Inglourious Burgers

Excuse the lack photos, the camera memory card is M.I.A. at the moment. I’ll update the entry with some photos  in the next few days. Sorry!


I know how this must look. I write a post extolling the virtues of grilling, and now this?!? Well, read on and see just how much of a foodie phony I really am.

The most ubiquitous grilled meal is the burger. Some freaks like me grill peaches and eggplants, but everyone grills their ground beef. Well, the other day I picked up the August issue of Saveur magazine. The issue boldly proclaimed itself to be “The Burger Bible.” As a quasi-agnostic, I figured that this magazine would be the closest I would ever get to actually reading The Book. One method they described in the magazine is steaming. This allows for the patties to cook in their own juices, creating an incredibly moist burger. This technique was popularized in Connecticut and perfected by a place called Ted’s Restaurant. Oddly enough, the man running the Meriden-based restaurant is a guy named Paul. Go figure.

This method of cooking burgers may not have caught on in other parts of the country, but I was ready to give it a try. The only steaming I’ve done consisted of some broccoli and carrots, so I figured this would be a great learning experience.

I suppose a real-deal steamer would be ideal, but I wasn’t ready to drop any money on supplies that I may or may not use again. So I took the magazine’s advice, using a large wide-bottomed pot and some cleaned tuna cans.

Just as a quick side note: cleaning the tuna cans was a long, arduous process. I dishwashed them but the tuna smell remained, so I let them sit, each can filled with white vinegar. Only after a second dishwashing did the “Eau de tuna” capitulate to my efforts.

The other tool I needed was a rack to fit in the bottom of the pot. I don’t own any circular wire racks, and didn’t want to buy any. So I scoured the house for something that would double for it. That’s when I found the aluminum pie pan. Poking a bunch of holes in the bottom would allow the steam to come up from underneath the pot to cook the meat, thus simulating that wire rack.

After placing a ½ inch of water in the pot, I brought the water to a boil over medium high heat. Meanwhile, I packed the ground meat into three tuna cans and sprinkled some ground pepper and kosher salt on top. I filled other tuna can with thick slices of cheddar. I arranged the cans on top of the perforated pie pan, covered the pot, and then let it steam for about 10 minutes.

I was greeted by a mushroom cloud of water vapor when I uncovered the pot. The cheese was delightfully gooey, and the burgers were immersed in their bubbling juices. Yum!

The hardest part of this entire process: getting the burgers out of the cans. Getting the cans out of the pot was easy; just use tongs. The issue was wedging the butter knife under the beef to release it. I poured the molten cheese on top of the burgers and sprinkled a few thin slices of red onion on top. A dollop of ketchup and French’s mustard and I was good to go!

My mom liked the perfect shape of the burger, but I found it off-putting. The perfectly circular and symmetrical patty was too twlight-zoney for me. It’s like if you saw a real person with a Barbie Doll’s unattainable proportions.

Appearance aside, I found the burger to be just as juicy as the magazine claimed. I didn’t really season the burger that much or doll it up with stuff. It’s simplicity amplified the burger’s natural flavors and allowed the molten cheese to really shine. The cheese was amazingly gooey. Normally people throw cheese on the burger right before the burgers are done (or worse, as they’re bunning the meat). This melted cheese was so good that I can’t imagine preparing a burger’s cheese any other way. My only issue is that the burger lacked the texture and grill flavor I so closely associate with my burgers. Understandably (yet disappointingly), the slightly charred exterior of a grilled burger was absent from my steamed one. While this burger was tasty, the next time I get that craving for ground beef on a sesame bun, I’ll be using my grill.

So there! In the end, the grill won out! So I’m not a total hypocrite.

STEAMED BURGERS (makes three burgers)

What tools you need

-4 5-oz cleaned tuna cans (washed as many times as necessary to remove tuna odor)
-Large wide-bottomed pot (I used our stock pot)
-A circular rack that fits inside the pot (see above for alternative “rack”)

1 lb Ground Beef
Cheese of your choice (I used Cabot’s Sharp White Cheddar Cheese)
Any toppings you desire

Place rack in pot, fill pot with about a ½ inch of water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

Meanwhile, press meat into three of the four tuna cans. They should be about ¾ full. Then place thick slices of cheese into the remaining tuna can.

Place these cans inside the pot, cover, and steam for about 12 minutes. Remove cans (tongs might help here) and place burgers in buns (shoehorning a butter knife under the meat to remove it).

Top meat however you like and dig in!

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