There’s a restaurant called “Umami Burger” that bills itself as having crafted the ultimate umami flavor, delivered in hamburger form. i kinda held off going there for a while, not because i don’t appreciate the fine umami flavor, but mostly because it was sorta trendy and i’m not a fan of that. Time passes, as do crowds, and finally we decided to visit (this may have been spurred on by Anne Marie’s hangover, but that’s a different story).
Suffice to say, i wasn’t really impressed. It was a pretty good burger, presented stylishly and i will take away one good idea. Still, i’m a fan of my own.
First off, what the heck is “Umami“? In short, it’s what makes meat taste good. It’s also found in things like soy, tuna, Parmesan cheese, mushrooms, and a few other sources. It’s hard to define, much like trying to explain what “sweet” or “salty” tastes like, other than your tongue is hardwired to taste it, and some are more wired than others. (i’m one of those types.) Umami can be brought out generally by dry cooking methods that also reduce the fat content. Generally, the leaner something is, the more Umami it has. This kinda goes against a large portion of humanity which wants butter and fat, but hey, they can have their addiction if they’ll let me have mine.
Reasonably long time readers probably know my recipe. i’ve actually tweaked it a tad over the years, so here’s a much more detailed take:
JR’s Burger (Kyūkyoku no umami style)
(makes 4 burgers)
- 1 lb(.5kg) 80+/20- course ground chuck
You want a grind where you can distinguish bits of meat. Honestly the courser the better. You can also use leaner 90/10, but you’ll definitely need to blend in mushrooms.
- 1/4 lb(.1kg) brown crimini mushrooms (4 large or 6 small)
These are the baby versions of portobellos. While it’s possible to use whites, you won’t get quite the same hit. You can also use something fancier, but you’re putting it on a burger so you’re kinda wasting the taste of the mushroom. Crimini are a good balance between flavor and not going broke.
- 1 yellow onion
i find that yellows have more sugar in them when they cook down. Look for one about the size of a baseball. You won’t need a ton of onion here, and are using it mostly to flavor the mushrooms (although they go very, very well with the finished burger)
- soy sauce
Yeah, don’t use Kikoman here, unless it’s all you can find. i prefer going to the Asian markets and trying various types and have found a few that are fantastic. You want to look at the ingredients and go more for the ones that don’t have wheat in them. If you can find one that’s also flavored with mushrooms, get that.
- tumeric (optional)
You’ll only need a pinch for this. Tumeric can be a very powerful flavor, and can taste “chalky” if you add too much, in smaller portions, though, it’s pure umami.
- sourdough rolls
Feel free to use rye if that’s better, or pumpernickle if you can find it, or really anything other than a sweet, potato roll. (Really, you’re building something to hit the umami button, why are you trying to dilute it?)
Now that you’ve got your ingredients, start by getting a large bowl and washing your hands. You’re going to be getting wrist deep in beef, no reason to bring anything unsavory to the party. Now take the ground beef out of the fridge and putting it on the counter (wrapped).
You want it to warm up.
No, it’s not going to suddenly go bad if it reaches 50°F (10°C). (i mean, it would if you left it there over a warm summer night, but you’ll get to it in an hour or so. For now, just let it loosen up.)
Right, so where were we? Oh, right… slice up your onion, then brown it in a skillet over low to medium heat. i’d recommend sauteing them in olive oil, until they are light brown and practically falling apart. This Will Take Time! Do Not Rush Things! Feel free to use the time to wash and slice the Mushrooms.
Once the mushrooms are done, put them in a small bowl and cover with foil so they stay warm.
In the same pan, add the mushrooms and saute them over the same low to mid-heat. You should cover them at first, and listen to when the sizzle becomes less pronounced. Lift the lid and see how much liquid they produced. Feel free to deglaze the pan using that liquid if you like. In any case, you’re looking to give the mushrooms a golden brown sides to them.
Once they’re done, set them into their own bowl as well. Fire the grill up and now you can turn to the meat.
Mix in the soy (start with 1tsp, adjust later if desired) and optional tumeric (1/4 tsp at most), and mushrooms. You can layer the mushrooms on top later if you’d prefer, but i like them in the meat instead of squirting out of the bun. Mix well, then form into equally sized balls. Flatten into patties (with the center thinner than the edges).
Once the grill hits about 350°F (175°C), cook the burgers. (5 minutes, turn, 5 minutes, flip, 5 minutes turn, 5 minutes serve) i’m also a fan of using a cast iron fajita pan to griddle the burgers. Note that no oil, butter or other bits of grease are required (although if you’re using a brand new grill, you may want to add a bit of spray cooking oil).
i serve on lightly toasted rolls with dill pickle and topped with some of the cooked onions and brown mustard. Your tastes are different, so feel free to use whatever, but i will not look kindly upon your use of ketchup.
i’ll also note that there’s a lot of room for experimentation here. That’s a good thing. Make yours better.
And with that, i’ve just saved you $40 (191,534 Dogecoin).