Science of Juicy Burgers

3 Everyday Staples Lifts This Mighty Burger

For over 30 years I have been a student of cookery. Certain dishes have always befuddled me: baked potatoes, burgers, and pot roasts—to name a few—can have many tricky roads to getting it right.

LEFT: Adding Panade-Baking Soda to Beef. RIGHT U: Creating Panade L: Note the Hole in the Center Before Freezing

Thinking about a couple of methods for keeping meat tender I had this Eureka! moment when I combined them into the mix.

A simple paste of bread and milk—known as a panade—coats the ground meat to help prevent it from toughening when forming patties. You will also make juicy meatballs with this two-step method.

Baking soda is a leavener with an alkaline pH, which science shows hastens the browning of meat [both ground and unground meat, as well as mushrooms]. So your burgers are browned before they are overcooked.

I bought some pastured 85-15% ground beef and proceeded to nail it on my first attempt! I’ll leave you to choosing your own kind of burger mix.

INGREDIENTS: Makes 8 1/4 pounders

  • beef – 2 LBS, ground
  • bread – 1 cup, [1 slice], white bread, torn*
  • milk – 1/2 cup, or plant based milk, enough to form a loose paste
  • baking soda – 3/4 tsp, mixed in 2 TBS water
  • salt – 1 tsp
  • pepper – 1 tsp

*For the bread I use white sandwich bread and will attempt a multi-grain variety in the next trial.

INSTRUCTIONS: I use a digital scale to form 8 equal 4 oz. burgers. I also prepare them for the freezer at this time

  1. Prepare the panade—use a fork and mash the bread into the milk and over a few minutes repeat until a paste is formed
  2. Add in the baking soda, water, salt, and pepper; then stir well
  3. Place beef in a large bowl and pour the mixture over the top then gently combine
  4. Measure out a 4 oz of mixture and form into a ball, then lay on a small sheet of wax paper. Use a drinking glass [or your palm] press down to form a patty about 1/2 inch thick. Don’t handle too much to keep tender
  5. With your baby finger form a hole in the center; this will allow faster cook time if cooking right out of the freezer
  6. Continue to form the burgers and interleaf with wax paper so they will be easy to break out future burgers from the freezer

COOKING METHODS: I’m a fan of pan frying: it yields the most char and the most umami bang for the buck. Grill marks offer flavor on those marks, but pan frying gives you that flavor throughout each bite.These burgers will also dance for you on the grill or under the broiler, too

  • Pan Frying: Bring burgers to room temperature, lay them on double thick toweling and gently press to dry both sides. This is a vital step to prevent the patties from steaming
    • Preheat a skillet and add some oil, and when almost smoking, add the burgers [don’t crowd]
    • For the first 15-20 seconds press down on the patties with a spatula so they sizzle briskly
    • Cook to desired doneness
    • Load em up and enjoy!

LEFT: I Love Skinny Buns RIGHT: The Center is So Juicy and Beefy Tasting

COOKING FROZEN BURGERS: You can skip defrosting, in a preheated and oiled skillet add the burgers and cover, cook about 3 1/2 minutes per side. Then cook to your desired doneness.

Recipe by B. Hettig © 2022

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