Homemade “Big Mac” – Including the Special Sauce!
Having a “Big Mac” was a special treat as a kid and yesterday I decided to make my own from scratch. My very first job in the “world of cooking” was at McDonald’s as a grill cook in the early 80’s when I was a Junior in High School. That was in the days before microwaving or holding trays were used for griddled meat. Everything was seared on the grill using frozen beef patties and a special press. I can remember leaning into the press while the moisture and fat vaporised from the patties after coming into contact with the hot griddle, misting into the air and on me. Leaving me to smell like “McDonald’s” as my siblings put it, when I got home from my shift. The patties made a special sound when seared right. The other sign, if it was done right was the caramelized crust of the seared side once you flipped the patty over. Never once did we press the patties after flipping. I was taught that is how you force out all the natural juices from the meat and end up with a dry burger.
Here my version of the classic jingle: “Two All-Beef Sirloin Patties, Homemade Special Sauce, Lettuce, Sharp American Cheese, Dill Pickles, Minced Onions – on Homemade Sesame Seed Buns”
Replicating the taste and texture of all the components isn’t too hard of a task. There are three items that require preparation before the cooking and assembling of the “Mac.”
First the Sesame “Club” Bun: The recipe for the bun dough needs to be soft, tender, slightly sweet, with a cake like crumb, tall enough to be sliced into 3 layers when baked, and coated with sesame seeds. Typically the shape of the bun is control by using a round baking ring. I don’t have such a form so, I baked them free form on a parchment lined baking sheet. This required I sacrificed 3 of the baked buns to become the center of the “club.” Cutting away the top and very bottom of the buns worked perfectly. Don’t worry I saved the trimmings for bread crumbs. Click here for full recipe and directions for the Sesame “Club” Bun.
Second the Secret Sauce: Now here where I searched the Internet and YouTube for my inspiration. I also relied on my own taste memory of the sauce. I would describe the flavor as creamy, zesty, slightly sweet and acidic, with just a hint of spiciness. The amounts can be varied to your taste. Know it is best to make the sauce at least 2 hours or more ahead of time and refrigerate to help the flavors develop.
- 1 Tbsp. White Vinegar
- 1 Tbsp Granulated Sugar
- 1 Tbsp. Prepared Yellow Mustard
- 1 tsp. Paprika (Sweet Hungarian)
- 2 tsp. Onion Powder
- 1/4 tsp. Garlic Powder
- 1/4 tsp. Salt
- 1 cup Mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup Pickle Relish (or finely chopped sweet pickles)
- In a bowl combine the vinegar, granulated sugar, mustard, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder and salt. Whisk together until the sugar is dissolved.
- Add the mayonnaise and pickle relish and whisk to combine.
- Cover with plastic wrap and place into the refrigerator for 2 hours before using to develop the flavor. Use within 5 days.
Third the Hamburger Patties: For this I turned to 18 oz. of Ground Sirloin. Beefy, tender, and flavorful. The ground sirloin was a 90%, 10% mix, making it a bit lean for a juicy burger. I needed to bump up the fat content, moisture, and tenderness without diminishing the beefy flavor of the meat. Using a food processor, I pureed 1/3 cup chopped onions with 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil. Then I added 1/4th of the ground sirloin and processed the mixture until it was a mousse like consistency. I then added the sirloin mousse into the remaining ground sirloin and beat it in with a wooden spoon to fully incorporate the ingredients. The method of beating in fat, water, or liquid seasonings is a Asian inspired technique when making pork dumpling filling.
Each “Sirloin Patty” was weighed out in 3.5 oz. portions. Each portion was shaped into round ball and then formed into a beef patty between 2 piece of plastic wrap, 4 1/2-inches wide and 1/4-inch thick. Then the patty was transferred to a 4 1/2-inch square piece of parchment paper. This makes it easy to stack and freeze before cooking.
Now all I had to do was prep the final ingredients. Slice the dill pickles, finely sliced Iceberg lettuce, and finely mince onion. I chose a Sharp American Cheese for it’s full flavor and creamy mouth feel. Now that I had everything ready. It was time to start griddling the patties and toasting off the buns. I set myself up assembly line style to make the process go smoother.
I preheated my 14″ cast iron pans over medium high heat for 15 minutes before cooking. I started with the buns. Toasting in progression to toast every cut side using a flat large lid to lightly press the buns to the pan. Once I had the last cut side of the buns toasting I turned to griddling the sirloin patties. I placed 4 patties into the deeper cast iron skillet and let sear for 1 minute. Then I turn the patties over and pressed firmly with a heavy duty 6″x6″ offset grill spatula. Flattening each patty to just 1/4″ thickness (This is the only time you will press the patties). I then seasoned the patties with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper and let sear for 3 minutes to develop a deep caramelized crust (Don’t be tempted to try to move them while they are searing). While the first patties were searing I turned back to the buns and removed them from the griddle they were toasting on and placed them in order back onto the parchment lined sheet tray for assembly. Now back to the seared sirloin patties. After 3 minutes I flipped the patties and continued to cook for another 3 minutes (DO NOT PRESS THE PATTIES). Once cooked through I removed and stacked the patties and placed onto a warmed plate to rest while I finished cooking the last 2 patties.
- Layout the Bun pieces in order Bottom, Center (club), and Sesame starting with the Bottom bun away from you.
- Bottom Bun – Topped in order: Special Sauce, Lettuce, Cheese, 1 Sirloin Patty, Minced Onion
- Center Bun (Club) – Topped in order: Special Sauce, Lettuce, Pickles, 1 Sirloin Patty, Minced Onion and top with Bun Crown (Sesame Bun Top)
- Place the Center Bun (Club) that filled and topped with the Sesame Bun onto the filled Bottom Bun.
- Serve and Enjoy!
You can always serve extra “Special Sauce” on the side if you like. At home you can always “have it your way!”