Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Hamburgers: Size Matters

Are you firing up your grill for this Fourth of July weekend?

If so you aren't alone. Based on 2010 sales of Kingsford Charcoal, the #1 charcoal manufacturer in the USA, Independence Day is the busiest grilling day of the year:

Independence Day – 40,914,710 pounds
Memorial Day – 40,783,128 pounds
Labor Day – 29,327,990 pounds

A lot of those grills will be seeing the basics like hamburgers and when it comes to hamburgers,

SIZE DOES MATTER

The size of your hamburger patty has as much to do with the final burger as your ingredients do. Size affects
  • the texture of the burger, 
  • how long it takes to cook, and 
  • the taste of the burger. 
So which size of patty is right?  That is still up to you and your preferences. Here are my thoughts about some of the usual sizes.
Yes, I actually made 5 different sized patties...sigh, I need help!
First, I like to weigh out my portions. It keeps your sizes consistent which is important for similar cooking times. It's hard to tell the difference between these two without the scale, isn't it? 


2 ounce patty
Perfect for making slider style or mini-burgers. Other than that, I almost never use this size.

3 ounce patty
If you like small, thin patties, these are the ones for you. These are the size I would use either for making a double patty burger (double cheese, Big Mac) or for making a Jucy Lucy where you put a piece of cheese between two 3 oz patties and seal them together. These grill quickly but they are so thin they can be difficult to handle without falling apart. These cook in 3-4 minutes per side at 450f.

Quarter pound patty
To me, this is a good “standard size” burger that properly fits the bun. It gives a good balance between the chargrilled outer texture and the juicy, meaty interior. These cook right at 4 minutes per side at 450f.

Third pound patty
This is what you want when you want a thick, juicy burger. You end up with a burger that leans towards a more beefy interior and proportionately less chargrilled surface, so you definitely need quality meat for these. These cook at 4 ½ to 5 minutes per side at 450f.   Be sure to temp check your burgers at this thickness.

6 ounce patties and larger
I call these “meatloaf burgers” because the balance of chargrilled meat and inside meat is out of whack, making the texture “meatloafy”. Plus when I see people make these behemoths, they usually throw everything but the kitchen sink into the mixture. It's also harder to cook these properly without burning the exterior. The exception would be if you get them rolled out as thin as other burgers and then served on a larger bun. Then you are getting the burger texture, just more of it.

If you need some burger ideas for this weekend, here are a few easy ones from Grilling.com
Photo courtesy of Grilling.com



So what is your favorite sized burger?   What is the biggest burger you have ever eaten? 

21 comments:

  1. I was thinking of making sliders for Friday night gathering...maybe insert a bit of cheese for the quickies...so I will let you know! Heh!

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  2. My favourite size is the quarter-pound and the biggest burger I've ever eaten is the Cheesus Burger, but I didn't eat it alone, I had help, so that probably doesn't count. Does it?

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  3. I'm a 5-6 oz guy. I need it juicy but done.

    My biggest burger was at a small Iowa bar, The Williamson Tavern. One and one half pounds of Iowa beef that has been named Iowas' best burger many times. I confess to not quite finishing it.

    I went to grade school 2 blocks away for the bar. It was interesting to find out it was a brothel back in the day so to speak.

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  4. Interesting thoughts. Here are a few more variables. 1. I think that the hole-in-the-middle trick is one of the greatest secrets known to mankind. This WILL affect cooking rate. 2. What you put in the meat makes a big difference too. Last night I had three different kinds mixed in the meat: chopped onion, bacon/cheddar, bleu cheese. Bottom line: all three cooked at different rates. Only way to make sure they were where I wanted them was with my Thermopen. 3. The temperature that they are cooked at and how high above the coals. I usually am consistent at 400* and raised on my Woo2. Bottom line: there are a lot of variables beyond size (I have a plastic hand press that I use on about a tennis ball-size hunk-o-meat-mix.

    Don't get me wrong: this is a really cool analysis. If you can figure what the variables are, keep some constant (for me temperature and height above the coals), and figure what is going in with it (roasted Mexican corn, for example), it doesn't take long to consistently make great meals.

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  5. @ Chef E: For us the hardest part of sliders is finding the right size bun. Usually we end up making our own. Kind of a pain for something quick though, ha ha!

    @ Brenda: I'll count it!

    @ Dr Dan: I'm assuming it was no longer a brothel by the time you were in grade school? ha ha, oh the stories the crossing guards could tell otherwise!

    @ anon: I don't get you wrong, you are spot on with what I am saying and make great points. I am just pointing out that size is a variable that can't be overlooked. But it certainly isn't the only variable either.

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  6. Until I read this post I never really thought about how the size affects the texture, etc. I just made the burgers. LOL! Very interesting though. I definitely love a thin patty, which I guess means that I love that chargrilled exterior and not a lot of that meatloafiness (what a fun word) on the inside. Thanks for getting me thinking about this.

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  7. Chris- thank you for this great post! I don't weigh my burgers, but I have a scale (that I use for baking) and I will weigh the burgers from now on!

    I like the quarter pound burger. I also like sliders, and I agree that it is sometimes hard to find small buns to fit them. I can usually find potato "dinner" rolls, which work in a pinch.

    Happy 4th of July...have a great time grilling this weekend!


    Kim in MD

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  8. I'm happy to see sliders being embraced by more chain restaurants.

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  9. I prefer my burger to be anywhere from 3oz to a quarter pounder... depends on the mood I'm in :)
    The biggest burger I had ever eaten was a double quarter pounder.. .LOL - I know.. I'm a pig, what can I say!! lol

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  10. It isn't very often that a man will admit size matters. What's with the hole in the middle? Secret trick? Have not seen this before but I assume it helps cook more evenly?

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  11. I like to use the larger size buns and make my burgers 6oz. But regarless of the bun size I want my cooked burger to be at least as wide as the bun so it's the first thing my tongue runs into.

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  12. I'm a 1/3 pound girl. Seems to cook perfectly with my skills. Happy 4th.

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  13. love that 1/3rd pounder myself,,, need those juices dripping down my arm while I am eating it!

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  14. Since we are making burgers because that's what my mom can eat, I'd love to make sliders Monday, but it really does depend on if I can find some slider buns. Otherwise we'll make a couple of quarter pounders.

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  15. Oh how I could go off on this post. I know u thought of me at least once with this title. I refrain, but my god its so HARD too.

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  16. So next time a guy tries to convince me that size ISN'T important, I'm going to refer him to this post. I don't have the time or energy for sliders...gotta be at least a quarter pounder to be worth my time. :P

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  17. I like the slider and quarter pound size hamburgers. I usually stick to those two sizes and don't go for the big ones. Maybe it is time to get out of the rut and see what I have been missing.

    Have a great 4th of July weekend!
    Linda

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  18. Chris- I found these brioche rolls at Traders Joe, perfect size for sliders, and I made the 2 oz, but the key to juicy sliders that small is adding a few ingredients...I will post it soon, and lead them back here!

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  19. I am a 1/4 to 1/3 pound kinda burger guy. It just seems to be a better size to cook.

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  20. Well I'll be - size does matter. ;>

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  21. I'll tell you how I make our 'commodity' burgers. These aren't for immediate consumption, where we have lots of time and a leisurely appetite. These are for when you really want a great tasty burger, but it's late... or freezing... or pouring rain. I make the patties 5 lbs. at a time, either out of fresh Angus 80-20 grind or from meat ground at home. It never seems as good if you use previously frozen ground meat.

    Five pounds is 80 ounces, which is equal to sixteen 5 ounce burgers. Yes, I weigh mine out as well. After I end up wit 16 little balls of meat, I hand make the patties and deploy them onto half-sheet pans topped with waxed paper. They get popped in the freezer to firm up for maybe half an hour. This gives me time for the next step.

    I fire up the smoker and get a good head of thin blue mesquite smoke going. The (still not frozen) patties are then deployed into the smoker, where they live for about 20-30 minutes at 225°, depending on how smoky-red they look. A quick check with the trusty Thermapen keeps me safe. At this point, they get quick cooled and frozen, and finally vacuum sealed in packages of two.

    Then anytime a burger hunger hits, you can just thaw and microwave one of these. Since they aren't overcooked initially, the microwave won't cook them to death, but it will reactivate that luscious color and delicious smoker aroma.

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