Updated: 06/15/2011 09:22:58 AM PDT
Todd Fisher: To grill or griddle — that is the riddle
With the hamburger being America’s favorite food, one must ask one’s self, “Self, how do you liked your burger cooked?”
It is a question that goes back as far as time. Like that question about which came first — the cow or the burger? I know it’s the chicken or the egg thing, but work with me. We need to get to the bottom of this. It is an epic battle that has waged for centuries, one that even the likes of the wise King Solomon could not lay to rest. A question that has left Rodin’s Thinker, well, immortalized in bronze. Thinking.
As the uncertain and often short-for-something-to-say Shakespeare wrote: To grill or to griddle, that is the question.
The king of burgers says it’s better over an open flame, while the clown in red shoes (not me, the famous one) says it’s a griddle that makes it juicy in the middle. So I think we need to take a closer look at this riddle of the grill or the griddle.
Now, I am not a huge fast-food fan, but a good double-double animal style does me yummo once in a while. And those white-wardrobed warriors in red aprons slap ’em down on a griddle. Score 1 for the griddle.
However, the great Thomas Keller tells us to prepare a charcoal or gas grill to cook our burgers in his latest book “ad hoc at home.” Plus-1, grill.
A neck-and-neck tie thus far. We better look a little harder.
When one grills a burger over wood or charcoal, the burger picks up a nice smoke flavor (plus-1, grill). However, building and maintaining a wood or charcoal fire is time consuming, and if not controlled properly you could have burnt, black hockey pucks. Minus-2, grilling. With a griddle, you sear a well-seasoned crust onto your burger, locking in juices and flavor. With a grill and a little talent, you can use the indirect heat method of cooking and melt cheese while letting the burger rest. You can also grill accompanying ingredients at the same time without the addition of extra fats and oils. (Big plus-2, grilling.)
With a griddle you can toast a perfectly golden brown, crispidy, crunchidy, hot, buttery bun (plus-5 for the griddle — one point for every yummy descriptor word regarding the bun).
Grilling allows the cook to show off his or her mad skills by using the ¼-turn method to cross hatch the presentation side of the patty (Plus-3, grilling — for presentation value).
8 to 6 in favor of the griddle thus far.
Grilling is associated with summer and being outside with a cold libation in hand (plus-1, grilling; plus-3, cold libation).
On a griddle you can cook crispy bacon and fry an egg to top off your burger, a la Royale (Plus 2, griddle).
Well, this is harder than one might have thought. Both methods seem to be a pretty good medium for cooking a burger. Could it be personal choice that is the deciding factor? Will I too be stumped by this interminable question?
Hark back to the griddle. Searing a well-seasoned crust onto your burger, that’s the key; locking in the juices and the fat. Fat equals flavor. Not to mention the the Maillard reaction.
Say what?! The Maillard reaction is a form of nonenzymatic browning similar to caramelization, only different. It results from a chemical reaction between an amino acid and a reducing sugar, usually requiring heat. Vitally important in the preparation or presentation of many types of food, it is named after chemist Louis-Camille Maillard, who first described it in the 1910s while attempting to reproduce biological protein synthesis (and cooking a burger, I’m sure).
In short, what this means (without sharing too much sci-fi lingo like nucleophilic amino acids) is the more meat that hits the hot griddle and is allowed to brown, the better the burger tastes. Ding-ding-ding. And the burger champion by a technical knock out is the griddle! Taste reins supreme.
Try this one on for your new favorite burger.
1 pound good slab bacon (½ lb. diced and sliced, rendered till crispy)
2 lb. ground chuck, with 20percent fat
5 jalapenos, roasted and skins removed, chopped
1 T. chopped garlic
1 T. black pepper
8-16 oz. manchego cheese, sliced
8 Brioche buns
½ cup mayonnaise
Steps: In a large pan on medium-high heat, render the fat from the cubed bacon. Drain fat as it collects, reserve for later. Once bacon is crispy, drain on paper towels and set aside.
Render the strips of bacon and drain on paper towels. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine ground beef, roasted jalapenos, cubed bacon, 2 eggs, chopped garlic and pepper. Form meat mixture into eight ¼-pound burgers.
On your griddle, spread a little reserved bacon lovin’ and heat on medium-high heat.
Season each burger with coarse salt before placing burgers on hot griddle and cook 3-4 minutes on each side. Once done, place manchego cheese on top of each burger and allow to melt. Keep burgers in a warm space while we crisp up our burger buns. Cut brioche rolls in half, add a touch more bacon lovin’ and grill the buns till absolutely beautifully golden brown. Remove from griddle and slather each side with mayo. Place a cheesy patty on each bun and serve them up with 2 slices of bacon on top and enjoy!