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great burgers and pizza - at home!


General Discussion 14

great burgers and pizza - at home!

mep | Feb 22, 2001 09:21 PM

You chowhounds probably already know how to make to-die-for home cooked pizza and hamburgers. I didn't. So I went on a quest. My goal? To make burgers and pizza so satisfying that I would not ever even consider ordering in another cold, soggy delivered pizza or bringing home a grease-stained bag of teen-mauled gristle-fry burgers ever again. I dare say that I succeeded. Here's what I learned:


1. If you love pizza and don't own a pizza stone, get one immediately. Do not attempt to make pizza at home without one. You might end up with get something bread-like and edible (I didn't) but it won't taste anything like authentic, brick-oven, mouth-watering, thin-and-chewy crust pizza pie. Go to Walmart or Williams-Sonoma and spend the 10 to 30 bucks. A pizza stone ain't a versatile kitchen gadget but it is indispensible.
2. Make an overnight/refrigerator-risen yeast dough. This means ya gotta wait 24 hours to have your 'za, but it's worth it. I can't explain the physics of it, but a dough that rises in the fridge overnight is vastly superior to a 2-hour warm-corner risen dough. I recommend Alton Brown's (Good Eats) pizza dough recipe "PIZZA PIZZA" at, as a good basis with which you can then tinker and tweak.
3. Use King Arthur flour. Again, I can't give a discourse on the chemical properties of flour, but I can vouch for the primacy of this stuff over those other supermarket brands when it comes to making great pizza dough.
4. Never use warm tap water to make your dough (this suggestion applies to any water-based yeast baking). Use cold tap water that you pan/kettle-heat to a tepid wrist-warm simmer. If your tap water tastes bad, break the bank and use bottled to make your dough. Good water = great pizza.
5. For traditional/margherita/red sauce and mozzarella pizza, get your hands on some Muir Glen Pizza Sauce. I would not plug yet another brand-name product if not for the vast superiority of this stuff over the like brands. You can always buy your own good/imported canned plum tomatoes to make scratch sauce, but it's not worth it the fuss when this Muir Glen stuff is so good. Otherwise, top the pizza as you will. I like whole milk mozzerella, razor-thin pepperoni, cremini shrooms, marinated artichokes, and olives. Serve with mixed green salad. Enjoy, you lucky devil!


1. Don't buy ground beef. Ever. Buy a marbled chuck steak, cut it into cubes and use your food processor to "grind" your burgers at home, right before they hit the pan. Allocate about 1/3 pounds of beef per burger. Should take about 10-20 pulses. Try this once and you will never buy ground beef again.
2. Add nothing to your burger mix. You read right. No seasoning! I picked up this gem of wisdom from the God-like Jacques Pepin. No pepper, no salt (it leaches out the moisture), and puh-lease, save your onion soup mix for dip!
3. Cooks Illustrated suggests making a "dent" in the center of your burger patty if you don't want the center to puff up when you cook it. A great suggestion if, like me, you want a flat burger, not a meatball.
4. You can't beat a cast-iron skillet for great burgers. I prefer a flat cast-iron pan to grills of all kinds for burgers. You'll get nicer, more even crusting/searing with cast iron. Medium high heat, please. You already know not to press down on the meat with your spatula like the nimrods at Mickey D's. Right?
5. 3-5 minutes on each side... and it's bun and condiment time. I prefer mayo and boston lettuce on one side and mustard and tomatoes on the other. Bingo! We're talking fifteen minutes roundtrip, prep included, to the best tasting burgers you'll ever eat. Serve with a baked russet.

Please contribute the benefit of your experiences to this posting!


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