How the world has changed in the last 20 years. Even as a kid, I remember being asked at restaurants how I wanted my burger done. Back then, I took it medium well. Now, anything short of incinerated would be considered child abuse. E.coli runs rampant through all hamburger meat, so it's impossible to have a "safe" hamburger cooked less than well-done (160 degrees fahrenheit throughout) -- or so we're told.

obDisclaimer: The below recipe provides a "safer" way of making a medium-rare hamburger. It's as safe as eating a medium-rare steak. If you eat dodgy beef to begin with, you'll probably get sick to end with.

Basically the reason store-bought (and even butcher-bought) hamburger meat has such a (deserved) reputation for being an e.coli farm is that when you grind meat, you introduce whatever scant amounts of bacteria or other nasties were sitting on the surface of the meat and distribute them throughout. They then get to have a bacteria party and reproduce like mad. Left on the surface, they remain in a low population and are much more harmless. This is the reason that a steak will last a week or more in your fridge before you should cook it -- heck, beef is aged in rooms that are barely chilled at all -- while ground beef will go stinky and probably inedible to anyone but the most ravenous college student within a couple of days.

Without further ado, the recipe (with many thanks to Alton Brown of the Good Eats cooking program -- this recipe is an annotated version of one of his):

8 ounces chuck, trimmed, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
8 ounces sirloin, trimmed, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

In separate batches, pulse the chuck and the sirloin in a food processor 10 times. Each pulse should be about two seconds long. You want to get a ground-meat-like consistency. Yes you can use a grinder for this, but the processor is easier and produces great results. Just don't turn the meat into mousse... some small chunks or stringy bits are OK and even desirable.

Combine the chuck, sirloin, and kosher salt in a large bowl. Mix it up. Form the meat into 5-ounce patties. The first time you do this, you might have problems getting the patties to stay together when you cook them. If you don't press them enough, they fall apart. If you press them too much, something weird happens to the proteins and they fall apart. Basically you're looking to roll a nice tight ball of about one-third of your meat, then squish it down to about a three-quarter-inch patty.

Heat a cast iron skillet or griddle over medium-high heat for 2 to 3 minutes. A steel frying pan is fine as well, but cast iron retains heat better and will give that nice "crust" on the burger. Test the skillet by sprinkling some water drops on it -- if they just sit there, it's not hot enough. If they splatter and vaporize, the pan's too hot. If they bounce around and evaporate in a few seconds, you're good to go.

Place the hamburger patties in the pan. For medium-rare burgers, cook the patties for 4 minutes on each side. For medium burgers, cook the patties for 5 minutes on each side. Flip the burgers only once during cooking.

Serve on a lightly toasted bun, with ONLY a tiny bit of mayo and a sprinkling of black pepper. Sure, you like ketchup and mustard and cheese and tomato, etc., but try it this way just once.

Savor the flavour of cow. Thank you, cow. You have done well. Better yet, you have done medium rare.

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