Why talk about hamburgers? You thought this was about healthy eating and you see hamburgers? Yes, hamburgers, because once you have a great one, none of the junk served by the fast-food chains will suffice.

There is no doubt about the poor treatment of cattle at feedlots. These cattle are raised on corn, which is not their natural food, grass is. Because of their living conditions, these cattle need to take antibiotics to stay healthy. Additionally, to increase their body mass, they are given more hormones than a major-league home run slugger. On top of that, they’re not allowed to roam free on the range. Let me tell you, beef from cattle raised on farms where they graze on a range tastes much better.

But the irony is that fast-food restaurants have become the feedlots for humans.  Talk about inhumane. Instead of being served properly by a waiter, one is forced to order through a window and eat either in a car or on some uncomfortable plastic seat (made that way because it can be hosed off). The “beef” in the burgers or tacos is suspect. We don’t know which parts of the animal it comes from (and would we eat it if we knew?). Much like cattle feedlots, the fast-food industry fattens us on food not meant for human consumption. The “burgers” served must be cooked medium-well to well because of the threat of foodborne illness (which in this case is all too real).

A proper hamburger is made from beef parts you can name, such as sirloin or chuck steak, and without fear of mad cow disease. The properly prepared hamburger is served medium-rare, and the meat is handled safely so there is no fear of Escherichia coli. This hamburger would provide the perfect Maillard crust, with a juicy interior that wants to run down your chin. This burger would never need to be adulterated with ketchup.

As one learns about the burger, there is often born a desire to learn more about the meat.

The first stage for the burger cook is to discover that they want to use their grill. It is our primitive roots – fire, meat. The basics. Taken back to early man.


The Evolution of Griller and Burger:

Griller Australopithecus (The Primitive Griller)

The first step for people and burgers is simple. People decide they wish to cook burgers for their friends on their new outdoor grill. Simple enough. They go to a grocery store and buy the premade hamburger patties.

Griller Australopithecus discovers several important things about grilling and burgers:

(a)  If you use a spatula and press down on the burger, you get a lot of flames from the grill. The juice flows out and the burgers become dry.

(b)  You have to flip the patty on the grill several times because you cannot leave it on one side too long; otherwise you have a charred outside and a raw inside. Griller Australopithecus eventually learns the ideal time is 2 minutes on one side, then flip.

Griller Australopithecus is not yet thinking about taste or texture—only a burger similar to that made at many restaurants. Still, it is nicer than what can be found at a fast-food joint. But then Griller Australopithecus decides to make a patty from hamburger meat. Now the evolution takes off.

Griller Erectus (The Discovery Griller)

Having learned to do the proper flip and not overcook the burger, our griller is feeling a bit better with grilling skills. So the next thought of Griller Erectus is to make the burger a bit more interesting. Griller Erectus walks out of the prepared patty section and into the hamburger meat section of the local grocery.

Griller Erectus discovers there are a lot of hamburger meats to choose from, all having different tastes. Experiments with lean burgers are less flavorful, plus the meat tends to fall apart. The community of Griller Erectus soon learns about the binding agents that keep burgers together on a grill, particularly those without enough fat.

Learning about seasoning, binding agents, different meats. Going from the simple caveman, to one thinking about food

Griller Erectus is responsible in burger history for discovering:

(a) The best size of a burger patty is about ¾ inch thick by 4 inches wide.
(b) Most burger meats do better with some binding agents.

Griller Erectus finds that a few breadcrumbs, maybe an egg, and perhaps some seasonings make an even better burger. Griller Erectus thinks he is developing his own recipe for meat.

Griller Erectus is happy. He can purchase hamburger meat; he has a proprietary binding recipe that adds flavor; he has learned how to flip properly; and he tops off his newly polished skills by making a small indent in the middle of the burger.

Griller Cro-Magnon

Flush with confidence and grilling skills, Griller Cro-Magnon hears that one can cook a burger medium-rare, but he remains worried about bacteria and begins to adventure into science. (I know. We don’t call them Cro-Magnon anymore, we now call them early modern humans.)

Now discovering bacteria because the best burger is medium rare – the griller has evolved again

Griller Cro-Magnon discovers there are other places to find burger meat than the supermarket. He also starts to learn about modern bacteriology. It is the natural selection for taste that forces this evolutionary step. The best-tasting meat has a warm red center, is juicy, and doesn’t rely on condiments or binders to allow it to easily go down the throat.

Reasons not to buy ground beef from the supermarket:


(1) Most ground beef is processed at a factory. One has no idea what is in it. It could easily contain meat from dozens of animals.

 (2) The “healthy” lean ground meat isn’t as lean as one would think. For ground beef, a package that is labeled as 90 percent lean/10 percent fat still contains more than 10 grams of fat per 4 ounces.

(3) Most foodborne illness that comes from ground beef turns out to be factory ground beef (you know, when they recall tons and tons of ground beef products). When the meat is processed, if there is cross-contamination, tons of ground beef becomes perfect growing conditions for bacteria.

Griller Cro-Magnon discovers butchers and learns that they grind meat on the premises. From this butcher, Griller Cro-Magnon learns the cuts of the meat and how they mix to make a better-tasting burger. The butcher provides Griller Cro-Magnon with a reliable source of beef with minimal risk of contamination. Griller Cro-Magnon, with the butcher’s help, begins to experiment with different cuts of beef for the burger. Griller Cro-Magnon breaks out of sub-Saharan Desert burgers and produces beef burgers that are medium-rare—with great flavor.

TIP: Balance is the key to a good burger. Round, sirloin, and chuck in combination make terrific burgers.

The Meat Bug:

You may have heard about E. coli 0157—the bug that contaminates the guts of beef and can cause bloody diarrhea, kidney failure, and even death in humans. The first time this bug was found was in beef in 1982. The cattle are immune to this bug, but humans are not. In fact, more than 2,000 hospitalizations a year can be attributed to this bad bug. Beef isn’t the only source of this malady. Other notable culprits are unpasteurized milk, juice, and cider, as well as fruits and vegetables. This is just another reason to wash those vegetables before using them

Griller Modernus


Griller Modernus had a renaissance in science and the art of grilling. Griller Modernus decides to grind his own meat. This isn’t difficult. Most modern mixers have an attachment that will allow this. This means more kitchen tools—and Griller Modernus loves kitchen tools. Nothing like owning a kitchen tool that could deglove a finger (Griller Modernus has great knife skills already). Some Grillers Modernus use a food processor. But having a single tool for grinding is what Griller Modernus loves.

The modern griller- top of evolution. Does that guy look familiar?

Griller Modernus discovers that grinding the meat from whole cuts, which is the safest and tastiest method, results in the ideal burger.

This elevates Griller Modernus to the highest evolutionary level among the grilling village.

Sirloin and chuck provide a particularly good combination.

To Grind or Process:


Boil water in a pot large enough to hold the chunks of meat. Put the meat in the water for 1 minute (not longer), then remove and pat dry. This will kill the surface bacteria without overcooking the meat. Pat the meat dry and cut into 1-inch cubes. Place into a plastic bag, and then place that immediately into an ice bath. You want the meat cold for the processor or grinder because cold works better for grinding the meat and inhibits bacteria growth. And you want to avoid heat so you are not prematurely cooking the burger.


Having a clean meat grinder or food processor is a necessity. For a food processor, use the coarsest cutting plates you have (although for a grinder, larger than ¼-inch cubes is not necessary). In the food processor, you want to pulse the meat for 1 to 2 seconds. Do this 10 to 15 times. Once the meat is ground, place it into the bowl, and get the next cut and do the same.


Back to the burger:


Now that your meat is ground, mixed, and ready to go, it is time to add the spices and binding agents to the burger. Keep the ground beef in the refrigerator. You want to keep this meat cold. You may want to add something to the burger that will help keep it together (binding agents) as well as spice it up. For this, use bread crumbs (the gluten from the wheat is a great binding agent). If you do not like gluten, then by all means, do not do this.


Binding agent ingredients:


For every pound of meat, use ½ cup finely ground breadcrumbs, 1 egg, and ¼ cup chicken stock. Mix this all by hand into your meat. This is just a binding agent; there is some flavor, but we have not added salt. Note that many chefs use just meat for this and no binding ingredients.


Putting burgers together is a bit like playing patty-cake. Some parents love playing this with their kids. Little do they know that they are teaching their children how to make the perfect patty for burgers. To keep the burgers from getting too clumpy as you form them, put a touch of olive oil on your hands. The burger should be ¾ inch thick and 4 inches in diameter. No need to carry a ruler to the cooking station (so you are not a complete geek). Your pointer finger, from middle knuckle to end knuckle, is about 1 inch. (Really. Measure it.) When you have made your patties, press your thumb gently in the middle (you want to make a small imprint no deeper than ¼ inch).

Cooking the burger:


As with all cooking, the grill should be already hot. You can cook the burger inside on the stovetop or outside on the grill.

For the stovetop burger, think cast iron. You want your frying pan or your griddle to be on a medium-high heat for 3 minutes. Once the pan is hot add some grapeseed oil. Place the burgers on the pan so they have at least 2 inches between them. Cook 4 minutes per side. Take them off for at least 2 minutes before serving (to rest the meat).

For the outdoor grill, test the heat by seeing how long you can keep your hand close to the grid; if you can count to 10 before you need to move your hand, that’s perfect. Since grill heat is less predictable, you might want to use a meat thermometer. You want your burgers around 135°F when you take them off. They will continue to cook. The process is simple: Flip the burger every 2 minutes. They will only need two or three flips.

Never squish the burger with a spatula or other utensil when the burger is on the heat.

How about them buns: Lightly toasted buns are great. Buns on the grill take only 1 to 2 minutes.


You want cheese:

Once the burger and the bun are done (notice the bun grill time allowed the burger to rest; we are not all crazy here), put the cheese on the top of the bun and put a bit of mayonnaise (thin layer) on the bottom of the bun. Place the top bun on its head with the cheese, put the meat on the cheese, and put the bottom bun on top of the meat. After 2 minutes, flip and you are ready to serve.


Burger without a bun

Calories 375, Fat 19 g, Protein 29 g, Carbohydrate 20 g, Fiber 1 g

For one slice of cheddar cheese add:

Calories 113, Fat 9.3 g, Protein 7 g, Carbohydrate 0.4 g, Fiber 0 g

For a typical hamburger bun add:

Calories 84, Fat 2 g, Protein 2.4 g, Carbohydrate 14.1 g, Fiber 0.8 g


MYTH: Flame-ups on your grill make the burger better.

Flame-ups are actually hazardous to your health! Do not tolerate flame-ups. Broiled charcoal deposits toxic chemicals on the burger that can cause cancer. Plus they taste bad. If the dripping fat is causing a flare-up on your grill, move the burger


This was taken from our new book- which hopefully will be here in Spring 2013.  Hope you enjoy the content. Oh the book:

JUST EAT! Recipes from a surgeon Shattering myths about food from a weight loss doctor that knows your body inside and out


As always: illustrations from my good friend: Jim Hunt