With so many options regarding the choice of meat, toppings and condiments, it is possible to eat a hamburger every day of your life and never eat the same hamburger twice. That (along with the fact that I'm a flag-waving red-blooded American) makes burgers one of my favorite foods.
While beef is considered the "standard" for hamburgers (many Americans even call ground beef "hamburger"), any ground meat can be used. Popular cuts of beef include round, chuck, and sirloin, and those are the cuts you're most likely to find pre-ground in the supermarket. Other cuts that make tasty burgers include brisket, short ribs, flank steak, skirt steak, and ribeye. I try to avoid the stuff labeled "hamburger" because it's usually the ground up scraps. Don't forget that pork, lamb, chicken, and turkey make great burgers too.
Toppings can consist of just about anything you like, and my favorite is cheese. Use any cheese that you like - I like them all. My favorites include gruyere (Swiss), blue, cheddar, and brie. Other topping that you'll find on most hamburgers include lettuce, tomato, and onion, but don't limit yourself to those. Pickles and sauteed mushrooms are favorite additions, and crisp bacon makes every burger better. People in my neck of the woods enjoy toppings like cole slaw, pickled jalapeņo peppers, and fried eggs. In other words, if it's something you like, it will probably taste good on a burger.
The range of condiments is equally broad. Mustard, ketchup, and mayonnaise form the triumvirate, but just about any flavorful liquid can be dribbled on a hamburger. Consider steak sauce, chile sauce, barbecue sauce, Asian soy sauce or fish sauce, or the hot sauce of your choice. Don't forget salad dressings, pesto, pickle relish, horseradish sauce, hoisin sauce, fresh salsa, guacamole, and Worcestershire sauce too.
The meat patty itself should be between 4 and 8 ounces. Any smaller and you might as well be eating at a fast-food joint, and any bigger gets a bit tricky to eat. Form the meat into a patty, handling it as little as possible. Make the patties a bit larger than you want them to turn out because they will shrink when you cook them. The patties also have a tendency to get thicker in the center, so make them slightly concave in the middle to counteract this. Some people like to bury a pat of butter or some ice chips in the meat to help keep it moist, but I have never found either of those tactics necessary.
You can cook the patties any way you like. Grilling over hot coals is probably everyone's favorite method, but there are several options available if a roaring fire isn't handy. Cooking them under a hot broiler gives the patties a flavor similar to grilling, and some people prefer the griddle-style flavor they get from sauteing in a heavy skillet over high heat. Heck, there are even places that have made their reputation on burgers by steaming them, so cook them however you like.
Here is a version that will wake up the taste buds and remind you that there can be more to burgers than plain ground beef. Thai BurgersNutrition Facts
Amount Per Serving
Total Fat 7.5g
Saturated Fat 3.4g
Trans Fat 0.2g
Total Carbohydrates 1.2g
1 1/2 lbs lean ground meat (I use chuck or sirloin)
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro (coriander leaves)
2 Tbs finely chopped fresh mint
1 Tbs lime juice
1 Tbs finely chopped jalapeņo pepper, or to taste
1 Tbs finely chopped garlic
1 tsp grated lime zest
1 tsp grated ginger
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix thoroughly with your hands. Form gently into 6 patties and grill over hot coals, pan-fry, or broil to your liking, turning once halfway through cooking.
Cook's Notes: I served the burger on crunchy lettuce leaves with a slice of tomato, red onions, Thai basil and topped with a sweet sauce. I wrapped the whole thing up in my lettuce, took a bite and was in burger heaven. The tomato's acidity and the green herbiness of the Thai basil added wonderful nuances of flavor.