- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 27, 2003

For some couples, TV viewing means wrestling over the remote. If you and your significant other go through this, you know what a battle it can be. One person — remote control in hand — frantically flips back and forth between stations just in case there’s a minute of something he or she is missing, while the partner suffers from screen fatigue.

There’s a kitchen equivalent in our household that I call the spatula wars. One-half of Two’s Company can’t let a hamburger cook without poking and flattening it with the back of a spatula. By the time the meat is done, all the juices have been squeezed out. It’s as flat as a wallet just before payday and every bit as tasty.

So, I’m doing what any sane person would do, given the circumstances. I’m hiding the object of our disaccord. I’m confiscating all the spatulas until we can agree to leave a hamburger alone while it cooks.

I really do understand the desire to do something and sympathize. The hamburger is sizzling on the grill with such a tempting aroma you want it to be done sooner — immediately, in fact.

Don’t give in to the urge. Mashing a hamburger so it’s thinner does speed up the cooking. Unfortunately, the prodding also toughens the meat.

Perhaps you or your partner flatten hamburger patties because you’re concerned that you won’t cook ground beef thoroughly enough to kill any harmful bacteria.

That’s a worthwhile goal you can better achieve using a meat thermometer. When the hamburger juices run clear and the meat is well browned, check the temperature. Insert an instant-read meat thermometer almost horizontally into the meat patty so the thermometer reaches the center of the meat but doesn’t touch the grill or pan (if the burger is cooking on the stove). When the thermometer reaches 160 degrees, it’s ready and you can bring out the spatula and serve a fat, juicy hamburger for your feast.

I have no advice for dealing with the TV remote.

Hamburgers with Provencal relish

10 ounces ground beef

cup finely minced onion or shallot, optional

teaspoon salt

teaspoon pepper

2 hamburger buns

Provencal relish (recipe follows)

In a bowl, combine ground beef, onion, if using, salt and pepper. Gently mix to combine ingredients. Form into 2 patties, each slightly less than 1-inch thick. Place burgers on a preheated grill. Cook over ash-covered coals about 5 minutes per side or until a meat thermometer inserted into the center of hamburger, not touching any metal, registers 160 degrees.

Remove hamburgers from grill and arrange in buns. Either top with Provencal relish or serve relish on the side. Makes 2 servings.


2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 shallot, minced

1 garlic clove, minced

1 small celery stalk, trimmed and chopped

1 cup pitted and chopped Kalamata olives

teaspoon crushed, dried thyme

teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 teaspoons white wine vinegar

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small skillet. Add shallot, garlic and celery and saute over medium heat 5 minutes. Remove vegetables to a bowl.

Scrape out any remaining olive oil from the skillet into the bowl. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, olives, thyme, pepper and vinegar. Stir well.

Makes about 1 cup.


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