Question: Which is the healthiest way to prepare hamburgers: broiled in a conventional oven or cooked on an appropriate rack in a microwave oven? My preference is to skip them entirely but my son doesn't agree with that. I tried microwaving one on a paper napkin on a paper plate, but it looked so greasy that I have not done that again. I do not like to fry them.
Answer: Both broiling and microwaving methods, as well as barbecuing, work well as healthier alternatives to frying hamburgers. Cooking hamburgers on a rack in the microwave will result in about the same calorie levels as broiling, varying only according to length of time that the meat is cooked. Of course, the longer the meat is cooked, the more fat is extracted.
In tests done by the Consumer Services Department of the National Live Stock and Meat Board, hamburgers microwaved using cooking racks were not as desirable as those done directly on glass baking dishes. However, since some fat will be reabsorbed by the burgers, this direct method will produce more calories than broiling.
Due to differences in microwave ovens, lean-to-fat ratios of ground beef and initial temperature of beef, it is impossible to recommend accurate cooking times. The most common complaint about microwaved burgers is the lack of nice browning and even cooking.
To help achieve these qualities, the meat board recommends forming the patties into doughnut shapes and rubbing the surface with seasonings. Shape one pound of ground beef into three to four patties, about half an inch thick and four to 4 1/2 inches in diameter. Form a three-quarters-inch hole in the center and place in an eight-inch square microwave-safe baking dish. Sprinkle patties with a mixture of salt and pepper to taste, a little flour and paprika for color. Cover with wax paper and microwave on HIGH, rotating patties halfway during cooking. Cooking time for a single four-ounce patty will take about one minute and 15 seconds plus one minute stand time and requires turning it over at about midpoint in cooking and turning back during standing time.
Aside from buying leaner meat, to help reduce calories in burgers, drain well after cooking.
Q: Could you please tell me why tomatoes have increased so much in price? I buy them regularly for salsas and sauces, but now I may have to substitute canned stewed tomatoes.
A: According to Jan deLyser of the Fresh Produce Council, tomatoes usually are low in supply during this season because of the recent holiday needs. Another reason this year has been the rain and cold weather, which hampered production in Mexico and Florida, two major producing areas.
Then there's the significant move by McDonald's fast food chain. The introduction of the company's new McD.L.T. sandwich, which contains a big tomato slice, has dramatically reduced supplies available for retail stores. Only time will tell if the new sandwich's growing acceptance will continue to limit the availability of tomatoes.
However, there will be a greater supply and lowering of prices of tomatoes toward the end of this month, when the bulk of Mexican production occurs.
In the meantime, instead of the large beefsteak tomatoes, check out Italian or plum tomatoes, small to medium saladette (for salads) tomatoes and cherry tomatoes, which may be of better value at this time.
Address questions on food preparation to You Asked About, Food Section, The Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053. Personal replies cannot be given.