Is it summer yet? The weather is beginning to cooperate after a long winter, so it might seem early to start thinking about summer. Spring is less than a month old, after all, but it's a good time to think about what to prepare for summer parties and cookouts.
A staple at gatherings is a plate full of hamburgers. Almost every cook has their own burger recipe they like to show off and make for friends and family. I have about five recipes I like to use so that there is a variety. From Hawaiian-style burgers to Moroccan-spiced wraps, I like for my burgers to go beyond the dull beef patty.
Changing a hamburger recipe is not difficult as ground beef is a nice ingredient that can be easily transformed through different flavors. For this week's column, I used beer as a key flavor component. Nothing says good times like burgers and beers. In my family, we often marinate meats with beer to enhance the flavor. The alcohol content cooks itself out, leaving behind the beer's taste.
Spring may only be less than a month old, but it’s a good time to think about what to prepare for summer parties and cookouts, like hamburgersshown above.
When working with beer, following these tips for making the best burgers with it:
Start with the right meat. A good 80 meat/20 fat mix is ideal for building the right burger. I like using ground chuck because it has the right amount of lean beef and fat for a tasty burger. If choosing ground turkey as an alternative, a 70/30 mix works. Stay away from the "ulta-lean" packs that are 90 percent fat-free or more.
Pair with your favorite brew. There is a general rule for cooks to only use wine that you like to drink. The same goes with cooking with beer. Think of brews that go well with eating hamburgers. In general, pilsners are universally well-liked, sweet in taste and easy on the tongue. Try a pale ale for a spicy yet bitter take, or a brown ale if spices are already part of the burger.
Be mindful of toppings. When selecting a beer to use in burgers, be sure to factor in what extras you will have. If you're going with a pilsner, have a whole grain mustard, grilled onions and mushrooms on hand. Leave out the ketchup. For the pale ale, go for lighter, saltier condiments.
Practice, practice, practice. Mixing the beef and beer together to get the right consistency takes time to get it right. If there is too much beer, the beef patties will be crumbly. Too little beer will yield flavorless burgers.
For this recipe, I used Lionshead Pilsner from the Lion Brewery in Wilkes-Barre. This gives the burgers a sweet taste that fit with the other ingredients I added. This also yields about 12 burgers which is a good number for a summer party. It can also be modified for smaller settings or transferred to the grill. Be sure to test these out first before serving them to guests.
Beer and onion hamburgers
Makes about 12 burgers
2 pounds ground beef or chuck
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
Up to 12 ounces beer (preferably a pilsner or pale ale)
12 kaiser or pretzel rolls, sliced and toasted
Spicy brown mustard or hickory barbecue sauce, for condiments
In a glass or plastic bowl, combine the beef, onion and garlic until incorporated. Add the cumin, salt and pepper and continue to mix.
Slowly add the beer until the beef is just moist. Cover the bowl and allow the beef mixture to marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Warm up a large saute pan on medium to medium-high heat. Form four patties from the beef mixture and place them in the pan, discarding any remaining marinade. Sear each side for up to 6 minutes each for medium-rare to medium-well burgers. Serve on toasted rolls and top with available condiments.