a chance. Grinding meat does not seem one bit minimal. I cannot imagine that many readers are going to commit to grinding there own beef now that Mark told them it is better to do so. Consider your audience Bittman, we are busy people!

Why couldn't he have spent the article discussing what type of ground beef to buy and where to buy it in order to get the best burger possible with minimal fuss. For example, for grilling burgers I usually buy organic beef, 90% lean (80% lean probably tastes even better, but I can't do it). The fat drips off the burger when grilled and leaves the burgers quite tender and tasty. I try to buy my ground beef at the local butcher, Whole Foods, Mollie Stones, etc., somewhere that is going to have better quality meat than Costco's frozen beef patties. I always season and form my own patties, but that is as much effort as I will am willing to go to to get a good burger.

Some good points of the article include not packing the meat too tightly or the burger will be tough and that you can season the patty adequately with just salt and pepper. But the most helpful part of the article describes how to grill the perfect burger:
"Burgers cook so fast that the heat source doesn’t matter much. You want a hot fire, but not a blazing hot one; that fat, as we all know, is quick to ignite. The rack, which should be very clean, should be three or four inches above it. Turn the burger only after the first side releases its grip on the grill, after a few minutes; if you don’t press with the spatula, you’ll get less sticking, too. Cooking time depends on the size of the burger, of course, but mine take about 6 to 8 minutes total, for rare to medium-rare. Pork takes a little longer, but not much."

Check out Bittman's recipe for the Inside-out Lamb Burger, but get ground lamb or ask the butcher to do it. It looks very tasty. See the picture above and that will get your mouth watering.

If cooking your own hamburgers is just too much work in general, might I suggest stopping by one of my favorite places in New York City for the absolute best hamburger - The Half King. They have the best burgers I have ever tasted, hands down. Order a pint, splurge and get the french fries as your side, and you are set to eat a truly wonderful American meal.

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