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Handling Shrinkage: Bacon Mushroom Cheeseburgers

Burgers are so common and seem so simple that most of us don't give much thought to creating a good burger. The problem is, many of us don't really know how to create a good burger. In today's post I will share my method for creating a good burger, cooking awesome bacon and even sautéing some mushrooms and onions.

BLOG POSTINGS > Everyday Meals

Handling Shrinkage: Bacon Mushroom Cheeseburgers

by zirbirt

In America we consider the burger the ultimate American classic. I have always been a fan of a good hamburger, but when I thought about what makes a good burger, the first thing to come to mind was the toppings. I felt that was strange since the basis of a burger is the patty. Shouldn't the patty be the star of the show?

I blame fast food for this mentality. Really fast food serves us up patty like mystery meat fill with chemicals and preservatives. Then they dress it up in special sauces or toppings and we consume them en mass. Even when we go to the grocery store to get burger fixin's, many of us head to the freezer and buy premade patties that are full of God-knows-what.

The problem is, when I tried to make burgers from scratch, I always ended up with either a meatball like lump of meat or a patty that split and broke and spewed its precious juices all over the pan. I tried different ways, like adding egg and making what is essentially a meatloaf burger. I even tried a method with the food processor, but what I always ended up with was a burger than needed toppings to be worth eating.

Now, don't get me wrong, I love toppings on my burger. I just think the toppings should compliment the meat, not hide it.

The answer came to me one day, when I took a good look at ground beef. See the problem is, there is a lot of air in ground beef. Its fairly loosely packed, and even patting it down with our hands doesn't push enough of that air out. That air expands when heated and pushes it's way violently out of the burger. The juice then just follows right behind it.

I then had an idea, and it came from a tool I use all the time, but never thought of as something I could prep meat with, A rolling pin... but before I get into that, lets get some bacon started.

Bacon is actually very simple. I just preheat my oven to 350 degrees and put a baking rack in a cookie sheet. Then lay the bacon on the rack:

I pop that into the oven and let it just bake for about 10 minutes. That's it.

Now, I need to consider the vessel for my meat masterpiece. That vessel, of course, is the bun. I make my own buns. (Funny story, as you store yeast in the fridge, over a couple months it gets less and less effective. Eventually, if you bake a lot like I do, you have to buy new yeast. Surprisingly, that new yeast will be a LOT more effective than you expect. Such was the case when I made the buns for these burgers.)

On the left is the whole wheat bun I made. On the right is a normal store bought 'Jumbo' Burger bun. I had a few choices here, and I decided.. I would just go with it and make some massive burgers.

Now, I can finally start thinking of my meat. I heat my griddle over medium-high heat (about 6) and let it warm up. I then place 1 lb of meat on my mat (or just some seran wrap) and place some seran wrap over it.

For burgers, I always use 80/20 meat. This means the meat is 80% meat and 20% fat. This ratio gives me the best balance of juice and flavor in the final meat. If you prefer a more dry burger, just go with a leaner meat, like 90/10.

Ok, so now I just roll it out into a large rectangle.

I then peel off the seran wrap and season it.

For seasoning, I don't want to change the flavor of the meat, I just want to accent it. I sprinkle on some kosher salt, then some onion powder and a bit of garlic powder.

Next up, I fold it in half long wise, (I use the mat to do this), then in half width wise.

Now, I put my seran wrap back on it, and flatten it down to about 1/2 inch thick. Then I cut it into the number of patties I want. Since I am making huge burgers, I want 1/2 lb patties, so, I cut it into 2 pieces. If I wanted quarter pounders I would just cut each of those pieces in half.

Now I separate them, lay the seran wrap back over them, and use my rolling pin to make them more square, and just a bit thinner.

Then I remove the seran wrap, and push in the corners to make them round

I put some store bough steak seasoning on mine, but you can use just pepper and salt, or whatever you want. I season the top.

Now, this all looks like a lot, when I list it in such detail, but really it only takes a few minutes to do this. So, at this point my griddle is about heated up. I stick the patties on there with the seasoning side down. Then sprinkle seasoning on top. (so now both sides have seasoning on them). I let them sit there for about 3-4 minutes. I do not press down on these, I do not look under them, I just leave them alone for 3-4 minutes.

They look thin and gigantic don't they? Well, that is the thing. Burgers when they cook will shrink, they actually get fatter and smaller. This is because the meat contracts, but also because the juices will make it kind of balloon up. You want your patties to start out thin, and you want them a good bit bigger than the bun. By the time they finish cooking, they will be about the perfect size and thickness.

Now, its time to think a little more about toppings. So I am going to start with 1/2 an onion, sliced. Then what seems to be way too much mushrooms also sliced.

Again, we have to account for shrinkage. Those baby bellas are going to give up their moisture and when they do, they will get much smaller. I want to make sure I can top all of both burgers, so I have to use a lot more than I think I need.

I put these in a skillet with about 1Tbs butter or olive oil and let them cook. I jiggle the pan every so often to stir and flip them.

Now my patties are ready to be flipped.

See how much smaller and thicker these are? Now, I still do not press down on them. Pressing down on the burger pushes the juices out, and you end up with a dry burger. I just leave them alone for another 3-4 minutes.

Once these are done, I take them off the griddle and let them rest on a paper plate for about 5 minutes. Why? Well those juices, right now, are pure liquid inside the burger. Letting them rest and cool a bit will let the juices distribute themselves. Some will come out on the paper plate, and I would much rather it be there than on my bottom bun.

While these are resting, I grill my buns on the same griddle I cooked the burgers on.

Once my burgers are rested and the buns are grilled, I put the burgers back on the griddle and add a little cheese.

I then grab something to cover these with, my metal mixing bowl was handy. If your using a skillet to cook these, a lid works great ;-)

Looks like my bacon is also done..

Notice how the bacon is still full sized? Again I managed shrinkage. Normally when you cook bacon it contracts, and you end up with something that looks like a gnarled dog toy. By using the baking rack, I made it so the bacon couldn't easily contract. This made it so the entire bacon rendered evenly and gave me full size crisp bacon...

Looks like my mushrooms are ready too.

Shrinkage again. What started out as way too many mushrooms, ended up being just the right amount.

So, time to lift the metal bowl and see how my cheese is doing:

Looks good!

Now, I put mayo on both buns. I make sure I have a complete thin coating of mayo on the bottom bun. I do this so any fat that still drips out of the burger has a barrier and doesn't get absorbed right into the bun, making it a soggy mess.

I put my burger on, then some bacon, and finally my mushrooms and onions... and a little ketchup.. and I have this:

That is all there is to it. I know this seems like a lot when it's inside a long detailed posting, but really it is very easy. If you try this one time, you will find that the results may change your opinion of how a burger should taste, and you may even find those fast food solutions are no longer so appealing.

Hope you enjoyed this! Thanks for reading.

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