Summer, summer, summertime! Time to sit back and unwind. There’s something about the beat of this DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince song that just makes me want to drive 20 mph down a beachfront highway with the top down in a convertible, enjoying the prototypical summer air. All I need is to get my hands on a convertible, and find a beachfront highway with a very low speed limit. There’s nothing like a bunch of people honking behind you to kill the vibe. At least I already own this song on iTunes, so I’d say I’m pretty close to my goal.
Puerto Rico has plenty of beachfront roads, so this goal is much more attainable there. Trust me, that is on my to-do list next time I’m back home. Anyway, it’s summer, and summer means grilling. Grilling means burgers, and what better time for burgers than 4th of July weekend?
When I moved to North Carolina in the heart of summer, I was awakened by the absolute love for burning charcoal and the smell of burgers and franks on the grill, which always seems to spark up nostalgia. I mean, back home we had a grill, but some… um… unfortunate events surrounding hurricane season laid it to rest eternally. So… more often than not we brought our burgers indoors. Indoors or outdoors, however we made them, we put some sabor into them that put them on a complete other level from simple salt and pepper. I’m sorry friends, salt and pepper is good and all, but it’s not enough for my tastebuds. My friends, it’s time for a little somethin’ to break the monotony. I took a page from my mom’s book on flavoring meat in general, and her techniques for always making things flavor-mazing.
Presenting the Boricua Burger! I’ve already expressed the Puerto Rican love for pork, so our recipe will use a 75/25 ratio of ground beef to ground pork. The pork should not contribute too much in terms of texture or fat content, but can cut cost and actually be friendlier to picking up seasoning. So, we use a 80/20 ground beef and 80/20 ground pork for the optimum juiciness and good balance of beefy flavor with pork undertones. You can opt for a lower fat content, but it will likely lead to a dry burger, and nobody likes that! We’re gonna make some hand-crafted burgers with tons and tons of flavor, and you can choose to make it outside on the grill, or inside on a griddle or pan fry… I don’t discriminate when it comes to food… well, unless it’s a flavor vs. no flavor situation.
First things first, wash your hands, because they’re about to get really intimate with your burgers. Vamo’ a Cocinar!
We start off with 1 pound of our beef/pork blend in a large bowl. Mix in one teaspoon of chicken bouillon (we use a chicken bouillon that comes in paste form, but you can use a bouillon cube as long as you dissolve it in water according to the packaging), 2 tablespoons of sofrito, 1 tablespoon of tomato paste, 1 tablespoon of sazón, and adding salt and pepper to taste. See, it doesn’t take much to add sabor to your dish, and oh the difference it can make!
We mix all our ingredients together with our hands, pressing it all together until well combined. Essentially, give me a soft subtle mix. Note that it’s almost impossible to cover every millimeter of meat with seasoning. Don’t worry if it looks slightly uneven, the flavor will blend well when it’s cooking. That’s what that extra fat is for!
Now shape your burgers into 1/3 pound patties, preferably thicker than they are wide. This is so the meat can cook slower throughout. This can make it easier to cook burgers to medium temperature (160°F internal temperature) which retains maximum juiciness. However, I know temperature is a matter of preference. So, if you want to go medium well (165°F) or well-done (170°F), I won’t judge you… not much, at least. I’m just of the thought that if ain’t broke then don’t try to fix it.
Once they’re shaped and the griddle is hot, place your burger on it to get a fantastic sizzle going. If using a griddle or pan, you can opt to add annatto oil to prevent sticking and add more color. Cook it on this side until you can see it browning about 1/4 of the way through. Flip the burger (turn it upside down), and cook it until it cooks 1/3 of the way through.
Flip your burger back over to finish cooking on the other side. That added cooking makes this the perfect opportunity to add cheese to the burger. We use Colby Jack cheese, as it’s more reminiscent of the cheese of choice in Puerto Rico, queso de papa. Queso de papa literally means “potato cheese” but it’s a fact it contains exactly zero potatoes. The exact cheese is Colby, but I love the prettiness of the Colby Jack’s marbling, and the ease of finding it at the local deli.
Want a faster, tighter cheese melt? Spritz the area around the burger with water, and immediately cover the burger with an aluminum (or any heat resistant material) bowl. This will create steam under the bowl to melt the cheese right onto the burger. Isn’t that beautiful?
Once the cheese melts, check that the burger reaches your preferred temperature! Once done, dress your burger with your favorite condiments and veggies. If you love pork as much as I do, add some bacon, place it in a hearty bun, and enjoy!
Have it with a good beer or summer spritzer and enjoy your summer, summer, summertime. Have a happy and safe 4th of July, and have an awesome time celebrating with your loved ones.
- 3/4 lb ground beef (preferably 80/20)
- 1/4 lb ground pork (preferably 80/20)
- 3 tbsp sofrito
- 1 tbsp sazón
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tsp chicken bouillon
- (optional) 1 slice of Colby Jack cheese.
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the griddle/grill to 400°F
- Mix all the ingredients in a bowl
- Shape the burgers into 1/3 lb patties, thicker than they are wide
- (optional) Grease the griddle with annatto oil
- Cook the patties until they are cooked 1/4 of the way through (cooked = grayish, uncooked = reddish). Flip the burger.
- Cook the patty until cooked 1/3 of the way through. Flip the burger
- (optional) Add cheese and cover with heat-resistant bowl. Spritz with water to create steam under bowl.
- Cook the burger for 2-3 minutes, and remove from heat.
- Let the burger rest for 3-5 minutes before adding condiments and placing in bun.