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The Dish on Burgers Part 1: Meat & Poultry

Believe it or not, the first literary reference of burgers dates back to the early 1800s. Records show, however, that it wasn’t until 1904 that burgers first made their appearance at the Louisiana World Expo. Since then, North Americans haven’t looked back.

Today, burgers are a definite staple in the North American diet. Every fast food chain has its own version of a traditional burger, but I’m here to talk about the best kind of burger there is: the homemade burger.

Beef is the typical meat of choice for burgers. A really simple beef burger mix involves taking ingredients more commonly used as toppings and tossing them into the actual mixture. A handful of finely chopped onions, a dollop of mustard and ketchup and salt and pepper mixed in with beef is really delightful and surprisingly flavourful.

I should stress here that I am against using any form of binder in my meat-based burgers. Save the breadcrumbs and eggs for your meatloaves and meatballs. Remember, though, you can’t make the mixture too wet, otherwise you’ll have a scramble on your hands instead of a solid patty.

Going beyond beef gets good, too. Although beef hits the spot, I’m here to tell you that your patty has more potential. Bison, turkey and lamb have all gained in popularity over the past few years. Each imparts a unique flavour and will give your homemade burger a boost if you’re looking for a departure from regular beef.

Season your ground lamb with roasted garlic, mint and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Take that turkey and add finely chopped bacon to it along with a bit of maple syrup and cracked pepper. Of course, fresh herbs are always a good idea when burgers are on the brain.

No matter what masterpiece mixture you’ve created, always test it before forming and cooking the patties. Fry up about 1 tablespoon of your mixture then taste to see if you need to add anything else. Never taste a raw ground meat mixture.

Once the meat mixture is perfected, a burger isn’t complete without garnishes. These can go a million different ways. Go with classic cheddar, bacon and roasted onions or if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, experiment with different kinds of cheeses and grilled or pickled vegetables. Think smoked provolone with grilled zucchini, blue cheese with fig compote, sautéed mushrooms and Brie, roasted tomatoes and fresh boconcini.

Here are a few last words of wisdom for you: spice up your mayo to complement your meat and cheese choices, put relishes and pickles to good use and always use fresh burger buns.

That ought to be enough to get you started firing (over wood or charcoal is best), grilling, frying or broiling those homemade burgers. Check back next month where we’ll feature Burgers Part II: Fish and Vegetarian.