Hamburgers from Basar Basar
One of the many roles I play as a chef is that of consultant. Usually, it’s fielding questions about cooking times and methods, or recipe substitutions. I’m happy to oblige, turning some questions into posts, so everyone can benefit.
I am currently serving as a chef consultant for Basar Basar, a new meat company here in Gush Etzion. Their product philosophy is simple; make products for the American and Anglo palette that are neither cost-prohibitive nor compromised in quality. Seems simple enough, right?
Welcome to Israel.
I was asked to help with developing recipes for Basar Basar’s products. The first one we tackled was hamburger, a classic, all-American dish. A classic hamburger is simplicity in itself: 100% chopped beef, a light hand with seasoning, cook and eat. Israeli packaged hamburgers fail on all accounts. The meat is adulterated to the point where the patty will bend almost 180° when thawed. It it seasoned so much you don’t actually taste meat, and it’s too thin, which means it’s almost always going to be overcooked (read: more rubbery).
In creating an American-style hamburger we had to tackle several problems.
Problem #1: Meat in Israel can include up to 10% added water. Retail packaging will state this on the label, so look for it. Extensive research into the various sources of meat available in this country led Basar Basar to a meat supplier that deals in beef products that have no added water or preservatives. So we know the burgers are starting out as 100% pure ground beef.
Problem #2: Make the hamburger taste like a hamburger. Beef has a flavor. It’s a delicious flavor. It’s an easily recognizable flavor. And in Israeli hamburgers, it’s completely undetectable. We developed a flavor blend of seasonings that enhances the natural flavor of the beef without masking it behind an almost comical amount of spices. There are no fillers. There are no breadcrumbs. There are no eggs. 100% Beef means just that. Be careful when serving this to an Israeli; they won’t recognize the flavor.
Problem #3: Make the hamburger look and feel like a hamburger. Hamburger needs to have a grain to it. This is achieved by grinding the meat through the large-bore plate of a grinder. What you wind up with is not unlike tiny chunks of meat, rather than meat paste, which give the hamburger it’s meaty chewiness. In our test kitchen, we achieved a consistency that gave us the right chew. We also determined what the ideal diameter and thickness for the patty.
By the end of testing, we were able to achieve a product in my test kitchen that was moist, beefy and flavorful, that took a beautiful sear in a hot pan and didn’t crumble when pushed on.
Unfortunately, while our careful testing and results provided us with the ideal product, the manufacturer that Basar Basar used for their first run of hamburgers did it “Israeli style,” completely ignoring our specifications for fabricating the product. So our beautiful, delicious hamburgers were turned into hockey pucks. Needless to say, a new manufacturer has been retained for the next run.
The good news is that they didn’t mess with the recipe. So the flavor is still spot on. Honestly, it’s almost like biting into a steak. All you need to do is defrost the burgers beforehand, remold them into a proper patty shape, and cook them to get the beefy goodness you remember from the old country.
One of the last things we need to perfect is the color of the inside of the meat. This is due mostly to the lack of exposure of the meat to oxygen. I’ll save that for another post.
If you’re in the Gush, call Basar Basar at 058-456-5858 or 076-543-5321 to order. Tell them I sent you. They deliver.Other stuff you might find fascinating: