Evolution of the Hamburg Steak

The all-American classic hamburger has is origins in a dish called the Hamburg Steak. It arrived on our sunny shores in the hands of German immigrants in the nineteenth century. These facts are of no importance whatsoever to Joe Tedesco as he takes in the mounds of perfectly grilled hamburgers Charlie Rollins and Graham Silver serve during their all-guy, neighborhood party. Joe just wants to get his hands on a couple burgers before you can say, “Pass the ketchup.”

To make sure Joe’s dining experience is memorable, Charlie and Graham season the ground chuck before grilling. I let the fellas borrow my own special blend of spices for the above-mentioned scene. It’s what I call my ‘burger masala.’ Read here (What I Like About Being an American) to discover how the seasoning recipe came to be, and then you’ll understand why an exact recipe doesn’t exist.

To feed my family and parents, I used the quantities below, but again, it’s alterable based on how many you need to serve. The variety of cheese and whether or not you use seeded buns is also up to you.

Classic Grilled Hamburgers

2 lbs. 80/20 ground chuck

6 bakery fresh hamburger buns

Butter

6 slices of cheese

Worcestershire sauce

Sea salt

Black pepper (I used ground quad-colored peppercorns)

Garlic powder

Hot Hungarian paprika

Raw sugar

Ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard, pickles, onions, lettuce or any desired topping

I started with two one-pound portions of ground chuck. I like the 80/20 blend that gives flavor and juiciness. I find that ground chuck has a ‘grain pattern’ to it much like a whole steak. Cutting across this pattern ensures that the ground chuck stays together when pattying.

Cut the 2 lbs. ground chuck across the ‘grain pattern’ into six equal portions. Place the cut side down on a cutting board and gently press down from the center with the flat of your hand. While pressing the ground chuck into a thinner dimension, shape it into a round patty with the fingers of your other hand. I prefer 4 ½ inch hamburger patties. Remember, starting with a patty larger than your bun will guarantee you end up with a hamburger that covers the bun after cooking.

Place the hamburger patties on a platter and liberally douse with Worcestershire sauce. Sprinkle them with a hearty pinch of raw sugar. Season the hamburgers to your taste preference with the garlic powder, salt, pepper, and paprika. Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Give the hamburgers enough time to reach room temperature before grilling.

Heat a grill to high heat and cook the hamburgers to preferred doneness, flipping once to keep them from burning. Don’t press the hamburgers with a spatula while cooking. You want the juices to stay in your meat. Add slices of cheese to the hamburgers and allow it to melt. Remove the hamburgers to a platter, place them in an oven on warm, and allow them to rest.

Slice your hamburger buns if necessary. Spread each side with butter and toast them in a skillet or on a griddle until golden brown. Place the cheesy hamburgers on the toasted buns, add your favorite toppings, and enjoy!

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