Burger science – What makes the perfect burger?

Burger science – What makes the perfect burger?

I have been meaning to write this for some time however work has been somewhat hectic in light of a recent role change, luckily I am staying away tonight and there are limited distractions now I have finished my daily follow ups. So for the first time in what seems like forever I am able to pontificate about one of the biggest problems in our society. An issue so controversial it divides people daily, creates arguments among friends, family and even work colleagues. When looking at this conundrum objectively even Brexit seems easier to solve… at least that has a rough timeline. This particular argument is timeless and could go on forever – but for today I am wading in with a keenly placed size 8.5 to cut through the confusion and give clarity to anyone reading this post…

What makes the perfect burger?

I know. Heavy right?…

Is it multiple patties? exotic additional toppings? certain types of bread or 4 different types of cheese? Well I have a theory about this but I am going to tackle it by looking at the common problems that I feel ruin a burger and then tie it up with a solution. There are a few things that royally ruin any marriage of bread and meat and to me it feels so simple! So the most common ways to ruin your burger are…

  • Shit bread

There is nothing worse than ordering a burger and receiving it in the wrong vessel. It can define the experience just as much as the meat or cheese, while also being able to cancel out any positives those two essential pillars might bring to the meal. The most common bread faux pas is a style that is too tough or structurally solid, meaning when you bite it, all of the contents just fly out onto the plate or into the paper if your a hipster king at a food truck. You cannot reinvent the wheel with shit bread so just accept that brioche buns were made for a reason. There are exceptions to the rule, as with the right meat and cheese combo a fresh pretzel roll or toasted wholemeal roll can be a beast of a beef holder but generally the brioche reigns supreme. Oh and if it’s in a wrap it’s not a burger. Not having it.

Solution: Stop trying to be niche and use French bread etc. It doesn’t work. Softer breads create better burgers.   

 

 

  • More than 2 type of cheese

I will accept 2 applications of the same cheese but if you are served or are considering putting multiple type of cheese on one burger your making a mistake. Especially if they just don’t go together in texture or in taste such as brie and cheddar. Not only will you ruin the stability of the upper part of your burger but you will also be setting yourself up for an overly messy catastrophe that doesn’t really know what it’s going for. Now I like a messy burger like anyone does as when its good. It’s good. BUT if it’s sliding all over the place and becoming a case of annoying rather than enjoying, you have a problem. The taste of confusion is not pleasurable. Oh and stop using raw cheddar. I asked for a burger not a cheese sandwich with a hot beef add on. MELT IT AT THE VERY LEAST. Match your cheese to the meat and topping combo.

Solution: 1 type of cheese based on the other contents. Fast melting creamy cheese such as American, Monterey Jack, blue or Brie for your average burger, spiced cheese for a beef/ pork spiced patty, rarely use cheddar unless it’s melted to the top bun but just make a decision and stick to it. Commit to your cheese choice.

  • Open burgers

….

Solution: Stop.

  • Overcomplicating your patty

I learned this pretty early on while I was competing in Battle of the burgers way back in 2013. Over seasoning or over spicing can be a weight that your burger simply can’t break free from and it’s strongest properties will simply not be able to come to the surface. My personal mistake was over spicing a lamb burger which I still believe to this day is the only reason I didn’t hit first place and it bugs me to this day. If your patty is made from lamb, beef, pork or a mixture of meat you need to be able to taste that within it, not just a handful of paprika you threw into the mix last minute or a double shot of harissa you tried to get clever with. If I am using 500g of meat I will only add a tablespoon of additional flavourings maximum, not including salt and pepper. I also have a secret binding agent to guarantee a great, juicy burger even after freezing and defrosting in sausage meat. However you obviously wouldn’t want to be cooking them medium rare!

Solution: Keep your seasoning simple. Don’t get excited and pour in your spice cabinet. A dash will do and a hint won’t hinder… but a shit load will ruin your burger.

  • Overloading toppings

Very similar to the multiple cheese issue is banging everything you have left in the pantry on top of the burger and sending it out looking like someone has already started chewing it or just spooned out the U-bend of a sink. There is a limit to a topping line up in my opinion and it’s 2. One additional meat and a none meat option. For example: Bacon and pickles to add contrast, balsamic onions and slices of cooked chorizo, freshly sliced chilies and pulled pork, a runny egg and crispy onions… you get the idea.

Solution: Slow down a bit and just give it some thought. Which additions work well and pull it all together ?

 

The simple way of summarising it is the best way to make your burger to best it can be is to keep it simple. The science is simple and it gives us an easy to understand formula to follow which is:

 

Soft but well structured bread

PLUS

Well balanced and seasoned patty

PLUS

One type of cheese

PLUS

A maximum of 2 topping. One meat and one none meat

OPTIONAL

1 sauce

=

A perfect burger

 

 

So just keep it simple and you can’t go wrong! It isn’t a complicated problem to solve just don’t get too clever or ambitious as the star of the burger is the burger in it’s entirety. Keep this in mind and you can create true harmony between bread, calm between cob and won’t fall into a trap in a bap.

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Rub ya’self up – Returning to Rub, Birmingham

Rub ya’self up – Returning to Rub, Birmingham

It has been a while since I have been this active on the blog let alone been in touch with my good friends at Rub Smokehouse, Birmingham, but I must say they have caught my eye of late on social media. They have recently launched a super saver menu to rival the mainstream fast food chains in terms of their value and quality while also going viral yet again with what I believe was the worlds biggest chicken nugget. Nugzilla is real.

I have made no secret that I have always been a proponent of Rub’s unapologetic spirit and the fact that the heart of the business seems to be very much worn on their sleeves. The jovial nature of their attitude towards food bleeds into their model of spreading their message on social media with things like this but ultimately they still have good food at their core. While Nugzilla and the challenge options in that sort of wheel house don’t necessarily appeal to me personally, it gets bums on seats and gives them a platform to show off the sorts of things I ate on Friday. I literally got into cooking traditional BBQ because of Rub Smokehouse and watching Brian Mujati’s YouTube channel so these guys have really imprinted on my development as writer and a cook, so it was a pleasure to be hosted by them again on Friday evening (06/07/18).

Upon arrival I was greeted by the smell of the art of meat alchemy and a really accommodating member of staff, (apologies for not remembering your name) seated at my table and was given 5 minutes to mull over the menu. I decided I wanted to go out like William Wallace and get Hung Drawn and Quartered, which as pictured below, is a platter of smokehouse treats and American inspired sides. To start at the top we have baby back ribs, pulled pork, Brisket, BBQ chicken with white Alabama BBQ sauce and Buffalo wings that’s are served with sides of onion rings, corn on the cob, corn dogs, fries and red slaw. Quite the list right? this can all be yours for £36 to feed two people or £68 for four, which when you break it down is actually very reasonable per person for the amount of food you actually get presented with while also seeing what their food is all about across the board.

It’s also worth noting I upgraded the fries to the ‘poutine’ option (gravy and cheese) which were really a really nice touch and not something you see very often on a British menu.

As ever for me my experience eating this was consistent and thoroughly enjoyable. I am a self confessed burgerholic but when it comes to a place like Rub I need some smoke rings and wings in my life. The brisket was moist while still retaining a healthy bark on the outside that ran into a vibrant pink smoke ring, the chicken and the buffalo wings were a flavoursome punch that packed the odd bit of crackling spice and the pulled pork was an equal partner in the dish as sometimes PP can get lost amongst the bold flavours of a smoked variety dish but it stood up well and in being served dry, retained it’s ‘porkyness’ rather than it just being about the sauce it was in.

One thing I have always struggled to get right on a wood fired smoker is the humble rib. A relatively cheap cut of meat that can be make or break for a cook if they don’t treat it with enough care. It has taken me a long time to be able to get up to a standard where I am even remotely happy with my own rib cooks (I can’t begin to tell you how many racks of ribs I have eaten while simultaneously pissed off about shoulda, woulda, coulda elements on the days grilling) but Rub are really consistent. Every time I have eaten their ribs I get the same effect. I get enough stability where I can pick them up without complete disintegration, enough give that I can pull the bone clean out of the rack or in this case just pull through it with a fork like I’m eating a cake, which in itself has always really impressed me. Something I learned very early on is that you can tell the quality of a smokehouse by how their ribs behave and Rubs ribs were very well behaved little guys.

It really does showcase the size of the dish when I haven’t even touched on the sides yet by this point of the post, however I don’t want to take any shine away from them. I have maybe had corndogs twice in my life as again very much like the poutine, they aren’t really something that has broken into the British culinary lexicon that often. A good example of the American carnival ‘anything on a stick’ attitude, the corn dog offers it’s participants a frankfurter that is deep fried in batter to create a breaded meat rocket on a wooden stick. Rub’s take on the corn dog is fluffy and almost decadent in it’s own way while also offering you some real variance away from the rest of the dish without being odd. It is certainly at home here but just allows you to go somewhere else for a quick minute… which is nice.

Poutine was very pleasant and the gravy just helps you continue on when you start to hit a wall in the third quarter of the platter. Trust the process as Joel Embiid says or in this case just trust the poutine. Onion rings were probably up there with my top 5 onions rings as they were full and fluffy unlike some the scraggly shit I have been served elsewhere in the past. Slaw was refreshing against the heavy nature of the meat and the corn was… yellow. Because I haven’t eaten it yet… because the meal beat me and I essentially brought home an entire further meals worth like I always do when I go to Rub.

We are a few years down the line since my first visit and it is good to see Rub still pumping in it’s original vein. The spirit has not died and neither has the quality of the food. They embrace challenges and change and even enforce some of their own by trying to ‘break the internet’ and some may criticise that or think it to be at the behest of the quality of their actual product, but it isn’t. Which has always really impressed me. We are in the age of social media where even your local butcher is putting something rogue on their A boards in the hope you will tweet it and it will drive more business (or in some cases on Mumsnet or Reddit and you get chased out of business..), Rub has embraced that and built a reputation around big, bold, brash statements and an experience that anybody with an ounce of adventure in them wants to be a part of. It’s always been a interesting ride watching how they develop and long may it continue. Birmingham loves you so just keep doing you, as it’s still working.

 

Wing King – Chicken Alchemy

Wing King – Chicken Alchemy

At the time of writing it is 5/7/18 and we are on the cusp of UK BBQ week 2018, arguably the most wonderful time of the year, regardless of what the friends of buddy Christ will tell you.

buddy christ wings

A time where the UK BBQ community is encouraged to come together and cook a daily theme to show the diversity and adaptability of cooking over coal and wood, showcasing the true art of what we do and why we love it. In the spirit of this jovial holiday of wood fired unity I wanted to share my method of smoking a tray of perfect chicken wings. This sounds easy, but if you really want something done… one must do it right.

I am incredibly proud of my wings to the point where it’s currently my go to cook on my newest barrel smoker. I like the fact you can get a really powerful smoke without having to go overnight or light the pit at 5am, while being able to serve something that can make people leave your house in firm belief that you know your shit. So below I have broken down the steps to creating the perfect wing tray. You can do these in the oven if you don’t own a smoker but for best results cook low and slow over wood.

What you need

  • 12 Whole chicken wings
  • Hot paprika
  • Smoked black pepper
  • Brown sugar
  • Thyme (can sub for mixed herbs)
  • Oregano (Can sub for mixed herbs)
  • Cayenne
  • Nutmeg
  • Cinnamon
  • Salt
  • Your favourite BBQ sauce

Prep

Go to your local butcher and ask for the volume of wings you need by all means and upscale the recipe as required but this will be to make 1 tray (12 whole, 22 when jointed/ split). Cut the tips from the wings if bought whole as they add literally nothing, then take your knife and find the joint on the inner bend of the wing. Cut through it to get an even split of drumstick and dual bone wings. repeat and place them in a bowl that will go into your fridge.

Smokers – Start you pit and get it up to 225 C. I use either cherry or apple wood for this cook.

Rub

I already have this premixed usually but for one single batch take 2 tbsp. paprika, 2 tbsp. smoked black pepper and 1 of brown sugar, 1 tbsp. thyme and oregano (or mixed herbs), 1 tspn cayenne, large pinch of nutmeg, cinnamon and sea salt to taste. Rub the wings through the spice mix until evenly covered and fridge them for a minimum of 2 hours.

The cook

Place on a tray that enables fat to escape and smoke to get in from below and cook for around 1.5 hours or until they read 160 on a probe thermometer (don’t touch the bone when taking a reading as it can screw the reading up). Remove from the smoker and DIP the wings in your chosen BBQ sauce, this will give you a much more glazed feel than brushing and enables a good even spread across the wings. Then put them back in the smoker or oven for another 20 minutes so the heat can help the sauce bond to the wings and render down the glaze a little.

Remove and serve outside with a beer.

 

Generally it’s an easy cook when you look at it like that but it’s the finer details that matter just like any cook you do with indirect heat. Enjoy with your family or just smash a plate on your own an save that shit for the gram. Either way people will want to get involved.

 

 

Brew Shack Hot Chicken

Brew Shack Hot Chicken

Anybody who likes cooking and also likes their fair share of comedy has probably already seen ‘Something’s Burning’ with Bert Kreischer. Bert is a stand up comedian best know as ‘The Machine’ and a famous accessory to theft for the Russian mafia. Seriously, google it. He is a hilarious comic and if you aren’t aware of the show mentioned above it is a YouTube based platform for Bert to welcome a variety of famous faces into his (studio) kitchen to cook with largely hilarious results.

I love Bert. He loves life and his brand of party hard comedy is something that doesn’t usually rear it’s head in the UK due to our generally vanilla attitude to brash, vibrant personas. I just feel like people such as him see the joy in things and make everything fun, I mean the path he chose in life is to literally spread joy. So much so that I would watch 20 minutes of him just making toast talking to Brian Callen or Bill Burr let alone something like Nashville Hot Chicken, which is what the latest episode gave us featuring his wife and musician Wheeler Walker Jr. It’s a really easy watch and I fully recommend it, check it out below.

 

 

If you are in the UK and have never been to the USA I’m guessing like me, you have never heard of Nashville Hot Chicken. After watching the above episode I started googling and did a bit of research and I found it to be right up my street, as it is essentially fried chicken with a seriously spicy kick. So naturally I made my own version but I have never been a fan of deep frying at home so decided it best to do a breaded version to save the mess and hassle. Thanks for the inspiration Bert.

This was the result:

IMG_5026

Would be rude to not leave you with the recipe I guess… Serves 2.

What you will need:

  • 4 boneless chicken thighs
  • 250g flour
  • 250g breadcrumbs
  • 2 tbsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp. Paprika
  • pinch salt and pepper
  • 3 eggs
  • Hot sauce (just choose your level… I’m not taking responsibility if you melt your face)
  • Mayonnaise
  • Pastry brush
  • 3 clean, shallow bowls

 

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 175C (Fan)
  2. Bowl 1 -Flour, Cayenne, Paprika and Salt/ pepper, Bowl 2 – beat the eggs, Bowl 3 – Breadcrumbs
  3. Roll the chicken thighs in the flour mixture, then dip in the egg and hit the breadcrumbs.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes, turn over then bake again for another 30
  5. Remove from the oven and turn again, brush the now crispy chicken with hot sauce and place in the oven for a final 5 minutes
  6. Mix 3 parts hot sauce with 4 parts Mayonnaise.
  7. Serve. Devour. Enjoy.

BEER MATCH:

A fruity hop forward golden ale such as Kona Brewing Co’s Big Wave

kona-bigwave

 

How to smoke… the easy version Part 1: Buying your smoker

How to smoke… the easy version Part 1: Buying your smoker

Using a smoker and smoking your own food can be a nightmare of a task to get round for the first timer. It is super easy to google ‘Smoking food’ and disappear down about 4 or 5 different rabbits holes simultaneously. Electric smokers, coal fires, offset, upright, chamber smokers, smoker box, liquid smoke (don’t.) the list goes on. With this article I am aiming to simplify it a little bit for you if you were looking to get started as at it’s core… it’s fairly straight forward. Two main areas are vital for success, managing and understanding your pit and timing. Get these two aspects down and you are going to get at the very least, results you can be happy with.

First of all it’s about buying a smoker that suits you. For beginners I would advise not spending too much as you don’t need to spend around £1000 on a unit that you might not actually like using. I bought my offset smoker for £80 and there are a variety of ways you can modify your cheaper unit to get the results of a smoker worth 5 or 6 times its value, but I will go into more detail on this at a later date. There are plenty of places jumping on the bandwagon and selling upright and offset smokers which is great for anybody looking to get going as you can go to your local Range or garden centre and pick up a fairly functional unit for under £100 like I did.

So to bust some serious amounts of jargon and give you two easy to digest recommendation I will explain it as best I can! So if you are asking yourself, what should I buy? why? how do I decide? Hopefully this will help you come to a decision and get you started.

Upright smoker/ Water smoker

So I haven’t actually got one of these (at the moment) but it’s on order and I am well versed enough in how to use one so bare with me. These smokers rely more of providing a levelled environment for your food with a steam element that should keep your food moist throughout the cooking process while still giving it a great platform for the smoke to penetrate the food.

Construction: Usually these smokers consist of two levels of cooking grates, a level for a water pan and then finally at the bottom your coal basket. Sometimes they will have hooks in the lid if they are big enough to hang meat from and utilise the space better.

Function: Lighting the coals/ wood chunks in the basket will heat up the water pan and create steam that will engulf the food and add an element of moisture not present in all smoker types, so a great option for those worried about drying their food out. A temperature gauge is usually located at the tip of the lid for central heat reading and an air flow valve at the bottom of the unit, aligned with the coal basket.

Beginner rating 0/5:

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Offset smoker

Old faithful. I have been using my offset smoker for just over a year now and it has been an interesting learning curve but I can now get some brilliant results from this pit and it is literally my prized possession. Controlling and managing your fire is paramount in an offset as it is in any smoker but get it wrong and you will have a lot of wasted food. It is all about creating a levelled heat that can spread across the chamber gradually rather than a huge blast at 300+ degrees that just dies a death really quickly, which can be challenging to begin with but aside from this, it is a great way to get started.

Construction: A large main chamber for cooking with one or two grills, lined up next to a fire box and a chimney at opposite ends of the cooking chamber. Airflow valves will be located on the fire box as well as a cap on top of the chimney to allow you to control the heat via the air through flow. A temp gauge is more often than not located further towards the chimney rather than in the middle of the actual cooking chamber, which pissed me right off so I added another one pretty easily (£15 from Ebay delivered) and now I get much better readings. Usually you will have a good solid frame with two legs and a few wheels to help you in moving the unit around.

Function: Adding your pre lit coals to your fire box and closing the door will provide you with a good enclosed cooking environment, this will gently smoke and caress your food with indirect heat from one side, so rotation meat during a cook can be essential for good results. Closing and opening your valves to adjust the temperature is also essential as I alluded to above. In its purest form it is pretty straight forward in its function really! Sometimes a water pan can be added near the entrance of the firebox but I have found this isn’t as effective as in an upright smoker. Lining the bottom of the unit with foil is advised for simplifying cleaning up any excess fat.

Beginner rating 0/5:

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Hopefully, this makes it a little bit easier to understand WHAT you are actually looking at when shopping for your pit. In the next part I will cover what kit you need to get started, then how to actually use an offset smoker in more detail and how to manage your fire to get the best results… so make sure you subscribe and keep your ear to the ground. Next chapter will be up next week!

Phil.

#BSB BREW SHACK BBQ

#BSB BREW SHACK BBQ

Today I have finally completed work on the rebranding, reimagining and repurposing of my long time love affair with food and drink, my blog. I have spent weeks trying to get everything to feel right and making sure it fits everything that I wanted it to be. I mean, the site is an outlet for my own culinary designs, my experiences and a platform for other people who have a likeminded approach when it comes to food and drink.

Why change?

After and unfortunate mishap in renewing my domain name for Hungry Buck, I took it as a sign that things needed to change. My tastes had changed since I started HB and I felt like it didn’t reflect where I was coming from anymore, it needed to be more of a representation of the food I was eating and the things I was doing day to day.

Reasoning:

  1. BEER. I work with beer, I’m incredibly passionate about it and what is happening in the industry and the creative, incredible beers that exist today as opposed to 10 years ago.
  2. BBQ. I am obsessed with the concept of true BBQ. Whether it is coming from my smoker or from someone else’s grill, the process and the art of being able to smoke or cook meat over coals awakens something primal within me. There is nothing better.
  3. CULTURE. Lets be fair whether its new age craft beer bars, passion project coffee shops driven by people who deliver something truly unique and special such as friend of the blog Wayland’s Yard or fun and unapologetically obtuse food from the likes of our other close friends at Rub Smokehouse… it is all about the culture. Bringing people together for the love of doing things the right way, you have all inspired this new look and it is people like you guys that continue to drive the culinary transformation that the UK has been in for the last 5 years.

 

What’s next?

No spoilers… but the weather is getting better. Prime smoking weather. Plenty of beer to get through and some exciting work coming up with Wayland’s Yard, Rub Smokehouse on their new menu and a brilliant new Donut project coming out of Birmingham… that is just a taste. There is PLENTY on the horizon so stay tuned. Content will be coming your way soon. Bigger and better than ever,

 

I can’t wait to get stuck in and build BSB up from the ashes of a great run with Hungry Buck and into something totally new, fun and interesting. It is the beginning of a new chapter this year for me, my work and this site. Time to embrace the change and make some waves!

In the meantime… here’s to a fresh start.


Rainy day ribs-Smoke without fire

Rainy day ribs-Smoke without fire

Bank holidays in the UK tend to fall foul of a particularly unfortunate pattern. The weeks leading up to it will be scorching hot with an unrelenting heat and cloudless sky, then like a flash as soon as the bank holiday is within touching distance the rain starts like a switch has been flicked. Dampening picnic and BBQ plans alike and trapping us in our houses with ITV2 and it’s one thousandth play of Jurassic park 2 or Uncle Buck.

That being said it’s not all bad. Theres nothing wrong with rolling with the tide as it were, making lemonade from the lemons we should quite frankly expect by now! Get to the butcher and get something you have fancied cooking for a while, grab a Blu-ray you fancy watching and settle in for some extreme pre-winter comfort food. It’s a win-win situation.

For me it was a rib recipe I have wanted to try for such a long time it seems crazy that I haven’t got around to making it yet. I make no secret of being a passionate advocate of year round BBQ and rain or shine I don’t think you can beat biting through the bark of a rich, crispy piece of beef or chicken that is fresh off the coals. Sometimes however it is just not possible for everybody to get out there and fire up the grill, so this is my way of bringing that kind of experience indoors without setting your moms curtains on fire.

BBQ Ribs – serves one as a meal or 2 to share.Double amounts if needed.

What you will need: 

  • 6 individual meaty pork ribs. (You can use a rack you just need to cut them into sections of four)
  • 2 stock cubes
  • salt
  • A bottle of your favourite BBQ sauce. I usually make my own but for this I had a bottle of Jim Beam Cherry bourbon BBQ sauce that I wanted to try out.
  • Saucepan
  • A slow cooker

Method:

  1. Get a large saucepan full of salted water to a rolling boil and add the stock cubes. Stir until fully dissolved. Pre-heat the slow cooker on ‘low’.
  2. Add the ribs to the boiling water and leave for 3 minutes.
  3. The water should have a white to grey froth on top of it, this process stops that fatty residue tainting your sauce.
  4. Quickly pat dry with some kitchen roll and press the meaty side of the ribs into the ‘rub’.
  5. Lay them into the slow cooker and pour in the sauce. Making sure they are well covered.
  6. Leave for 4 hours and then half remove the lid for the final 5th hour.
  7. By now the sauce will have reduced a little, exposing the end pieces of the ribs and creating a bit of a bark while leaving the meat smokey,loose and almost desperate to slide straight off the bone.
  8. Serve with corn on the cob rolled in cayenne, sweet potato fries and plenty of french’s mustard.