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Healthy hamburger preparation

We've been eating hamburgers voraciously since they were first popularized at the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904. White Castle, the first burger chain, originated in Wichita, Kansas 76 years ago. Today, burgers are one of our favorite foods, but the question still is asked: How do you make a healthy, tasty burger?

* Buy low-fat ground beef, or have lean cuts ground for you. Buy no more than 36 hours in advance. * Shape your patty gently. Too much handling makes it hard. * Cook until there is absolutely no pink coloring. * Don't mix dark sauces like barbecue, catsup or teriyaki with the meat. They disguise the pink center. * If you must fry, use nonstick cookware and no added fat. * Never partially cook a patty and let it sit. Grill meat on an open rack so fat drips off. * Discard raw or cooked meat left out of the refrigerator for more than two hours. * Never place cooked burgers on an unwashed surface or plate that held raw meat. * For great taste from low-fat meat, sear over high heat for 2 minutes on each side to seal in the juices. Finish cooking over medium heat. * Eat burgers at their peak, right off the heat. Time changes texture. If you want a classic high-fat burger, go low-fat the rest of the day. You can sharpen the flavor with salsa, guacamole, cayenne or jalapeno peppers. Top with Canadian bacon and cheddar cheese; smother with sauteed or grilled onions; or spread with spicy mustard. Then set your burger on a tortilla, wrap it in a pita, serve it on a slab of crisp Italian or French bread, or place it on a warm sesame bun.

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