The Pork Burger
I left you all hanging yesterday as to what I used those Kaiser rolls for. Well now you know. But let me back up and talk about burgers.
In my very humble opinion, a really good burger comes down to a few very simple things. You don’t need to mix in tons of spices and sauces and stuff. This is what’s really important:
Nick’s Keys To a Good Burger No Matter What
- Use good meat. It’s pretty hard to examine meat quality once it has been ground so this usually means grinding it yourself or asking the butcher to grind something that you select. This is not hard and takes seconds yet 99% of people don’t do it.
- Fat. I’m sorry, but a good burger needs fat. At least 20%, but probably 25%. Deal with it.
- A good bun. You know that fat? It’s gonna need a place to go. You want something that will hold up to the burger.
- High heat. A good burger has a seared crust.
Do those things and you can’t go wrong. Notice I didn’t say anything about doneness, cheese, toppings, or anything else. In my opinion those can all be fixed to taste.
Don’t Get me Wrong. Will I eat a burger that is missing one of my four keys of a good burger? Probably. But I seriously doubt it will be a Good burger unless it has those things.
So let’s make a good burger. This is an adaptation of Mr. Bittman’s Burger.
The Pork Burger
Yield: 10 burgers.
2.5 pounds boneless pork shoulder, grind it yourself or ask your friendly butcher
3-4 garlic cloves
1.5 Tablespoons fennel seeds
Salt and Pepper
Orange and Fennel Chutney:
1 fennel bulb, chopped
2 oranges, peeled and chopped
1/3 Cup sugar
1/2 Cup water
1 Teaspoon red pepper flakes
Pinch of salt and pepper
A good food processor will help. If you don't have one, you can get your butcher to grind the meat.
1) To make the chutney, pulse the fennel bulb and orange segments in a food processor until they are finely chopped. If you don't have a processor you can just chop them finely.
2) Combine the fennel and orange with the other chutney ingredients and simmer for about 45 minutes until the mixture is thick.
3) Once it's done, set it aside to top your burgers with later!
4) To make the burgers, chop your pork butt into a few large pieces and then pulse in a food processor with fennel seeds and garlic. Also, if there are any large pieces of fat on the pork shoulder, cut them off and process them before the rest of the meat so it's finer and more integrated into the meat.
5) Once your meat is chopped (you can also get your butcher to grind the meat), form about 4 ounce patties and put a large thumb impression in the center of each burger. Season well with salt and pepper.
6) Grill the burgers on a hot grill or in a hot cast iron skillet for 4-5 minutes per side until cooked through.
7) Grill or toast the buns and serve each burger with a good amount of chutney.
Making the Chutney
When Bittman made this, he just ground the fennel straight into the meat. That’s fine if you want to do that, but I like it better as a topping. It’s really the only topping this burger needs and it doesn’t even need it to be honest. It would be a great burger with nothing on it.
But if you wanted to make a topping for this burger, this is about as easy as it gets. It’s very flavorful, has some heat and sweet to it, and makes the pork flavor really pop.
To start, just chop up the fennel bulb and segment up the oranges. Then pulse everything in your favorite food processor.
Now if you don’t have a food processor you could definitely just chop this up until it’s pretty finely chopped.
Then add the fennel and orange to a saucepan with the other ingredients and bring it to a simmer. Let it simmer, stirring occasionally for about 45 minutes to an hour.
As it slowly cooks, the orange and fennel will break down. The sugar will thicken the sauce slightly and it’ll end up being a perfect topping for your burger!
Making the Burgers
I try to keep burgers simple, but I like to start with good stuff. That makes your job really easy. If you start with excellent meat, then you only need to add things that accent the meat. If you start with crappy meat, you have to figure out a way to flavor it.
I used a really nice cut of pork shoulder for these burgers. The great thing about pork shoulder is that even the best pork shoulder you can buy will only set you back a few bucks. Nobody really likes this cut of meat for some reason which is amazing to me because you can make these burgers… or carnitas.
I shouldn’t be telling you all this because now the cost of pork shoulder will go up!
Once you get your shoulder, you can definitely just have your butcher grind it for you. If you have a food processor though, you can do it yourself which will have the added affect of making you feel awesome.
There’s really only two things to know about grinding your own meat (using a food processor instead of a meat grinder). First, make sure to cube your meat into inch or so cubes. That’ll make it easier. Second, if you have any very large pieces of fat on your shoulder you should process those separately. You’ll want to process them longer than the meat so the fat isn’t stringy at all.
Then you can just mix everything in a bowl with the chopped garlic and fennel seeds. You don’t need to add a bunch of stuff to these.
I like to go with about a 4 ounce burger. So if you start with 2.5 pounds of pork shoulder that should work out to about 10 burgers. If you wanted to be exact you could definitely weigh them with a kitchen scale, but that’s kind of unnecessary. Just eyeball it.
Once you get your burgers formed, salt and pepper them pretty liberally.
Cooking the Burgers
Now these burgers are awesome on a hot grill. They could also be cooked in a hot cast iron skillet. The key here is cook them in or on something hot. Medium heat doesn’t exist for these. You want to sear them and brown them nicely.
As they cook, the fat will melt and flavor the burgers. Whether you’re cooking on a grill or in cast iron, they’ll probably need about 4-5 minutes per side. Don’t fiddle with them too much. Let them get some nice grill marks.
And don’t worry, there’s so much fat in these guys that it’s pretty hard to overcook them. They’ll be juicy as long as you don’t leave them on the grill overnight or something.
And it should go without saying that you’ll want to toast your rolls.
The rest of this should be self-explanatory. Put the burger on the bun. Slather it with the chutney. Eat it.
I’ll be completely honest. I didn’t even need the chutney. The burger was perfectly juicy and the bun was crunchy and chewy and awesome.
I don’t like to toot my own horn, but I’m tooting my own horn.
In my opinion, these were maybe the best burgers I’ve made.