Hamburgers simply weren’t intended to be health food.
That’s because good burgers are built from a more-fat-is-better premise. The meat for instance. Not only doesn’t lean ground beef hold together well on the grill, it also tends to dry out and have less flavor than higher fat varieties.
Then there’s the toppings. Great burger toppings happen to be loaded with fat – cheese, bacon and mayonnaise among them.
Which is to say that when building a better burger, it’s best to simply accept that fat is yummy and leave dieting for tomorrow.
To construct a supremely flavorful burger, you’ll want to stick with ground beef that is about 85 percent lean. Of course, all that fat means there will be some shrinkage during cooking, so don’t be intimidated by the size of the raw patty.
Bacon is such a wonderful accompaniment to burgers that it’s a must. But slapping slices of cooked bacon on top of a burger is never satisfying; it doesn’t provide enough bacon to ensure plenty for each bite of burger.
A better technique is to cook the bacon in a skillet, then chop it up and add it to the raw beef. This method infuses the hamburger with a more uniform bacon flavor.
If your eyes glaze at the thought of pulling out the frying pan in addition to firing up the grill, make the bacon ahead of time. Once cooled, it can be refrigerated up to five days or frozen for about a month. Many grocers also sell precooked bacon.
Incorporating the bacon into the beef works so well, why not try the same technique with some other ingredients? Finely diced yellow onion, roasted red peppers and Parmesan cheese (selected for its ability to impart flavor without bulk) make this burger burst with flavor.
The fastest way to prepare these burgers is to use a food processor to finely dice the bacon, onion and red pepper. If you’d rather not have something else to clean up, some aggressive chopping with a knife will do just fine.
Also, frozen diced onion, jarred chopped red peppers and grated Parmesan cheese (the refrigerated kind, not the canned variety) are available at many grocers. These are easily substituted.
Since burger toppings are such a personal issue, what you do with this better burger is up to you. But given all the fat involved, your heart probably would appreciate some lettuce and a few pickle and tomato slices.
Start to finish: 20 minutes
1/2 pound bacon
1 small yellow onion
1 roasted red pepper
1 pound ground beef (85 percent
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Heat a large skillet over medium high flame. Add the bacon and cook until crisp, about 3 to 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Coat the grill rack with oil or cooking spray. Preheat the grill to medium-high.
Place the onion in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. You may need to scrape down the sides several times. Add the bacon and roasted red pepper, then pulse again until just chopped. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.
Add the ground beef, salt, pepper and cheese to the bowl, then use your hands to gently combine until just mixed. Divide the meat into four equal, patties.
Grill the burgers for 4 to 5 minutes per side. Do not press the burgers during cooking.
J.M. Hirsch is a food writer for The Associated Press.