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Hamburger steak, or Salisbury steak, is ground beef, which is shaped to look like a steak. It is usually served in a brown sauce or gravy with noodles or mashed potatoes. Dr J H Salisbury, an American physician who was interested in diet and nutrition, invented this steak dish in the nineteenth century. He believed that a diet low in fruit and vegetables but rich in coffee and ground meat would reduce the diarrhea problems the Civil War troops were experiencing.
The doctor was from New York so it is true that Salisbury steak originated in the north. The popularity of this dish however quickly spread to the south where meat and potatoes have always been a favorite. Salisbury steak is known as poor man's steak in the south but there is nothing poor about the flavor of this tasty dish.
Hamburger was very popular in America the 1960s when steak was expensive and families were looking for new recipes that would fit with their budgets whilst providing the great flavor and nutrition associated with red meat. A lot of people assume that burgers are easy to cook but most of us have been unfortunate enough to have a hockey puck-like burger served to us at a barbecue at some point!
The Japanese combine hamburger steak with onion, egg, spices, and breadcrumbs to make circular patties. Vacuum-packed patties have been available in Japan since the 1980s and they come with the sauce added already. These are popular in packed lunches.
In Hawaii it is not much different to the Japanese version. It consists of brown gravy and hamburger patty and normally comes with rice and a macaroni salad. Loco Moco is a kind of Hawaiian hamburger patty containing egg.
Ground beef chuck, which is about twenty percent fat, makes great hamburger steak. The heat from your hands starts to melt the fat in Salisbury steak so try to form three fourths of an inch to one inch thick patties without touching them too much unless you are using pre-formed steaks made from hamburger meat.
Do not make them too thick or the outside will burn before the inside has cooked through. Traditional Salisbury steaks are oval but you can make them round. Add sage, onions, crackers, and an egg to bind the meat together.
Cook the steaks over a hot grill with lightly oiled plates. Do not press down on them because this squeezes the juices out and makes them go dry and do not move the burgers for a few minutes. When they are browned on one side, flip them over and do the other side. It takes about two or three minutes per side to cook a Salisbury steak. If you have a meat thermometer, cook the steak until it is 160 degrees F unless you have ground your own meat in which case you can take them off the heat at 140 degrees F.
The gravy is made from butter, mushrooms, flour, water and beef bouillon and you can add a browning agent to enhance the color if you want.
You can cook it, as it is if you like with a bit of salt and pepper but you might also like to add flavors. Finely minced mushrooms, chilies, or onions give texture and flavor. Soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce are common liquids to add to Salisbury steak and you can make a steak marinade recipe with a tablespoon of liquid per pound of meat. You might also like to try concentrated beef stock or wine for blander meats. Use a spoon to stir the ingredients into the ground beef so your warm hands do not start to melt the fat, which is necessary for juiciness and flavor.
Spices add a nice flavor to hamburger steak and chili powder, garlic or onion powder, salad dressing mixes and Asian spices can all be used to add a good taste.