There are certain moments, certain times however, when it would be frankly rude to not knock up a couple of burgers, and one of these moments presented itself to me last week. A PR company had been in touch with me to see if I would do a review of one of their George Foreman grills, and they'd send me one if I was interested.
Now, my previous experience of George Foreman grills was they were a waste of space. I had a mini one while I was at university, and it was about as effective at cooking as putting the food in your cupped hands and breathing into them. However it gave me an excuse to do a review that involved cooking burgers, so I acquiesced and two days later my George Foreman Grill and Griddle arrived.
The unit is a combination of a lidded grill and a flat griddle, and it's huge. If you don't have much worktop space in your kitchen, this may not be for you.
I happened to have a couple of East London Steak Co. black label burgers in the freezer, along with some St John Bakery burger buns to accompany them. Throw in some Monterey Jack cheese and some ELSCo steak rub and suddenly you've got a burger party ready to be thrown.
I cranked on the grill and griddle up to their max settings (the options are imaginatively 0, 1, 2, and 3) and waited for the orange lights to go off so they were ready to start cooking.
I started with the burger under the grill, and lightly toasted the buns on the flat griddle. You can see there's probably enough room to grill up about four burgers under the lid.
The grill gets to work fast, charring in a lovely criss-cross of waffle iron-like lines into the patty, but with little to indicate how how the grill actually was, I gave the first burger about two minutes on each side, turning it every minute.
I then transferred the burger to the flat griddle, topped with cheese and covered with a cloche (ok, it's a saucepan lid) for another two minutes. This gave a total cooking time of 6 minutes.
I let the burger rest for a few minutes, then suited and booted it with the burger bun.
The result: Overcooked
So what went wrong?
Two things. One, having lost my meat thermometer months ago in a drunken barbecuing accident (please don't ask), I had no idea how hot the grill was, and by association, how well done the meat was. This was compounded by the lidded grill which cooked on both sides at once. Two, the transfer to the griddle was too late, and the extra two minutes meant I ended up with a burger cooked well, which is far from satisfactory.
OK. Lesson learned. Onto patty No. 2.
For this one, I did barely a minute on each side with the grill, and then swiftly moved to the griddle to steam the cheese.
Vigilance was rewarded as fat and juices began to ooze out on the griddle as the cheese began to melt. Bun duly toasted, I popped this bad boy together in a sesame seeded bun, accessorised with Ketchup and French's mustard, and hoovered the whole bloody lot - but not before I captured the cut-through in its full, medium rare glory.
So, the verdict? I was heartily impressed at the speed at which the George Foreman Grill and Griddle cooked this, and the lovely char-grilling lines doled out by the grill, but there were a few things that weren't quite right, including:
- You don't know what temperature you're cooking at, which makes this more trial and error. If I'd only had one burger, I'd have been mighty angry to have lost it to arbitrary heat '3'. (I was never going to have just one burger, don't worry).
- The depth of the maillard effect (that caramelisation of the meat and fat on the outside of the burger patty) just wasn't there. The non-stick surface, while great to clean, just doesn't cut it over a heavy bottomed, rough, cast iron pan.
- As one follower on Twitter pointed out 'Isn't the George Foreman's main selling point that it removes fat from whatever you cook on it?' and certainly with the first burger the fat had been drained. The second however did retaining a good reserve of fat, although it still didn't deliver on previous ELSCo burgers cooked at the bottom of my Old Mountain cast iron pan.