National Chef of Scotland and former Masterchef champion Gary Maclean is here to ease our worries and offers up a tasty recipe to try out our newfound knowledge.
In honour of today’s National Burger Day we spoke to one of Scotland’s top chefs, Gary Maclean, about what goes into making the perfect burger.
Here is his checklist for perfection, which will ensure your burger day plans go off without a hitch.
Gary Maclean’s top tips for a perfect burger
Buy good-quality meat:
“The most important thing is to buy very good meat and to spice it up a bit. I’m all for making life easy in the kitchen and if you can mix that meat with something that’s got stacks of flavour then you’ll really get something quite unique.”
Time the cooking right:
“Try and cook them the day you make them because they seem to lose a bit of life and a bit of their moisture if you try and do it too far in advance.
“Or you could even make them then freeze them if you’re trying to get ahead for a big family occasion – get them made earlier in the week and freeze them with a little bit of silicone tape or greaseproof paper between each burger.”
Don’t over-complicate the seasoning:
“My favourite is haggis and I will do it in a 50/50 mix between Scotch beef and haggis. It just naturally makes a really moist burger and holds together. It’s really simple to make at home and, literally, you just do half and half. The haggis has all the seasoning in it that you would need for the burger.”
Keep pressure on the burgers when cooking:
“Depending on the size of the burger, it’s important to get the cooking right. For me, the trick with any burger, no matter how you make it, is that it’s got to have quite a bit of pressure on it. What I tend to do is take a round, flat lid or a cutter of some description and put a layer of clingfilm over the top of that. Then I put my burger mix into that, fold up the clingfilm and then press down.
“What that does is gives you a homemade burger press, which really compacts your burger and, again, stops it from falling apart.”
Keep the sides simple:
“When it comes to sides and accompaniments, I’m actually really traditional.
“I occasionally teach how to make a burger at college and I always try to inspire the students, though I’m always looking for something that Scooby Doo would like, and you want to see everything that’s in there.
“But I really like that dill pickle you can pick up now in any supermarket, things like beef tomatoes, red onion as well as mayonnaise and ketchup mixed together.”
Avoid making common mistakes:
“One of the most common mistakes people make is probably over-cooking the burger. There’s a lot going on. We do burger nights at home and I don’t use the barbecue – I’ve given up on it to be honest, because you can get much more done at home and in your oven and on a stove, in my opinion.
“You need to get yourself organised. What I would normally do is get everything sorted out before I even look at the burger – the burger is actually the last thing I touch. I even toast the onions before I touch the burgers.
“I let the kids build their own – so you get out your tomatoes and pickles and mayo and everything else, such as potato wedges or celeriac slaw on the side. It’s quite stressful making burgers for everyone, especially when you have young kids like me as there’ll of be cries of ‘I don’t like that’, so if they build their own then it’s more likely to be successful.
“If you get everything done before you tackle the burgers then it means they’re going to be the star of the show and are going to be cooked well and nicely, without being overcooked.
“You’ll be surprised at how quick a burger will cook – it’s just minutes.”
Gary’s haggis sliders with spicy wedges and turnip and whole grain mustard slaw
(Makes 4 portions)
Gary says: “This is a very different twist on our traditional haggis, neeps and tatties. This is great party food and should attract people who wouldn’t normally have haggis.”
For the haggis sliders:
- 450g haggis
- 450g beef mince
- 12 slider buns, toasted
- 2 plum tomatoes, sliced
- 1 tub cherry tomatoes
- 2 red onion, sliced
- 2 large dill pickle, sliced
- 1 jar relish
- 2 gem lettuce
For the turnip and wholegrain mustard slaw (optional):
- 1 medium turnip
- 1 large carrot
- ½ lemon
- 1 small bunch of chives
- 50g wholegrain mustard
- 150g mayonnaise
For the spicy wedges (optional):
- 1kg red rooster potatoes
- 40g parmesan
- 20g cajun spice
- The first thing you need to do is make the burger mix. Normally when you make burgers there is a certain amount of skill and practice in getting the seasoning correct. The great thing with adding haggis to the mix is that the seasoning is done by the haggis and gives the burger an amazing flavour, while also holding in the moisture.
- To make the burger it’s as simple as mixing the haggis and the minced beef together and add a little salt.
- In my opinion, burgers should be pressed. A butcher would have a fancy pressing machine at home but you can recreate this pressing by using a plastic lid. Find a lid that’s about 6cm wide x 2cm deep. Place the lid onto the work surface and then take a large piece of clingfilm and cover the lid.
- Now take some of your mixture and press it into the clingfilm-covered lid. Get as much of the mixture into the lid as you can then fold over the clingfilm, upturn the lid and push down onto the work surface and press the burger. Remove the burger from the lid and the burger is already covered in clingfilm.
- To cook the burger, heat up a griddle pan or frying pan, add a little oil then place the burger into the pan. The secret is not to touch the burger or turn it over until it has a chance to brown. With the burgers being so small they will cook very quickly.
- Once cooked you can now start to build the burger. I like to build the burger up in as many layers as possible. This will make every mouthful different.
To make the turnip and wholegrain mustard slaw:
- Peel then grate a medium-sized (450g) turnip and carrot.
- Toss them immediately in the juice of half a lemon.
- Mix together 4 heaped tbsp of mayonnaise, the wholegrain mustard and 2 tbsp of chopped chives.
- Season with salt and black pepper, and then fold into the grated root vegetables.
To make the spicy wedges:
- Making wedges is very easy, the first thing to do is to microwave your potatoes until soft. This should take about 10 minutes. Using the microwave to cook the potatoes saves loads of energy, as the microwave is very efficient and most of the energy used actually goes into cooking the food.
- Allow the potatoes to cool and settle, cut the potatoes in half then cut into wedges.
- Drizzle a little oil in a frying pan, put the pan on the heat and then place in the wedges. Because the potatoes are cooked all you are trying to do is colour and crisp the potato.
- Once you have achieved some colour turn the potatoes over and do the same on the other side.
- Turn off the heat and toss in some of the Cajun spice, remove from the pan and sprinkle with grated parmesan.