For a while now, the burger has been a staple of my restaurant dining. Not because I didn’t think a burger homemade by me would be up to par, but because it’s often the thing that jumps out at me from the menu and lands onto my plate. In part, this trend in my order is a result of that fact that Phoebe and I always want the burger’s side, French fries. But honestly it’s also because at many places in New York, from the casual to the more refined, the burger is the best bang for your buck–by far. Since I didn’t want to overdose, I mostly avoided making them at home (last summer’s Pork Burgers were the exception).
With summer here, however, and countless barbecues on the horizon, I’m bringing burgers home. These are classic, juicy burgers enhanced only by a slice of melted cheddar and some red onions, slightly charred on the grill beside those homemade burgers.
From my kitchen, albeit small, to yours,
Cara, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Cheddar Cheese Burgers with Charred Red Onions
Schooled by Ina Garten’s recipe, the most important addition I’ve made to my burgers is some olive oil. This may seem strange–adding fat to fatty meat–but unless you grind it yourself, it’s actually difficult to get meat with enough fat content in it to make a juicy burger. If you really want to gild the lily, use melted butter instead of olive oil. In the lead picture, you can probably make out that I’ve spread the burgers with mashed avocado, another excellent (optional) burger condiment!
1 1/3 pounds good-quality ground beef (85 percent lean)
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 large red onion, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
4 burger buns, preferable brioche buns – but use whatever you like, halved
4 thick slices sharp white cheddar
Condiments: mayo, mustard, ketchup, sliced pickles
If you’ve got a grill, build a fairly hot charcoal fire or preheat the gas grill. You can also make these under the broiler–if you’re doing so, turn it on.
Combine the ground beef in a large bowl with the mustard, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper. Mix until all the ingredients are just integrated–if you stir too hard you’ll compress the meat before you cook it, and your burger will be less tender. Gently form the meat into 4 equal patties.
When the grill is medium-hot, which means you can hold your hand above it for no more than 6 or 7 second, place the burgers on the grill. Leave them alone to cook for 4-5 minutes. Using a thin spatula, carefully flip the burgers and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes, depending on how well you like them done. (The shortest cooking times are for medium-rare.) Just after flipping the burgers, place a slice of cheese on top. As those last 4 minutes pass, keep an eye on the cheese, and if it doesn’t seem to be melting, place the lid of the grill on (vents opened) for the final 2 minutes. If you’re using your broiler, flip the burgers as directed, but don’t add the cheese until the last 2 minutes.
While the burgers are cooking, use the rest of the grill to make the onions: Pour a few tablespoons of olive oil onto a plate and sprinkle it with salt and pepper. Place each slice of onion in the oil, then carefully flip it, trying to keep the rings together. Place it on the grill and repeat with the remaining slices. Cook the onions for about 4 minutes per side, flipping them again carefully with a spatula, making sure not to lose any of the rings through the grill grates. When done, the onions will be softened and charred; remove them to a plate.
In the last little section of the grill, toast each bun half, cut side down, for 1-2 minutes, until crusty and marked by the grill. Place each burger on a bun, top with a few rings of grilled onions, and serve immediately with the condiments.