Countless articles written by chefs, grilling experts and other professionals on what constitutes the "ultimate" burger proliferate in magazines, TV shows and on the Internet. Yet here I am, someone who can't start a pile of charcoal without copious amounts of lighter fluid, weighing in on the same issue.
It helps that all I have to do is make the hamburger patties -- my husband builds the fire (and he would like to make the case for using lump hardwood, not charcoal with its many additives), and expertly grills the burgers. (Another tip: Never, ever press down on the burgers or you'll squeeze out all the tasty stuff!)
And I suppose I should include the following warning: Do not make and eat these hamburgers. They are loaded with artery-clogging saturated fats, they get coated with potential carcinogens while developing a slightly crusty exterior, if you don't cook them to cinders they just might make you ill, and they are generally bad for you. In other words, they taste really, really good.
So what makes my burgers so special? Two ingredients you may not have used in burgers before, and one that I'm sure you have. I call these "double butter burgers" because they contain not only dairy butter, but also peanut butter. Yes, peanut butter. I won't claim this as an original concept -- I've seen it in a few recipes -- but it isn't common.
Butter adds a tasty flavor note and some moisture, but since it melts so easily a lot of it escapes onto the grill. Peanut butter, on the other hand, also adds rich flavor and moisture, but it doesn't get away so easily. You have to be careful not to add too much or it will taste like a peanut butter sandwich gone wrong. But if you use just enough, it will add an interesting yet elusive flavor -- plus it helps hold the burger together on the grill.
The more common ingredient is Worcestershire sauce; I enjoy the zip that it brings. Again, you can have too much of a good thing, so just a little is needed. Rounding out the ingredient list is salt and pepper, and the final twist to technique is a brief chill in the fridge to help the burgers stay in one piece.
I prefer to use ground chuck, which runs from 80 percent to 85 percent lean. Sometimes I will grind it myself using an attachment for my KitchenAid mixer. But Black Angus in St. Albans has great chuck that they grind in-house, so that's what I usually use. I cook the burgers medium to medium-well since I trust the beef that I use, but of course the USDA recommends cooking all ground beef well-done.
Double Butter Burgers
1 pound of 80 to 85 percent lean ground beef