Introduction: Stuffed Burgers
There are many advantages to making a stuffed burger instead of the traditional patty burger. First of all, a good burger is made over high heat so putting your spices on the inside of a burger protects them from burning. Second, many soft cheeses have great flavor to match with your burger however they often tend to be too runny when melted on top. Finally seasoning, salt is not going to burn on the outside of your burger but you may want it on the inside anyways because on the outside it will dry out your burger; salt breaks down cell walls and allows water to exit the cell more easily, if this process happens on the inside of the burger then you can grill a juicier burger.
Step 1: Thawing
Fresh ground beef is the best but a lot of us have to buy in bulk and freeze. If you can get some nice fresh beef that would be nice, but if you are working with frozen beef you are going to want to treat it correctly to ensure the best quality.
To Freeze: Seal your beef in a water tight container with as little air as possible. Either sealable freezer bags or a plastic container with a tight lid would work well. If you use a container, try to fill it as much as possible so there will be no air. Bags of course should be easy to seal with very little air.
Never use a warm method to thaw meat. Warm/Hot water = BAD. Microwave = BAD. On the counter overnight = Poor.
Option 1: Thaw over night in the refrigerator. This is a slow process but is the best way to thaw... anything that needs to be thawed, not just ground beef.
Option 2: Place a sealed bag/container of meat in a bowl of COLD water and put the bowl in your sink with a slow trickle of COLD water dripping into the bowl so it overflows into your sink. This will thaw a pound of beef in under 15 minutes, and has results about the same as Option 1. I think this works because of convection: currents of water at different temperatures circulating in the bowl thaw the meat without having to risk a change in texture or quality.
Step 2: Miseenplace
A place for everything and everything in its place. A note on stuffing options: salt and pepper are the only two I would use every time without exception, and I would only pick a couple of additional ingredients after that as not to confuse my palate with a flavor muddled in its own complexities.
Knife, or Pizza cutter.
Cheese (Any cheese no matter how runny it is, in the pictures I am using goat cheese)
Liquid Smoke (3 drops per burger would be a lot)
Fresh or Dried Herbs
Step 3: Rolling
Cut a piece of plastic wrap to lie out on your sheet pan. This not only helps with clean up, but also is very useful in sealing your burgers.
Put 3/4 to 1 pound of ground beef on top of the plastic wrap and cover with another piece of plastic wrap (this second piece is not at all necessary like the first, it simply saves me from some cleaning)
Begin by rolling the meat length wise on the pan. You are looking to make the meat come just a few inches short of the edges of the pan. Always work the rolling pin by pushing directly away and pulling straight towards you. Don't turn or angel the pin while rolling, roll it out, turn the pan and repeat; this will help you maintain even thickness which is super important for this to work well. Continue rolling until you have an even thickness of ground beef covering the entire pan, it should be very thin.
Step 4: Season
Remove the top sheet of plastic wrap and sprinkle your spices and seasonings onto the meat evenly. Most of it can go right up to the edge of the meat, but I like to leave a good 1/2 inch unsalted around the edge. This way the burger's juices don't weaken or escape the seal I make on the edge. If you like you can carefully avoid all the places where you expect to seal your burgers.
If you are adding cheese or anything else chunky, visually divide the pan into a 2 by 4 grid, and portion your filling onto the grid. Make sure that you leave at least an inch between your mounds of filling so you have enough meat to make a seal.
Step 5: Fold Seal and Slice
This part is fun, it is like making ravioli out of meat instead of noodles. Take the edges of the plastic wrap from beneath the rolled beef and use them to fold the beef over the mounds of stuffing.
Press out any air that may be trapped in the burger and then press down gently to seal in the appropriate places. You may want to even out rough edges or use scraps to mend any places that were rolled too thinly.
Cut this into 4 equally sized burgers using your knife or pizza cutter.
IMPORTANT NOTE ON CONSISTENCY
Conformity of size is always important in cooking, but it is especially important here, once your burgers are cut, you should check that the folded side of the beef is no thicker than the other three sealed sides. Just mold it a little bit until you are satisfied.
Step 6: Grill It Up
High heat (Grill set low so it is near the coals)
2 - 3 Minutes per side
Once a burger is placed: Do not move it! Let it sear before you try to reposition. If you try to move it too soon you will likely ruin it to the extent that it cannot be saved.
Do not squish the burger with the spatula. You'll squeeze the cheese out of it like a ketchup packet, not to mention the delicious juices of the burger.
You might as well through some dogs on there too, somebody will eat them!
Step 7: Fixings
Some of my favorites:
and of course your favorite bun