I am often asked by people (who know me as being “that bru” from Burger Brews), “Where have you experienced your best burger?” My answer will invariably be one of the restaurants which I have reviewed. However, based on what a call-in listener poll on Cape Talk a year or so ago determined, the best burgers are made at home – or at least they are if you buy them from The Fat German!
Who or what is The Fat German?
The Fat German Deli Butchery is nestled to the one side of the Meadowridge Shopping Centre – the side opposite the library and tennis club (behind Rambling Rose Coffee Shop). Inside you will find the owner, Udo, who is of German descent but, as it turns out, is not at all fat. Having grown up with a well-known butcher as a father, Udo was always destined to follow the same path. Stepping into the store one is immediately struck, not only by the great variety of meat and deli products on offer, but by the cleanliness and great sense of efficiency in the stores’ operations.
The Fat German burgers
I went to meet Udo with a view to finding out what made his burgers so special, and why the majority of listeners who called in to a Cape Talk discussion on the finest burgers in Cape Town waxed lyrical about them. The Fat German manufactures two types of burgers. The first one is their basic beef burger, and the other is their Rump Burger, which is undoubtedly their flagship offering. This burger is gluten-free and is a blend of 90% rump to 10% sirloin. As Udo explained, the usual addition of gluten (which is almost cereal-like in texture) to a burger mix primarily acts as a binding agent, but also partly serves to act like a sponge. Normal burgers, generally, have quite a bit of fat added to the mix. As this is cooked away the gluten “sponges” the melted fat and keeps it contained in the patty to maximise the flavour. The Rump Burgers are visibly devoid of a lot of this fat in the mix. This, then, renders the addition of gluten somewhat obsolete – not to mention the fact that people with gluten intolerances are also catered for. The fact that there is less fat added to this patty will not mean a drier, less tasty burger – this is thanks to the fact that rump is used. This cut is the tastiest of the generic cuts of beef (the other generic cuts being sirloin and fillet) as it has a higher fat content which enhances the flavour once cooked. This incredibly well thought-out blend will generally not be well known to his customers, but having done the research and now knowing this like I do makes me all the more impressed! The minced beef is blended with imported German spices, and is then weighed off and shaped into patties. The patties are usually sold packaged in packs of four, with each of these packs weighing in at just over 600g, at least 150g per patty (to put this into perspective, regular patties bought at a supermarket are generally in the vicinity of 80-100g each). All of these elements have been cleverly thought out and combine to make, what looks like, an incredible patty.
How should these be cooked?
According to Udo, these burgers are best cooked on the braai. “Pan frying them is a popular option, but the smoky flavour from a braai wins hands down, for me!” he says. He went on to say that they should be cooked much like a steak. He goes on, “Cook them on a very high heat and ONLY turn when it has come loose from the grid. Cook both sides until they have crisped slightly and cook the centre to medium/medium-well. Apply basting to the entire patty, using any good basting sauce, and heat again to ensure that the basting has absorbed into both sides.” And then, an additional tip that you won’t get from just anywhere: “For absolute best results, the addition of wood chips to the coals towards the end of the cooking process allows for the emanating smoke to penetrate the patties. In a Weber, just close the lid – however on a regular braai, place a lid over the patties on the grid.”
Dressing the burgers
People should add toppings and sauces to suit their particular tastes. There is no right or wrong. The only condiment Udo warned against was Hot English Mustard. “The flavour would be too pungent and would overpower the flavour of the patty,” he said.
The proof of the burger is in the eating!
My regular Sunday braais consist of any combination of the following, in no particular order: Boerie, chops, steak, ribbies, chicken sausage, and chicken espetada. I never, usually, braai burgers as I tend to eat enough of them as part of my Burger Brews life. What an absolute treat it was to incorporate the two and to use the tricks I learned in my research to help create the ultimate homemade burger experience! I had everything – the ingredients, the knowledge, and the hunger (both literally and figuratively). What I didn’t have, though, was timing…! I overcooked the bloody thing! The addition of crispy, braaied bacon (courtesy of Udo) helped to make it a great tasting burger, but compared to my chef wife’s patty (which she had the great foresight to take off the braai sooner than I did with mine), it paled in comparison. Hers was juicy, tasty, and succulent. Even so, the flavour of mine was definitely there and the (in my opinion) greatest accompaniment, bacon, totally took the experience to another level. I DID IT! I created a burger that the Burger Brews would highly recommend – and it happened at home!
How many of us make use of our local butchery store, as opposed to a butchery section at our local supermarket? I have to admit that I have been one of the latter. However, what this experience has shown me is that there is nothing quite like going to a local butcher to buy ones meat. Whilst there, I witnessed the fact that almost every person who shopped was familiar to Udo and to his staff. To me, that personal feel was almost of a bygone era. Udo’s passion for his craft is infectious. I can only endorse and recommend The Fat German to not only burger lovers, but to meat lovers in general.
Long live The Fat German….and long live his Rump Burgers!
Visit the Fat German Butchery in Meadowridge: