Classic Hamburgers

Jeffrey Tennyson, an artist and satirist, once remarked that the real American icon is not apple pie, but the hamburger.  And Tennyson would know; he spent a good part of his life writing about the hamburger and collecting hamburger memorabilia.  When it opened in 1993, Tennyson’s memorabilia formed the core collection of the now-defunct Hamburger Hall of Fame, in Seymour, Wisconsin.

Seymour, Wisconsin, according to some, is the birthplace of the hamburger.  In 1885, Charles Nagreen stuck a meatball between two slices of bread, and served the sandwich at the Seymour fair, giving rise to what would later become the modern burger.

Meanwhile, in New Haven Connecticut, Louis Lassen was busy grilling the leftover trimmings from the steak sandwiches he served at his sandwich shop.  Lassen opened his shop – Louis’ Lunch – in 1895, and his family continues to run the shop to this day.  In fact, Louis’ Lunch still serves its hamburgers the way it did in 1900: served between two slices of toast with the option of cheese, tomato, and onion.  Condiments such as ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise are not served in Louis’.  The Library of Congress has certified Louis’ Lunch as the first hamburger served in the United States.

Grilled Burger

A third contingent, from Athens, Texas, claims Fletcher Davis took his version of the hamburger to the world’s fair in St. Louis, ushering in the modern hamburger era.  But despite a Texas resolution that would have certified Athens as the “original home of the hamburger,” Texas’s claim only dates back to 1904.

No matter who invented the hamburger, Tennyson said it was “bound to happen at the turn of the century,” with a new wave of immigrant workers coming to country, short on time and money. From these humble, cost-cutting origins, the hamburger has taken on a truly modern-form, served in world-class restaurants with world-class ingredients.  The hamburger at DB Bistro Moderne costs $32, a far cry from the value-menu days of yesterday and today.

But no matter what kind of hamburger you decide to make, Jane Sigal recently offered a series of tips for making the perfect burger.

Classic Hamburgers

Recipe from Cooking Light Grilling.

PREP TIME: 10 minutes
COOK TIME: 10 minutes
YIELD: Serves 4

1 pound ground round beef
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small white onion, minced (about 3/4 cup)
1 large egg white

4 English Muffins or Hamburger Buns
2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 head of lettuce



1.  Combine the first ten ingredients in a large bowl.  Stir well.  Shape the mixture into 4 patties, a ¼-inch thick.  Be sure not too handle the meat any more than necessary.  Over working the meat will produce a tough burger.

2.  Preheat your grill, and spray the racks with oil or cooking spray.  Once the grill is hot, grill each side, with the cover down, for 3 to 5 minutes, or until done.  Grill the buns or muffins for about 1 minute on each side.

3.  Construct your burger as you see fit, and serve with grilled sweet potato and white potato fries!

Curried Couscous

Recipe adapted from Ina Garten’s The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook.

PREP TIME: 30 minutes
COOK TIME: 1 hour
YIELD: Serves 6

2 cups couscous
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons Kosher salt, divided
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1/3 cup parsley, minced
1/2 cup dried currants
1/2 cup carrots, diced
1/4 cup almonds, chopped


2 responses to “Classic Hamburgers

  1. Another tip I’ve read — but haven’t tried — is to make the interior of the burger slightly thinner than the outer edges. As the burger cooks, it naturally contracts. If the interior is thinner at the outset, your finished product should be even in thickness.

  2. Great post, but you kind of skimmed over a key ingredient: the bun. I’d be curious about what would be more satisfying: a mediocre store-bought burger on an amazing bun, or an amazing patty on a standard bun.

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