How to make a really great burger

This delicious burger was made at In and Out Breakfast, Pass Road in Biloxi.
This delicious burger was made at In and Out Breakfast, Pass Road in Biloxi. Special to the Sun Herald

“I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today,” said J. Wellington Wimpy, the Popeye comic strip character, and I share his sentiments.

I love all hamburgers.

I love the greasy thin-patty burgers get at diners, and I love the over-the-top burgers many Gulf Coast restaurants serve that are made with a good grade of beef, and topped with creative ingredients, such as fried eggs and onion rings.

There are few things that can ruin a good hamburger:

▪ Do not press down on the patty while it is cooking. It removes the juice and moisture that make a burger so tasty.

▪ Do not over cook the meat. Beef dries out and loses flavor when it is overcooked. If you don’t like the taste of beef, order something else, but please do not ruin a good piece of beef, whether it is a steak or hamburger patty, by overcooking it.

Here are some tips for making a great burger:

▪ The source of heat you use to cook the burger will make a big difference in the taste of the finished product. Hands down, my favorite source of heat for cooking a burger is a hard wood fire, next is hardwood charcoal, followed by charcoal, then gas and lastly, a pan over an electric stove.

▪ Next, and perhaps this is the most important choice, is the type of meat you use. The best meats are going to be from specialty farms, such as Stonnington Farms in Perkinston, or the Flora Butcher near Jackson. Those meats are excellent, but come at a high price. If you are on a budget, buy a pound of richly marbled, not too lean, beef and a pound of ground pork. Better yet, find a good cut of pork and beef, and have the butcher grind it for you. Also, check out the local farmer’s markets, sometimes local beef and pork can be found there.

The garnish

There are so many good things you can garnish a burger with, the list is just too long, but here are few of my favorites: Fried onion rings, fried okra, avocado, thick slices of red onion and a fried egg.

What kind of cheese? Most cheese-lovers will tell you that cave-paged gruyere from Switzerland or France is the best melting cheese in the world. Other good choices include a white cheddar from Ireland, a good sharp domestic, artisanal cheddar, or if you are on a budget, just pick a good sharp cheddar that any grocery store will have.

Julian’s favorite homemade burger

1 pound ground pork

1 pound ground beef

1-2 tablespoons Dale’s Steak Seasoning

3-4 garlic cloves, finely diced

Freshly ground black pepper

1-2 pinches red pepper flakes

Cheese of your choice

Optional: 1 tablespoon diced red onion per burger, and 1 tablespoon diced jalapeno per burger.

Note: if you use Dale’s, additional salt is not needed

If you want to make your burger a little lighter, add some Panko bread crumbs that have been soaked in milk.

Start the fire and let the flames burn down until the embers are at their hottest point. If you use an accelerant, make sure the fumes have burned away before you start cooking. Add all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl, and mix it together with your bare hands. Grab hands full and squeeze. You want to make sure the ingredients are evenly distributed. Use a measuring cup to make sure each burger is the same size. Form into patties and grill, turning often with a spatula, but don’t you use that kitchen tool to force the juice out of your burgers. A few minutes before the burgers are done, add the cheese, cover and let the cheese melt. Remove and serve at once.