Food Porn Burgers Fail Us
Too often our social media streams are filled with images of (literally) heart stopping burgers. They are temples of more…more bacon, more cheese, extra patties, fancy bacon relish, heaps of fatty sauces, and just a bit more bacon. In burger photography the rule seems to be if more is better, too much is just enough.
inspired repulsed by this absurdity, today David Chang posted his Burger Manifesto. Equally defiant and prescriptive, Chang tears down everything that’s not either a regional icon (White Castle or In-N-Out) or the famously decadent DB Burger. All other variations are banished from Chang’s Utopian vision.
I certainly agree with part of what he is saying. Food Porn photographers add all kinds of crap to burgers without understanding the why of each ingredient. The why actually matters and every ingredient serves a function. Lettuce adds refreshing texture, ketchup adds sweet acidity, even the texture of the bun matters. Chef Michel Richard described the perfect bun by saying that it should be the same density or “tooth” as the meat. Bread that’s too hard or too soft takes away from the mouth-feel and make the burger harder to eat.
Where Can We Take the Burger?
There will always be a place for a classic burger and fries. People who aren’t struggling with weight or chronic illness can occasionally enjoy a juicy, fatty burger with a pile of salty fries without hurting their health. Unfortunately many Americans really can’t enjoy the classic combo without prolonging and complicating their health. There must be an alternative.
Enter The Menus of Change Burger Bash. Last month the great chefs at this New York conference reshaped my view of adding ingredients to burger patties. Prior to that I considered added ingredients either cost cutting like grinding in grains and carrots, or over indulgent like grinding in bleu cheese and bacon.
Looking at the burger grind through a different lens, Menus of Change chefs made the meat better and healthier? This is not either or, but yes and. The most obvious added ingredient was also my favorite: caramelized and ground mushrooms. They were added to ground lamb and the resulting burger was fantastic.
These blended burgers have the side benefit of reducing food costs, too. What’s not to like?
Our First Round
Our first test recipe scored well on health and flavor. It’s not perfect, but it was a strong start.
- 3 oz caramelized crimini mushrooms
- 1 oz roasted red pepper
- .5 oz roasted garlic
- 1/2 t smoked paprika
- 1/2 t ground oregano
- 1/4 t ground black pepper
- 16 oz 95/5 ground beef
We minced all the ingredients except the ground beef in a Robot Coupe to get an even, but course texture. Then added the blend and the beef to a stand mixer and combine with a paddle until evenly mixed. Then we formed and cooked 1/4# patties.
Comparing the nutrition to our normal 1/4# 80/20 burgers was startling. Our blended burger recipe is nearly identical to the nutrition of buffalo burgers for much less food cost than even whole beef burgers.
Calories: 288 (80/20) to 170 (blended)
Fat: 22.68g to 9g
Saturated Fat: 8.7g to 3g
Cholesterol: 80.5mg to 55mg
Sodium: 76mg to 65 mg
Carbs: 0 raised to 2g
Fiber: 0 raised to 1g
Granted a lot of the improved nutrition came from using extra-lean ground beef, but just switching the beef wouldn’t be as good. Extra-lean ground beef is tough when cooked. Our blend stayed tender with nearly the same “tooth” as 80/20 ground beef. Another nice change was its lack of greasiness.
Our Next Step
We are going to play a bit with the recipe to improve it. We’ll try adding onions, herbs and other spices until we find our magic mix. Very likely this will end up on our patient menu as an alternative to the classic burger.
What we aren’t going to do is hide the blend. There are recipes all over the internet for sneaking healthy food into unhealthy food. You can trick kids into eating beans by putting them into brownies. That idea of sneaking healthier versions is wrongheaded. The brownie example denies both the fact that beans are delicious on their own and good everyday, and the fact that brownies are treats to be enjoyed only occasionally.
We are proud of blended burgers. They are not intended to be identical to all beef burgers. Our blended burgers will have all the goodness of a beef burger in texture, but added depth of flavor and improved nutrition. When we finish tweaking our recipe there will be no compromise, just a good burger.
I might even throw some cheese and bacon on it for you…