Cast iron key to the best burgers

  • Cook in a cast-iron skillet, even on the grill. You can control the patty better, and the juices don't drip through the grates.

    Cook in a cast-iron skillet, even on the grill. You can control the patty better, and the juices don't drip through the grates. Stacy Zarin Goldberg for The Washington Post/ Food styling by Lisa Cherkasky

 
Posted7/4/2018 6:00 AM

Perfect Smash Cheeseburgers

Smash burgers have become all the rage in recent years. They're juicy. They cook quickly. And they achieve a wonderful crustiness. When placed one atop another (the popular double-meat), they are also super meaty. Ground chuck is a great go-to because it is flavorful and easily available. But if you want to experiment with blends, try a third each of trimmed fatty brisket, sirloin and ground chuck. So they get super crispy, each burger is 3 ounces. It assumes, too, that you'll make a double-meat (because they're amazing). However, a single-meat 3-ounce burger is terrific as well. And if you don't want your burger quite so crispy, make 4-ounce burgers from 1 pound of meat. The cooking times are the same.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Because it keeps the burger juices in the pan and helps with uniform cooking, a cast-iron skillet is used here. You can cook directly on the grates of a grill, though, and achieve excellent results. The cook time and directions are the same for both methods. The classic method is to smash the ball of meat once you place it in the skillet, but you can form the burger beforehand if you prefer. We've found that it's easier to preform when you're putting the meat directly on the grill, because sometimes the spatula will stick to the meat, which can become a hassle. Whether you are cooking on the grate or in a pan, use the remainder of the grill's cooking surface to cook corn or other vegetables to go with your burgers.

If you want to toast the buns, do so before cooking the burgers. Otherwise, the timing can get tricky and you may end up burning the buns or the burgers, or both.

Perfect Smash Cheeseburgers.
Perfect Smash Cheeseburgers. - Stacy Zarin Goldberg for The Washington Post/ Food styling by Lisa Cherkasky

Condiments of your choice

12 ounces ground chuck (80-20)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 or 4 hamburger buns, preferably potato buns

4 iceberg or greenleaf lettuce leaves (optional)

by signing up you agree to our terms of service
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

1 teaspoon neutrally flavored oil, such as canola oil or grapeseed

Coarse ground kosher salt (about 1 tablespoon)

Freshly ground black pepper (about 1 tablespoon)

4 slices white or yellow American cheese

Prepare a grill for direct heat. If using a gas grill, preheat to 500 degrees. If you are using a charcoal grill, light the charcoal or wood briquettes; once the briquettes are ready, distribute them under the cooking area for direct heat. For a hot fire, you should be able to hold your hand about 6 inches above the coals for 3 or 4 seconds. Have a spray water bottle ready for taming any flames.

Set out your favorite condiments so you'll be ready to dress your burgers as soon as they come off the grill. Divide the meat into 4 equal portions; shape into balls.

Place a large cast-iron skillet on the grates directly over the fire. Brush a little melted butter on the inside of the buns. Place them, buttered sides down, in the skillet or on the cooking grates to toast for 2 to 3 minutes total. (Turn them over and lightly brown the exteriors, if desired.) There's no need to clean the skillet before adding the oil to cook the burgers. Transfer the buns to a plate.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

If you want to dress the bottom buns with mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup and/or a special sauce, now's the time so that you can set the burger directly on the dressed bun. If you are using the lettuce leaves, place one on each bottom bun.

Add the oil to the skillet; once the oil shimmers, place the balls of meat in the pan and immediately mash them down with a heatproof spatula. Use half the salt and pepper to season the meat. Cook, uncovered, for 2 to 3 minutes, until the burgers crisp a little on the bottom, then turn them over and season with the remaining salt and pepper. Cook, uncovered, for 1 to 2 minutes, then lay a slice of cheese on each burger. Close the grill lid; cook for about 1 minute, then, once the cheese is gooey, stack two cheese-topped burgers on each of 2 bottom buns (for double-meat portions) or place 1 burger on each of 4 bottom buns (for singles), then finish with the top buns.

Serve right away.

Serves 2 as double-patty portions or 4 single servings

Nutrition (based on a single-patty cheeseburger, with bun) | Calories: 410; Total Fat: 23 g; Saturated Fat: 10 g; Cholesterol: 110 mg; Sodium: 1330 mg; Total Carbohydrates: 28 g; Dietary Fiber: 3 g; Sugars: 8 g; Protein: 25 g.

From columnist Jim Shahin

Perfect Tavern Cheeseburgers.
Perfect Tavern Cheeseburgers. - Stacy Zarin Goldberg for The Washington Post/ Food styling by Lisa Cherkasky

Perfect Tavern Cheeseburgers

Call these backyard burgers, pub burgers or whatever. They are thick -- the kind we associate with cookouts and fine-dining establishments, and therefore they allow for the complex flavors that comes with a charred exterior and a pink-red medium-rare interior.

Ground chuck is a great go-to because it is flavorful and easily available. But if you want to experiment with blends, try a third each of trimmed fatty brisket, sirloin and ground chuck.

Because a cast-iron skillet will help keep the burger juices in the pan and helps with uniform cooking, that's what is used here. You can cook directly on the grates of a grill, though, and achieve excellent results. The cook time and directions are the same for both methods.

This recipe calls for flipping the burger only once. But if you are a flipper, you're in good company. Leading authority on the science of cooking J. Kenji López-Alt says flipping several times actually improves the overall result, albeit slightly. Total cook time for multi-flipping will be a little less (about 2 minutes) than for one flip. Whether you are cooking on the grate or in a pan, use the remainder of the grill's cooking surface to cook corn or other vegetables to go with your burgers.

If you want to toast the buns, do so before cooking the burgers. Otherwise, the timing can get tricky and you may end up burning the buns or the burgers or both.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

4 hamburger buns, preferably potato buns

1½ pounds ground chuck (80-20)

Condiments of your choice

4 iceberg or green leaf lettuce leaves (optional)

Coarse ground kosher salt (total of about 1 tablespoon)

Freshly ground black pepper (total of about 1 tablespoon)

1 teaspoon neutrally flavored oil, such as canola oil or grapeseed

4 slices white or yellow American cheese

Prepare a grill for direct heat. If using a gas grill, preheat to medium-high (450 degrees). If using a charcoal grill, light the charcoal or wood briquettes; when the briquettes are ready, distribute them under the cooking area for direct heat. For a hot fire, you should be able to hold your hand about 6 inches above the coals for 3 or 4 seconds. Have a spray water bottle ready for taming any flames.

Place a large cast-iron skillet on the grates directly over the fire. Brush a little melted butter on the inside of the buns. Place them, buttered sides down, in the skillet or on the cooking grates to toast for 2 to 3 minutes total. (Turn them over and lightly brown the exteriors, if desired.) There's no need to clean the skillet before adding the oil to cook the burgers. Transfer the buns to a plate.

Divide the meat into 4 equal portions, then shape into patties that are 1 inch tall and 3½ inches in diameter (between 5 and 6 ounces each).

If you want to dress the bottom buns with mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup or a special sauce, now's the time so that you can set the burger directly on the dressed bun. If you are using the lettuce leaves, place one on each bottom bun.

Generously season the patties with the salt and pepper on both sides. Use your thumb to make an indentation at the center of the burger (the resulting dimple will help prevent burger shrinkage).

Add the oil to the skillet; once the oil shimmers, place the patties in the pan. Cook, uncovered, for 2 to 3 minutes, until the bottom of the meat caramelizes and becomes a little charred. Turn them over; cook for 3 to 4 minutes.

Place a slice of cheese on each burger. Close the grill lid and cook for 1 to 2 minutes; once the cheese is gooey, transfer each burger to a bottom bun.

Place the top buns on each burger; serve right away.

Serves 4

Nutrition | Calories: 560; Total Fat: 33 g; Saturated Fat: 14 g; Cholesterol: 160 mg; Sodium: 1390 mg; Total Carbohydrates: 28 g; Dietary Fiber: 3 g; Sugars: 8 g; Protein: 40 g.

From columnist Jim Shahin

0 Comments
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 
Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.