Give–‘Em-Hell-Harry Burger

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Give–‘Em-Hell-Harry Burger

“I never did give them hell. I just told the truth, and they thought it was hell.”
-Harry S. Truman, Independence, Missouri

I grew up in Missouri in the Forties and Fifties. I remember cold winters, hot summers, and my grandmother’s hamburgers. Sizzling, fresh, Midwest beef patties fried in butter.
My grandmother didn’t have much use for the store-bought, packaged ground beef. And since butchers were worthless cheats, she ground her own. Sometimes I ground it.

I don’t recall exactly what spices she added to the hamburger. Salt and pepper, for sure. And onion. I do remember she’d raise an eyebrow when I reached for the mustard, or even suggested adding lettuce and tomato. “You want a salad, I’ll fix you a salad. Leave the burger alone,” she said.

She was right. If you want the best tasting hamburgers, you have to grind the meat yourself. Ah, yes, I remember those thick, succulent, juicy hamburgers. Yes, very clearly, now. I remember the whole family gathered…eating over the kitchen sink. They were that juicy.

“When I was younger, I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not.”
-Mark Twain, Hannibal, Missouri

This is my grilled version of that buttery beauty.


36 ounces boneless chuck roast
4 tablespoons finely minced onion (juice and all)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
6 sourdough English muffins

Tarragon Butter
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
8 teaspoons finely chopped fresh tarragon leaves
8 teaspoons minced shallot
3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoons salt


Cut the meat into 1 1/2 inch cubes. Wash all pieces of the food processor well with hot, soapy water and rinse well with boiling water. Chill the meat, processor blade and bowl in the freezer for 30 minutes before grinding.

While the meat is chilling, prepare the tarragon butter. In a bowl, blend all ingredients together well with a fork. Set aside.

In four separate batches, pulse the chuck in a food processor about 9-10 times. Combine batches into large bowl. Sprinkle with the minced onion, salt, and pepper. Mix well, handling the meat as little as possible. Divide the mixture into 6 equal portions and form the portions into 4 1/2 inch patties, 3/4 inch thick. With your thumb, make a depression in the middle of the patty an inch or two across to avoid a swollen patty. Refrigerate the patties until you are ready to cook.

Preheat gas grill on medium heat. Take patties out of refrigerator.

Lightly dip a wad of paper towels in vegetable oil; holding wad with tongs, wipe cooking grate. At this time place the muffins on the grill, rotating buns as necessary to toast. You want them to cool before spreading them with the tarragon butter. Set aside. Place the patties on the rack, cover, and cook, turning once. For medium-rare burgers, cook the patties for 4 minutes on each side. For medium burgers, cook the patties for 5 minutes on each side.

To assemble the burgers, spread a tablespoon each of tarragon butter on the top and on the bottom muffin, place the patty on the bottom muffin, add the top muffin and serve.
That’s it.
The burger stops here.