Steaming a burger? Why would anyone do this? It’s crazy, right? Well… possibly when done incorrectly. One of the best burgers I’ve ever eaten in Boston is from Sunset Bar and Grill in Allston where they have over 100 beers on tap. That was the first time I’d ever had a beer steamed burger. The meat didn’t have grill marks on the outside, which is a key part of burgers for many people, but it was amazingly tender and flavorful. I like cheese on my burger and the cheese melts perfectly when using a steamer. Another restaurant made famous for its steamed burgers is Ted’s Restaurant in Connecticut where they’ve been making steamed burgers for over 50 years using a very unique process. I’ve haven’t been there yet, but it’s one of the few reasons I would like to visit Connecticut again.
In an effort to re-create this masterpiece, I tried beer steaming a burger when I was in law school. I had two reasons for trying this out. The first reason was obviously a devoted pursuit of delicious flavor. The second reason is that anyone who has ever lived in an apartment with poor ventilation knows that grilling, frying, or charring anything means days of that smell lingering. I wanted a burger, but I didn’t want to pan fry one, which usually results in tough meat and a stinky apartment disaster. Unfortunately, I over-steamed the burger the first time with pure beer in a makeshift steamer of my own aluminum foil design, so the meat came out way too overcooked. The apartment did not, however, stink at all. One other plus that seems like a con at first glance is that a lot of the calorie-laden, but flavor packed fat cooks out of the meat. That means a less fatty burger, but the steaming means that the meat remains juicy (as long as you don’t overcook).
As a second try, I used a rice cooker with a steamer attachment and used water “flavored” with bourbon (or beer, but you can also just use water). I also shortened the cooking time after some trial and error. The result was a tender burger with a lot of meat flavor and, once again, perfectly melted cheese. If you can get past the concept of a burger without grill marks, then you won’t be disappointed by this indoor-friendly burger.
Makes one Hamburger/Cheeseburger with 280 or 360 calories respectively.
- 1/4 pound (or 4 oz.) of 90/10 ground beef per patty (about 200 cal.)
Note: I like to use lean beef for this burger because a lot of the excess fat cooks out anyway. Feel free to use fattier ground meat though if you’re skeptical about lean hamburger.
- Salt and pepper or other seasonings of choice like Adobo or onion powder or garlic powder, etc.
- Hamburger Bun (if using a light burger bun, it’s about 80 cal.)
- About 4 cups of water
- Optional: A slice of American, Cheddar, Swiss or any other cheese (about 80 cal.)
- Optional: Any other burger toppings you might want like ketchup, mustard, BBQ sauce, diced/caramelized onions, pickles, lettuce, sauteed mushrooms, etc.
- Optional: 3 or 4 ounces of cheap bourbon or half a light beer.
- Steamer. It can be a rice cooker with steamer attachment or a pot steamer system, or even just a jury rigged aluminum foil with small holes in it suspended over a pot of water with a lid.
- 14 oz. Ramekin or other wide shallow container. You can try using large, washed out, tuna cans or create a wide, shallow bowl out of aluminum foil (I’ve done this before and it works like a charm).
- Toaster/Toaster oven/buttered skillet if you want to toast your hamburger bun.
- A fluid ounce measurement tool or jigger
- Purchase 1/4 pound (4 oz.) fresh burger pattys or form your own pattys from a pound of ground beef.
- Season the meat however you would like. At a bare minimum season it with a little salt and pepper. For simplicity, I just used some Adobo Light Seasoning and mashed it into the patty I formed. Use your imagination because steaming a burger is also great for making stuffed burgers with ingredients on the inside.
- Add the water and turn on your steamer so that the water is at a low boil. At this point add in the bourbon or beer. This doesn’t affect the flavor hugely, but it does give the meat a nice aroma.
- Put the meat into the ramekin so that it touches the edges. Make it fit properly, but don’t push down too hard or you’ll toughen up the meat.
- Place the meat-filled ramekin into the steamer and quickly cover it with the lid.
- Steam the meat for 6 minutes for medium-rare, 8 minutes for medium, and 10 minutes for well done. Those cooking times may vary per steamer.
- While the burger steams, toast your hamburger bun if you want. I find that the toasting helps minimize soggy burger buns.
- One minute before your burger is ready, add the cheese to the top of the burger and then cover the steamer with the lid again. Let the cheese melt, but be careful because if you leave the burger in there too long, the cheese will just liquify and slide off the burger.
- Remove the burger once the cheese has melted and place it on hamburger bun immediately.
- Top your burger with whatever toppings you want and enjoy!