Photo: Romulo Yanes
Summer is in full swing and we are in the thick of grilling season. One of the most popular items to cook on the barbecue is a good, old fashioned hamburger. You can add some flair to this cookout classic with lettuce, tomato, salsa, red onion, bacon, blue cheese, avocado, cheddar, relish, or anything else you crave. But, we want you to tell us:
What are your favorite burger toppings?
Photo: Romulo Yanes
Working on the recent Past Perfect issue of Gourmet Live got me thinking about a 2002 article I wrote for the trade publication Restaurant Business Magazine about restaurants that have stood the test of time. For the article, we asked the proprietors of 10 ancient restaurants, “What’s the secret to staying open forever?” One of the featured restaurants was Louis’ Lunch, opened by Louis Lassen in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1895 and often credited as the “birthplace of the hamburger.”
For the article, I interviewed Louis’ grandson, Ken Lassen, who had started grinding meat for the restaurant when he was a young boy. “There are a lot of things that 85-year-old Ken Lassen doesn’t like,” I wrote. “He doesn’t like the crass language that boys use these days. ‘The knuckleheads don’t have any respect for women,’ he says. He’s even less pleased that girls are ‘getting to where they speak the same way.’ He doesn’t like it when highways tear through town obliterating everything in their paths. He doesn’t like the ‘damn’ tax increases. He doesn’t like air conditioning. He doesn’t like the fact that cows raised for food are given growth hormones and aren’t allowed to stay in the feeding pen–he says it makes the meat taste less meaty. He especially doesn’t like fast-food burgers, which he says are so tasteless they have to be drowned in ketchup to get them down–which brings us to ketchup, another thing Lassen doesn’t like one bit.”
Ken Lassen is one of the memorable (and quotable) interview subjects of my career, but what’s stuck with me the most is his disdain for factory-farmed meat. He was speaking out against practices derided by Eric Schlosser in Fast Food Nation, first published in 2002 (and who I also interviewed for Restaurant Business). But while Schlosser talked about the harm to humans and animals, Lassen was focused on flavor.
Since those two interviews, I’ve sought old-fashioned meat–grass-fed and free-range–whenever I make a burger, steak, or meatloaf.
Pictured: the Ultimate Burger (apologies to the Lassens for the ketchup).
The full-length feature version of The History of the Hamburger by George Motz appears in the current issue of Gourmet Live. Download the free Gourmet Live app for this story and more.
Burger House—Dallas, TX / Photo: George Motz—Copyright 2011 Hamburger America
First, let’s be clear on what we’re talking about: A hamburger should be defined as ground beef, formed into a patty, cooked and placed on a bun. A Hamburg steak was not a hamburger; the absence of the bun points to this. The claims to the birth of the American hamburger are vast, mostly unproven, and they all seem to have occurred around 1900. Some say Fletcher Davis in Texas was the first to marry a beef patty to bun, others point to the Menches brothers from Ohio, and another claim comes from Wisconsin and Charlie Nagreen. Unfortunately, all of these pioneers of the American hamburger lacked a brick–and–mortar existence and were transient cooks at their respective state fairs. Very little is documented.
Gourmet Live guest columnist and Hamburger America author George Motz takes us back in time to the origin and progression of the definitive American dish. Fire up the grill for a look at how the hamburger evolved from the 13th Century Mongols to modern-day McDonald’s and beyond.
For the full story and more, download the free Gourmet Live app.
The below full-length version of Eight Tips for the Perfect Patty by Kemp Minifie appears in the current issue of Gourmet Live. Download the free Gourmet Live app to get this story and more.
Photo: Shane O'Donnell/Getty Images
When you walk into a newsstand and find yourself surrounded by the big, juicy burgers gracing the covers of practically every food magazine, you know Memorial Day and Father’s Day are right around the corner. Burgers are so insanely popular these days that they could be topping Mom and apple pie as iconic symbols of America.
But talking beef also brings up some unsavory topics, such as harmful pathogens that may be lurking in the meat. Too many magazines, Web sites, and books gloss over the topic. OK, you may be tired of scare stories concerning the foods you love, but I don’t know anyone who relishes a night spent hugging the toilet bowl, or even worse, a hospital bed. So here are the eight essential tips you need to know before you fire up your grill.
1. USE AN INSTANT–READ THERMOMETER
The only way to tell if your burger has reached a safe temperature is to use an instant–read thermometer. Go for the digital ones: They are best at getting readings in burgers and small pieces of meat, because the sensors are in the bottom half inch of the stems. (Avoid the dial style—their sensors are about two inches up the stem.) When shopping, look for a thermometer that can be recalibrated. By the way, an instant–read thermometer makes a great Father’s Day gift. When Dad’s special day rolls around next month, treat him to the gift that keeps on giving throughout the year. Continue reading