When we talk about American fast food, our first impression is a hamburger. With globalization, American fast food has conquered most of the world, and eating hamburgers almost represents the American way of life.
Whether it is thousands of years of food culture in China, on the shore of India’s Ganges River; whether it’s the Australian outback or the Gobi Desert in Mongolia, you are sure to see the grin and claws of hamburger eating in a fast food restaurant.
When hamburgers first entered China, they were not so readily available and more highly valued as a ‘new’ food, very different to normal Asian fare. Now, things are different, the past attitude having long vanished, more and more Chinese people have become “junk food” addicts.
When thinking of hamburgers, most people think of McDonald’s burgers, and fast food chain restaurants churning out cheap low-quality food. But it is not always the case as many restaurants are also making delicious, more expensive and sophisticated hamburgers, skillfully created by American chefs.
Today we’re going to make a stunning, classic hamburger from scratch, including how to make the burger bun, so let’s get started!
The first step is to make the bread dough for the buns.
Ideal hamburger bread texture must be soft, but not too soft that when you bite into it, the burger contents are squeezed out. This recipe can be used to make hamburger buns, as well as other similar kinds of buns such as hot dog buns. They will be crispy on the outside but not hard and crunchy, and soft on the inside, giving them strength and flexibility to hold the burger together.
The list of ingredients is as follows (8 buns):
- 450 g bread flour
- 225 ml water at room temperature
- 7 g yeast
- 40 g butter, melted
- 40 g sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 15 ml milk
- 1 teaspoon grape seed oil
- 2 teaspoons sesame seeds
How to Make Hamburger Buns:
To make the bread soft, you must improve the moisture content of the dough. A soft, sticky dough can be difficult to knead, so we’re going to put our dough hook on our mixer to good use today. If you have a bread machine, you could use that.
Firstly, mix the water, yeast and 100 g of the flour into the mixer bowl and carefully whisk by hand to combine.
Let the mixture stand for 15 minutes, after which time it should become foamy, and its volume increase, as shown in the picture below:
Into this batter, add the egg, the melted butter, sugar, and salt, and whisk gently to combine.
Then add the remaining 350 grams of flour, and mix roughly with a silicone spatula.
Put the bowl onto the mixer and attach the dough hook. Set the speed to low and knead for about 15 minutes. The dough will become very soft and flexible. Check the kneading process often, stopping the machine to scrape dough from the sides of the bowl back into the middle for even kneading.
After kneading comes the proving stage. Take a large bowl and brush the inside with grape seed oil (or other oil light in color and taste such as vegetable or peanut oil).
Take the dough out of the mixer. If it is very sticky, rub a little grape seed oil over your hands and mold it into a smooth ball. Put the dough into the greased bowl and fold it over a few times so that it is coated with a thin layer of oil, placing the ball folded side down. Cover with plastic wrap.
Allow the dough to prove at room temperature (23-25 degrees Celsius) for 2 hours. Do not try to speed up the proving process by setting the dough in a higher temperature environment, or you risk over-proving the dough or killing the yeast. The ambient temperature and yeast activity will differ, so 2 hours is only approximate. The dough is ready when it has doubled in size, as shown below.
The third step is shaping the dough into buns. Divide the dough into eight equal portions. The best way to get them even is to weigh the dough, then keep cutting it in half until you have eight pieces. Weigh each portion so it equals 1/8 of the total.
Lay a sheet of baking paper onto a chopping board and place the dough portions on the paper, so they won’t stick to the chopping board. Gently knead and smooth each portion for about 2 minutes to remove any big bubbles.
Fold the edge of the dough to the center, so it gradually becomes a flat and spherical to a diameter of 7 cm.
Line a deep baking pan with a layer of baking paper and arrange the buns, creased side down, about 3 cm apart, so they will not stick together during the second proving.
Finally, sprinkle each bun with a little flour, cover the baking pan with a damp cloth and let it stand at room temperature for 1 hour.
While you are waiting for the dough to prove, preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius.
Put the rest of the eggs in a small bowl, add the milk, and whisk together until the mixture is nice and uniform with no lumps of egg.
After the buns have proved, brush them with the egg glaze. An egg glaze is what gives the buns their beautiful golden-brown tops. Not glazing the buns will produce a very pale color, no matter how long you cook them.
Top the buns with a sprinkling of sesame seeds and pop them into the oven to bake for 15-17 minutes until the tops are light brown. Because the temperature of each oven is different, keep an eye on those buns from the 13-minute mark and once the bread color is right, take them out of the oven and immediately place on a cooling rack.
Because there are no additives in this bread, it will go hard over-night. The solution is to reheat them in the steamer to restore the fresh soft texture.
Ok, the bread is done, so now we can get into the meaty stuff of making burgers!
The most common filling for hamburgers is a beef patty. In English, “hamburger” has two meanings, one is the complete hamburger with all its trimmings that we have all come to know and love, and the other is the name of the actual meat patties which originated in Hamburg, Germany.
In the late 19th century the Germans took the meat patty to the United States and invented the meat patty sandwich, the earliest hamburger prototype. In 1904, at the World Exposition and the Third Summer Olympics in St. Louis, Missouri, ‘hamburgers’ were sold and soon became the new food fad. But it was no fad. The humble hamburger has conquered the United States and the whole world to this day.
Melted cheese and dill pickles were soon added and are now considered indispensable components of the hamburger, adding flavor, and sweet and sour crunch to the ‘meat patty sandwich,’ balancing the greasy element.
The most common cheese used in burgers today is a specially treated orange American Cheese, which is a mix of cheddar, Colby cheese, milk whey and other milk solids. Although in the strict sense, it is not even a real cheese, but after years of evolution and development, this kind of cheese has a very attractive, slightly sweet flavor, exuding a rich nutty aroma.
Most importantly, this cheese has a very low melting point, so that it only needs to be placed onto a hot meat patty to melt. This gives an appetizing visual effect. This kind of cheese on its own between two slices of toasted bread also makes the perfect classic cheese sandwich.
The finishing touch to the perfect hamburger is, of course, a few slices of fried-just-right bacon. No fast food outlet could successfully sell hamburgers without it.
Hamburgers need sauce, and no burger would be American without tomato ketchup, Heinz Tomato Ketchup to be precise.
Many fast food chain restaurants often include raw onions in a burger, which have a strong taste but are not so kind on the stomach. They are fun to eat but can cause discomfit a little while later for some folks. The solution is to fry the onions, adding effort to the process of making a hamburger, which is often not a practical option for a fast food restaurant. Fried onions are softer and will stay in the hamburger better, and will add a different flavor dimension than raw onions.
The perfect hamburger consists of these NINE layers:
- Upper layer of hamburger bun
- American tomato sauce
- Dill Pickles
- Fried bacon
- American cheese
- Beef patty
- Fried onion
- Japanese mayonnaise
- Lower half of hamburger bun
Here’s what you will need:
- 500 g lean ground beef
- 20 g + 20 g butter
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon (5 g) ground black pepper
- 6 slices of bacon
- 50 ml Japanese mayonnaise
- 50 ml Heinz Tomato Ketchup
- 8 slices American cheese
- 4 whole dill pickles
- 3 brown onions
- 1 teaspoon grape seed oil
Here’s how to build the perfect super beef cheeseburger based on the blueprint above.
Step 1: Make the Beef Patties
I recommend you use the finest ground beef with the lowest fat content (fat content <10%). To improve the taste, you will need to add another form of fat like butter.
If you can’t buy a high-quality ground meat, you can make your own using meat from the thigh or belly. Remove the ligaments, fascia, and fat and put it through a meat grinder.
Put the ground beef into a large bowl, and add the salt, ground black pepper and 20 grams of softened butter; stir evenly with your hands.
The beef patty will shrink when it is fried, so make the diameter of the patties about 1.5 centimeters larger than the bun, and once it is cooked, it will fit on it nicely.
With regard to molding beef patties, many chefs recommended to roll the beef into a ball, and then flatten it. However, this squashing and stretching can cause the edge of the patty to split and increases shrinkage and deformation of the patty.
My method is to use a meat pie size mold, and stuff the meat in to fit the shape, rather than push the meat out by flattening. This method decreases shrinkage and produces a uniform shaped patty.
Put a 15 cm square piece of baking paper on the plate. Divide the meat into four equal portions. Take the bottom out of a 4.5 inch (11.5 cm) spring form cake pan and place it on the paper. Stuff the meat into the mold right to the edges, smoothing it to an even thickness. Take the pan off the paper and you will have your meat patty nicely formed on the paper, ready to stack.
Put the meat patties in the refrigerator.
Peel and slice the onions. Melt the other 20 grams of butter in a pan and when the bubbles have disappeared, fry the onion for about 20 minutes or until soft and golden.
Pan fry the bacon until the edges are crispy and golden yellow, but the bacon itself remains soft and tender. Do not fry it until it is all crisp or it will crumble in the burger.
Preheat a thick based, non-stick pan for 2 minutes and add 1 teaspoon of grape seed oil. Pop the beef patties into the pan and fry each side for 3 minutes until golden brown on the outside and slightly gray on the inside.
Cooking minced beef is different to cooking a whole piece of steak which can be served rare, and you need to be sure to cook the mince right through.
Transfer the beef patties to a plate and quickly place a slice of cheese on top of each, so the heat from the patty melts the cheese.
Step 6: Assembling the Burger!
Using a bread knife, cut each burger bun in half.
Place the bottom half of the bun on a dinner plate and squeeze a layer of Japanese mayonnaise on to it.
Next, cover the mayonnaise with a layer of fried onions.
Place the cheesy patty on the top of the onions. The burger is beginning to take shape!
Cut the six bacon slices in half to make 12 pieces and place a few on top of the cheese.
And now for the finishing touch!
Slice the dill pickles diagonally and arrange on top of the bacon – the veritable icing on the cake!
Finally, add a squeeze of American tomato ketchup, and place the other half of the bun on top.
And there you have it – the classic American cheeseburger.
Usually, I advise you to enjoy the finished dish as soon as possible, but this hamburger is an exception; it’s so perfect you really ought to take a moment or two to admire it, yes?