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Recipes: The secret to a perfect burger

Christopher Kimball discovers that a light touch is key to a moist and juicy patty.

Garlic-Rosemary Burgers With Taleggio Sauce
Brian Samuels
Garlic-rosemary burgers with taleggio sauce .

These recipes are part of a new partnership between Christopher Kimball and the cooks at Milk Street and the Globe Magazine’s Cooking column.

Building a better burger isn’t difficult — it just requires rethinking how the patty is flavored. We give a too-often too-dry turkey burger a makeover with a flavorful panade — a blend of bread crumbs, mayonnaise, and herbs that traps moisture in the meat. We use smoked paprika, cumin, and black pepper to enliven our spicy Cuban burger — and in the process discover how to keep the ground beef from becoming dense and compacted.

And we create the best cheeseburger you’ve ever had with an easy Taleggio sauce.

Garlic-Rosemary Burgers With Taleggio Sauce

Makes 4 servings

These deeply savory burgers are inspired by a recipe by Ignacio Mattos, chef of Estela in New York and author of a book by the same name. Mattos uses fish sauce as a seasoning for steak, but we opted for similarly salty and umami-rich Worcestershire sauce. We blend it with rosemary and garlic to create our basting mixture. These seasonings, combined with a simple Taleggio cheese sauce, make these burgers richer, more elegant, and far more flavorful than your average cheeseburger. We recommend brioche buns or Kaiser rolls, which hold up better than standard hamburger buns. As for toppings, we like to keep it simple: sliced tomato or pickled red onions to balance the burgers’ richness.

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Don’t put the cheese sauce directly onto the cooked patties, because it will slide off. A better approach is to spoon the sauce onto the cut sides of each bun and allow the bread to absorb it.

½      cup heavy cream

8        ounces Taleggio cheese, rind removed, cut into ½-inch chunks

¼      cup Worcestershire sauce

4        medium garlic cloves, finely grated

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2½   tablespoons fresh rosemary, minced

1½    pounds 85 percent lean ground beef

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

1         tablespoon grape-seed or other neutral oil

Taleggio cheese sauce (directions below)

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4        buns, split and toasted

In a small saucepan over medium, heat the cream until just simmering. Stir in the cheese, cover, and remove from the heat. Let stand until the cheese is softened and partially melted, about 20 minutes, quickly stirring once halfway through. Set aside.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together the Worcestershire sauce, garlic, and rosemary. In a medium bowl, combine the beef with 1 tablespoon of the Worcestershire mixture and ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper, then mix gently until the seasonings are evenly incorporated. Divide the meat into 4 portions and shape each into a patty about 4½ inches in diameter and about ½-inch thick.

In a 12-inch cast-iron or other heavy skillet over medium-high, heat the oil until lightly smoking. Add the patties and cook for 3 minutes, spooning 1 teaspoon of the Worcestershire mixture over each. Using a wide metal spatula, flip the patties and continue to cook for another 3 minutes, again spooning 1 teaspoon of the sauce onto each. Continue to flip and cook, brushing with the remaining sauce mixture, until the patties are well browned on both sides and the centers reach 125 degrees for medium-rare or 130 degrees for medium, another 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let rest for 5 minutes.

While the burgers rest, set a fine-mesh strainer over a medium bowl. Stir the cream and cheese mixture thoroughly, then pour it into the strainer and force through with a silicone spatula; the sauce should be smooth and creamy after straining. Stir in ¼ teaspoon pepper.

Spoon about 1 tablespoon of cheese sauce onto the cut sides of both halves of each bun. Set each burger on a bun and serve with the remaining cheese sauce on the side.

 

Cuban-Spiced Burgers

Makes 4 servings

Cuban-spiced burgers.
Connie Miller of CB Creatives
Cuban-spiced burgers.

Partially freezing the ground beef before adding the spices helps prevent the meat from becoming compacted during mixing and shaping — a common problem with preground beef. Even with chilling, it’s important to use a light touch when handling the beef. This recipe can easily be doubled.

For a quick and tangy topping, try our 3-minute Spicy Sauce (recipe follows).

1½    pounds 85 percent lean ground beef

2        teaspoons Spanish smoked paprika

2        teaspoons ground cumin

1¼    teaspoons kosher salt

½      teaspoon ground black pepper

1         tablespoon grape-seed or other neutral oil

4        burger buns, toasted

Line a baking sheet with kitchen parchment. Set the beef on the sheet, then use two forks to gently spread the meat. In a small bowl, combine the paprika, cumin, salt, and pepper. Sprinkle over the beef. Freeze until the meat is very cold and beginning to firm up at the edges, about 20 minutes.

Use a rubber spatula to gently fold the spice mixture into the beef without compacting it; it’s fine if the spices are not completely blended. If the beef is still partially frozen, let stand 10 to 15 minutes until slightly softened. Divide the beef into 4 even portions. Shape each into a 4-inch patty about ½-inch thick.

In a large skillet over medium-high, heat the oil until smoking. Add the patties and cook until well browned, about 5 minutes; flip and continue to cook until the center is 125 degrees for medium-rare or 130 degrees for medium, another 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let rest for 5 minutes. Set each burger on a bun and top as desired.

Spicy Sauce

Makes about 11/3  cups

1         cup mayonnaise

4        tablespoons Cholula Hot Sauce

2        tablespoons yellow mustard

¼      teaspoon cayenne pepper

In a medium bowl, whisk all ingredients until smooth. Cover and refrigerate for up to a week.

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Parmesan and Herb Turkey Burgers

Makes 4 servings

Parmesan and Herb Turkey Burgers
Connie Miller of CB Creatives
Parmesan and herb turkey burgers.

We prefer the flavor and texture of these burgers when made with ground dark meat turkey, but if you prefer, ground breast meat works, too. You can skip the buns and serve the burgers sandwiched between bibb or Boston lettuce leaves spread with the herbed mayonnaise.

Don’t cook the burgers without first refrigerating them for 15 minutes; chilling helps the patties hold together during cooking.

¾      cup panko bread crumbs

10     tablespoons mayonnaise, divided

½      cup chopped fresh mint, divided

½      cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided

6        scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts reserved separately

Kosher salt and ground white pepper

1         pound ground dark meat turkey

1         cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated (2 ounces)

3        tablespoons lime juice

1         tablespoon grape-seed or other neutral oil

4        hamburger buns, toasted

Line a plate with kitchen parchment and mist with cooking spray. In a food processor, combine the panko, 5 tablespoons mayonnaise, ¼ cup each mint and cilantro, the scallion whites, and 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Process until smooth, about 1 minute. Transfer to a large bowl, then add the turkey, ¼ cup water, and the cheese. Mix with your hands, form into four ½-inch-thick patties, then set on the prepared plate and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together the remaining 5 tablespoons mayonnaise, the remaining ¼ cup each mint and cilantro, the scallion greens, lime juice, and ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Set aside.

In a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high, heat the oil until barely smoking. Add the patties, reduce heat to medium and cook until well browned on the bottoms, about 5 minutes. Flip and cook until the second sides are well browned and the centers reach 165 degrees. Transfer to a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet and let rest for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, spread the cut sides of each bun with some of the mayonnaise mixture. Sandwich the burgers in the buns and serve with any remaining mayonnaise on the side.

Christopher Kimball is the founder of Milk Street, home to a magazine, school, and radio and television shows. Globe readers get 12 weeks of complete digital access, plus two issues of Milk Street print magazine, for just $1. Go to 177milkstreet.com/globe. Send comments to magazine@globe.com

Correction: This article has been updated to correct the name of the photographer who took the picture of the garlic-rosemary burger. Brian Samuels took that photo.