Remember when we made these buns a couple of weeks ago? Well, let’s put them to good use in housing this delicious burger marriage of gooey cheese and crispy-chewy bacon. Much like we did with the buns, I want to break down what, in my opinion, constitutes a good burger. I like my burgers to, first, have texture. Meaning, I don’t want a homogenous, meatball-like burger. I want to feel the texture of the ground beef. Perhaps this doesn’t make sense to you, but then you are lucky enough to possibly have never tried a disgusting meatball-burger hybrid. Don’t get me wrong, I love meatballs. But I love meatballs when I want to eat meatballs. When I want a burger, I want it to taste and feel like a burger. You can achieve this texture by not over-mixing your meat when it comes time to season. I just apply a couple of gentle folds with my hands to mix everything together and then, STOP.
Second, I want my burger to have a reasonable amount of fat in the ground beef. I usually opt for an 80/20 mixture, sometimes 85/15 but rarely less fat than that. Because I am doing so little to the meat itself in terms of additions, I really need that fat there to keep the burger from drying out and to provide great flavor. Third, make sure you’re using great ground meat. Again, because we aren’t adding much to the meat itself it’s really important to make sure the meat itself is the star of this show. Visit your local butcher and ask about the best grind that they have for burgers–you’ll avoid the potential of eating who-knows-what in commercially ground beef from the grocery store (if you don’t know this: yes, large producers will add random odds and ends to their ground beef). If you’ve got the means to grind your own burgers, AWESOME. I, personally, like a mix between chuck, sirloin and brisket for fat and flavor but you should absolutely experiment with different cuts. Serious Eats has a great article on building the perfect burger blend and grind here. In general, I am a huge advocate of toppings: eggs, avocado, sauces, bacon, cheese, LTO, you name it. But, for this particular burger I’m in favor a slightly more demure approach; I’m just going with good burger sauce, pickles and grilled onions–all working in balance with fatty meat, rich cheese and smokey bacon.
How you cook your burger is equally important as what goes into your burger (or on top of it). I cooked this burger on my gas grill because it was a nice day out, but I would have had equally successful results cooking in a cast iron pan indoors. I used indirect heat for my burgers so that they wouldn’t burn on the outside before the inside got nice and melty. If you’re cooking indoors, sear your burger for 5 minutes per side and then throw it in the oven at 350 degrees F for another 5 minutes. My gas grill has 5 burgers so I turned all the burners on to medium heat, except the center one, and let it heat up for 5-10 minutes with the lid closed.
The burgers went on the grill over the middle, unlit burner and cooked 5-7 minutes per side before I moved them to a hotter part of the grill just to get some char on the outside. For all you nervous grillers out there, please don’t flip your burger a million times or PRESS on it. For one, you won’t get any good char or grill marks and you’re actually cooking your burger more slowly than you would have if you’d just left it alone. Two, you’re pressing all the juices out! Please stop doing this, seriously. It makes me sad to think about a dry and juice-less burger. Part of cooking meat is having patience and restraint and in this instance it’s extra important, lest you be eating dry, shoe leather burgers. You’re ready to cook and eat burgers like a pro now! Go forth and find your favorite burger blend and toppings. Best of luck on your burger quest!
BRIE AND BACON STUFFED BURGER RECIPE:
makes 4 large burgers
8 oz. brie (I used a triple creme from france), rind removed and cut into small chunks
6 slices thick cut good bacon, diced (visit your butcher, it makes a difference)
2 lbs. ground beef
2 Tablespoons worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4 burger buns
1 onion, skin removed and cut into thick rings
sliced pickles, your favorite (or a quick pickle recipe can be found below!)
burger sauce, recipe below
1. Place diced bacon in a cold pan*. Cook over medium-low heat for 20 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until bacon is browned and crispy. Transfer bacon to a paper towel lined plate to blot excess grease and save rendered bacon fat for use another time (seriously, please save your bacon fat).
2. Mix ground beef with salt, pepper and worcestershire only until seasonings are evenly distributed and no more. Portion into 8 4oz patties. Place 2 oz brie and some of the bacon in the middle of one patty and cover it with another patty, pinching the edges to seal. Repeat with all patties until you have 4 stuffed burgers. Place in fridge for 30 min prior to cooking to firm up.
3. Preheat your grill or cast iron pan (remember, indirect heat with your grill). Sear burgers 5-7 minutes per side plus an additional 2-3 minutes on the hot side of the grill to get some char. Alternately, if you’re cooking in your cast iron, transfer to the oven after searing for another 5 minutes to finish. Remove burgers from grill or pan and set aside for 5 minutes. In the meantime, place onion slices on grill or in pan and cook until charred and soft. Serve burgers on toasted buns with pickles, grilled onions and burger sauce.
*animal fats melt at low, constant temperatures. if you were to add bacon to a hot pan, the meat would burn before the fat ever really melted. starting bacon in a cold pan over low heat helps pull more of the fat out and allows the bacon to get crispy.
makes 1 1/2 cups
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup ketchup
2 Tablespoons very finely chopped onions
2 Tablespoons finely chopped pickles
Mix all ingredients together and store in the fridge until ready to use. To make the chopping easy i just put a few onion slices and pickles in the food processor (I have a mini one) to get everything finely chopped.
4 cucumbers, I like persian or baby cucumbers
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 Tablespoon sea salt or kosher salt
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablespoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1 teaspoon dill seed (optional, but it really makes a difference)
3 sprigs fresh dill
1 bay leaf
Rinse cucumbers well and slice (not too thin). Place in a sanitized mason jar (pint, wide mouth works well). In a small sauce pan, warm vinegar, water, salt, sugar, peppercorns, red pepper flakes, garlic, dill seed, dill and bay leaf, stirring until sugar and salt dissolve. Cool to room temperature. Pour over cucumbers in mason jar. Leave at room temperature for 4 hours. Can be used then or transferred to the fridge to store for a couple of months.