Friday, September 9, 2011

Ina's Hamburgers Top Pioneer Woman's

Both Ina and Pioneer Woman made burgers last weekend. Ina’s were prime beef with NOTHING added (which was surprising even to the Contessa). PW’s were “ground beef” with Worcestershire sauce and heavy cream. Ree gave no reason for adding the heavy cream, except to say “because I can”, which was pretty unsatisfactory.

I watched Ina’s show after Ree’s and something clicked when I saw that Chef Laurent Tourondel was using the highest quality prime beef for his hamburgers. It had 20% fat and he saw no reason for additional ingredients. I have no idea what kind of beef Pioneer Woman was using, BUT if you’re using a leaner beef, then adding heavy cream to it is an interesting concept.

Let’s think about this. When you eat a big, juicy fatty burger, what does it taste like? What’s the mouth feel? We know that "fat is flavor" and, unfortunately, for burgers, at least, the higher the fat, the better we like the taste. And we get a nicer caramelization, so maybe adding heavy cream to the meat could take the place of using a higher fat meat to begin with.

I tried it. I made Ree’s sliders (with Ina’s extras). I used ground sirloin, which has 8 to 10% fat and I added about 2 tablespoons of heavy cream to one pound of meat, plus a splash of Worcestershire sauce. I definitely didn’t mix it up with a wooden spoon, which Ree did. That’s pure idiocy. But I did like that she measured the sliders in a ¼ cup scoop and Ree’s yield was EXACTLY right - 8 sliders to a pound of meat. I liked her thumbprint idea too, which Ree says inhibits the burger from poofing up. Whatever…the truth is that beef hamburgers are not my first choice anyway. I usually roll with veggie burgers, which I LOVE, and then I pile on the other stuff, so the burger itself is inconsequential.

But DID adding cream to the leaner beef approximate what a fattier burger would taste like? Did it take it to the level of a full-blown, topnotch burger and was it worth the extra fat calories to add the cream? Honestly, no, but I think it did make the leaner beef taste better. And anytime you can improve the flavor and feel of something, then great.

It’s also question of which you think reigns supreme –the burger itself OR the total package of the burger with lots of delicious things on it. Each of us must come to our own conclusion. I’ve already said it’s the toppings that does it for me and I’d probably be just as happy eating them over a bowl of brown rice as a burger of any stripe. But if beef is your thing, then starting out with a higher grade (more fat) beef is probably the way to go and adding a bit of cream to lean hamburger meat is not going to cut the mustard.

In conclusion, the cream belongs more on a cobbler or in my coffee than in a burger.

Here are the recipes I used:
Laurent Tourondol’s Guacamole and Pickle Mayonnaise

Look at the pickle mayonnaise on the top bun running onto the plate? That stuff is good!

I put the slider on one bun, covered it with guacamole and a pickle slice. I added some bacon for good measure too. The pickle mayonnaise went on the other bun, along with sautéed mushrooms and onions and a slice of tomato.

Ina's sweet potatoes fries were good too. But she's right that they don't hold for long. Leftovers would make a good stand-in for the butternut in Ina’s Roasted Butternut Salad with dried cranberries.


Anonymous said...

Hi Sue,

I love it that you tried adding the cream! Nice to know it helps even just a little in a pinch (and if I can't find 85% lean in the supermarket). But I can see where it wouldn't be the same as extra beef fat. Maybe a little bacon grease instead?

Sue said...

Hi Tom,
I had to try it. I wish it had worked better, though. Bacon grease is SUCH a good idea! How could that be bad?

Emily said...

I saw this episode!!

I never thought to add cream to a burger before. The burger looks great! Especially with the guacamole and bacon.

The sweet potato fries looks good too!

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I think I agree that I would just use a fattier meat - although a bit of bacon grease wouldn't hurt either! :-)

Elina said...

I add worchester sauce and ketchup to my lean meat for burgers and they always come out juicy and delicious. No heavy cream necessary :)
LOVE the tip about using a quarter cup for sliders. I'm guessing that would mean a 1/2 cup would work for real burgers? Totally trying that!!

Nisha said...

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