How to Marinate a Hamburger

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The basic burger can be adorned with all manner of flavorful accoutrements
The basic burger can be adorned with all manner of flavorful accoutrements (Image: Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

The simplicity of the humble hamburger leaves a great deal of room for coks to experiment with adding new flavors and seasonings to a classic dish. As with most dishes, the best results can be obtained if you make things from scratch at home. However, home made hamburgers generally have a looser consistency than the store-bought variety, and marinating them in sauces can cause them to break apart more easily, particularly when cooking them on a grill. So following these steps can help to keep your burgers together after marinating!

Season the ground beef or other meats you plan to use in the creation of the burger patties. Finely minced peppers or garlic can be added to the mixture, or it can be as simple as a little salt and pepper. When planning to marinate the burgers, some extra binding agents can help. A beaten egg and 1 cup of fine breadcrumbs per kilogram of meat will help hold the mixture together as it marinates. Breadcrumbs in particular create a slightly porous texture which allows slightly more marinade to be absorbed.

Form the burgers using a press or your hands. Although it is normally preferable not too grind the meat too finely, or form the patties too tightly, if you're planning to marinate them, pressing a little harder is a good idea. As the patties take on the liquid, they loosen up a little and swell slightly, which will counteract the extra pressure used when making them. Place the patties in a very cold refrigerator for an hour, or a freezer for 20 to 30 minutes. The idea is to get them as cold as possible without actually freezing them.

Prepare the marinade in a sealable jar and shake it vigorously to combine the ingredients. Pour it into a shallow casserole dish, large enough to accommodate the patties, but small enough that the quantity of marinade should still cover the patties completely. A big dish will require pints of marinade. Try to avoid too many acidic ingredients such as vinegar or lemon juice, as these will start to break down the fibers in the meat, affecting their structural integrity before they go on the grill. Chill the marinade before adding the burgers, as the consistent low temperature is essential for retaining solidity.

Use a skewer to prick three or four small holes right through the burger before gently placing them in the marinade. This will help them absorb more of the liquid. Place the container with the burgers and the marinade back in the fridge and leave for a further 30 minutes before transferring directly to a hot grill or pan.

Tips & Warnings

  • You can baste the burgers with the remaining marinade while they cook to create a glaze on the outside. Marinades with sugary ingredients, such as honey are particularly good for this.

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