Burgers for the grill

Newsletter - Jul15 - Hamburgers

My gas grill is running pretty much throughout the year; just because it’s minus 5 doesn’t mean you can’t grill up some chicken breasts. I know that most normal people tend to put theirs away between September and May. Now that we are in the height of grilling season thoughts turn to how to put together a burger that tastes more than halfway decent given what I consider very untasty beef found in supermarkets and butchers locally.

The taste of commercially available beef is really not to my liking. Outside of making stews and soups it’s mostly useless when it comes to preparing a tasty meal. Up until about two to three years ago I thought I was never going to experience having a good burger in Budapest. Every once and a while someone would comment, ‘wow, so-and-so has a great burger’, and would give it a try. After traveling halfway across the city high hopes quickly dashed after realizing that the dense puck of over-salted, dry meat, wedged into a couch cushion sized bun topped with sour cabbage was just as inedible those at the metro underpass. I rarely learned my lesson to drop all expectations.

In actuality you don’t need to travel very far for a great burger; just outside of the EU. Anyone who has been across the southern border into Serbia can vouch that Serbs do it right when it comes to the grill. Without a doubt ‘Montenegrói Gurman’ was the first to bring a consistently good burger to Budapest. Today the field has gotten much more crowded but many are still churning out salty abominations which disguise themselves as food. Luckily the list decent burger makers also continues to expand, though at a much slower pace, especially tasty is the ‘Finomitó Kantin’; lucky for me it is just steps from FirstMed (try their lamb burger). Of course for the home cook, the great home-cooked burger can be elusive but I will share my tips for making a great burger.

  • Beef – Again, in Hungary, with the exception of few select butchers around town is of poor quality so you’ll need to be picky. Find a butch selling cuts of ‘Nyak’ or ‘Tarja’, which is roughly the same as chuck in English. Burgers will need about 60% beef. Skip the pre-ground meat and ask nicely to grind it twice.
  • Pork – Yup, there’s pork in this burger. You need something to bulk up the beef with some fat content  otherwise it won’t taste as good and the pork found in Hungary is excellent. Your best cuts for this are ‘Tarja’, and ‘Dagadó’, which can be difficult to get the butcher to grind as it may contain strong cartilage (not tasty). Both have the best lean to fat ratio you need for a great burger. Again, ask them to grind it twice but if you combine it with the beef at the same time they won’t give you the evil eye. You’ll need about 40% of the meat to be pork.
  • Seasonings – Salt, garlic powder, cumin powder, smoked paprika, dried oregano, worcestershire sauce (unless you only have Heintz in which case skip it because it’s awful), and pepper. You’ll definitely need salt but the rest are all to taste.
  • Aromatics – Some finely minced shallot or red onion fit perfectly. I also like to throw in handful of shredded carrot just so I feel like I’m eating healthy; just kidding but it does work well.

When you get your meat home, mix everything together gently adding seasoning and aromatics into the meat mixture with a paddle or your hands. Careful, the more you squeeze and work the meat the denser the end result will be coming off the grill. Take a small bit of the meat mixture and fry it in the pan to check for taste of the seasonings. Be careful not to over-salt!

If you’re ready to grill, either inside or out, form balls and flatten. Make sure you try to keep rounded edges so they don’t fall apart when you cool; very important on the grill. Otherwise put meat mixture in a bag with as little air as possible and cook later (less than 12 hrs).

Other remarks:

  • You’ll need 400-500g of meat for 4 adult sized burgers.
  • If you don’t want to speak with a butcher, get the Spar 400g box of ground pork/beef; I usually do.
  • Don’t forget to buy cheese. Essential for making a cheeseburger.
  • Bacon does not cook well on the grill and the fat is a flare up hazard.
  • Heat, not fire, is what makes a great burger – don’t scorch it. Don’t worry, you will get the grill marks.
  • Zsemle actually makes a pretty good bun substitute and is probably much healthier that the processed supermarket buns you would buy at home.

Did you know?

  • Hamburgers, though named after a German city, were first made in the US by German immigrants.
  • The first fast food restaurant sold burgers for just 5 cents back in 1921.
  • According to the Book of World Records, Sonya Thomas, holds the record for eating a 9lb burger in just 27 minutes.
  • Despite the high saturated fat content, nutrients in hamburger include proteins, and essential vitamins such as vitamins B, D, E, and K. Even more if you add the carrot 🙂
  • Unless you add it, your burger is sugar-free!
  • Burgers are a rich source of minerals, especially zinc, keeping the immune system strong and healing wounds, and selenium, which plays a key role our bodies’ metabolism. Hamburgers are a good source of phosphorus, iron and potassium. Other essential minerals include sodium, copper and magnesium.
  • I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today!  – J. Wellington Wimpy

This article appeared in our July, 2015 Newsletter. For further information about the online publication and to sign up, please click here.


– Liam Crow; Business Development Manager and grill enthusiast

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