Nov 10 2011

Living Leaner. Pork Burgers

Posted by     19 Comments    Posted under: Kitchen

Our experience so far with this ‘Living Leaner’ project of ours has been great. It has given the Chef a great challenge and even he will admit that this is no easy feat trying to feed our hungry brood a nutritious meal on ten euros. It can, however, be done.

I am not a fan of fast food. As a matter of fact, I hate it. If we end up taking the kids to McDonalds or Supermacs it is no more than once or twice a year. The Chef, would eat fast food once a week if he was not afraid of the tongue-lashing I would give him. I remember seeing him eating a Rally Burger once. Sitting their, in the sun, with a large malted milkshake off to the side. The sauce was dripping all down his arms and face and he was so happy. I have no idea what is in their sauce, but it made him very happy.

Besides the fact that  there is little or no nutritional value in the fast food offered around these parts, the cost is outrageous. If the 6 of us were to eat at one of the aforementioned joints it would be ringing in close to €50. That is fifty bucks for a belly full of crap. Yep – once or twice a year is plenty.


Super Salad


That being said, we do sometimes over compensate for not letting them eat fast food by making our own version of ‘burgers n’ chips’ right here at home. Needless to say, this is one of those things that has kind of backfired on us because the kids now prefer ‘homemade fast food’ to the drive-thru so it makes taking a night off damn near impossible!

Making a burger is not brain surgery guys and the most important thing to remember is this ‘garbage in = garbage out’. If you start with a decent product like lean pork, aside from a little bit of salt & pepper you should not have to do a damn thing other than cook this. Do not add breadcrumbs, do not add onions, do not add anything. Just mix the meat with the seasoning and shape it into the ‘right’ size patties.

Each of the kids have different ‘sized’ appetites. It ranges from ‘starving’ to ‘I could eat a small horse* kind of starving’ so we plan accordingly and if they want a second burger we encourage them to go ‘bun free’…and just give them a few extra leaves of spinach or iceberg lettuce.

* Horses were not harmed in the making of these burgers

Pork Patties


Sauté the burgers for a few minutes on each side in a sizzling hot pan then put them in the oven to finish. Under no circumstances should you ever ever press an object of heavy weight down on your burger. If you do, you will squeeze out all the juices from the meat and you will end up with a dry chewy piece of cardboard. Leave it alone. Step away from the pan.  Get your potato peeler out and start peeling your potatoes and make a few handcut-homemade-french fries. Or, do what we did and open a bag of frozen chips and bung them in the oven.

Had we actually made chips from scratch on this one we would have come in so far under budget we would have had enough money left over to make pie. But we were in a hurry and wanted ‘fast’ food.

Pork ……………     €4.00

Chips …………..    €2.39

Salad ………….      €1.99 (we are still using our own tomatoes/onions)

Burger buns…….  €1.19

Total …….            €9.57

I realise there is nothing fancy about this meal at all and anyone can blog about throwing oven chips in the oven for heavens sake. This morning I watched the news and they were talking about the connection between low income families, lack of education regarding food and nutrition and how this all links to the sky rocketing levels of childhood obesity in Ireland. We used a very lean piece of pork with oven fries, and everyone ate boat loads of salad. I think, for fast food, it is as good as it gets really and a hell of a lot cheaper.

Earlier this year I was fortunate enough to participate in a photo and food writing workshop called Plate2Page and I got to meet a lot of really cool people. One of the other participants and I (Simone from JungleFrog Cooking) have become good friends and she has jumped on board and is also going to blog a few recipes for under ten euros. Her most recent entry is for a wonderful winter soup, and be warned folks, her photos are awesome!

Those are all the WiseWords I have for today,


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19 Comments + Add Comment

  • I too hate fast food. I eat it once or twice a year but afterwards I feel crap. Disgusted and certainly not like I had a decent meal. But I love making home burgers. Not sure if my salmon burger would fit in the living leaner budget but it is sooo good. Your burger looks fab too. Yesterday we had a great meal with pork, leeks and baked potatoes. Under 5 euro for 2!! I almost couldn’t believe how cheap it was as we really had to think about what to buy and put back the expensive piece of beef we initially wanted to buy ( which was 9 euro for just the meat). It makes us think so much more creatively!

    • I know – that sounds great Simone. It is pushing us to ‘think’ about what we are eating from an economical standpoint balanced with nutritional concerns.
      So far though, I have to say everything is very tasty and the kids are not complaining at all!
      You are right – the Salmon burgers might not fit the budget – unless you reduce the portion size perhaps?
      Well done on the price Simone – five euros for dinner for two people is very impressive indeed!

  • Love your tomatoes Mona! Do you grow them in the poly tunnel, ya stooopid question given the weather here! I tried them last year – outdoors – and we ended up giving away buckets if green tomato chutney.

    Really enjoying the living leaner series of blogs, there’s only the two of us plus one cat and one dog and our grocery expenditure is mad at times, so I’ve been figuring if you can feed 6/7 on a tenner for dinner for all we should deffo be aiming for about the €5/6 mark for two max! I’ve been making a start this week by using up meats in the freezer and once that’s sorted I will definitely be keeping an eye on what’s going out.

    So thanks for blogging and making us more aware!

    • Caroline,
      Thanks for this. I really appreciate the feedback in this (sometimes) solitary blogging world.
      We are having quite a bit of fun with the challenge so it will be interesting to see where it takes us!
      Thanks for following along and let me know how you fair out with your budget :0)

  • Wow – Mrs Q and often make our own burgers on Sundays cause the boys love it! We even make our own burger buns – it’s easy and you can freeze them quite well for further use if you make a full batch of them.
    You living leaner series is a fabulous idea! Love it!

    • Hi Astrid,
      Thank you very much!
      We are enjoying the challenge for sure. Tomorrow we plan a vegetarian menu to share with friends.
      I am looking forward to seeing how we fair out with this one!
      Thank you for reading and the nice comment!

  • I’ve never made a burger from lean pork, always lean ground beef but yours do look delicious. I think it’s just a mind thing with me, like chicken burgers…never made or eaten those either. Normally, we always have home-made fries with our burgers too. If we are in a hurry we will use the chopper to cut them otherwise I always cut by hand. I think your series on saving money feeding your family is doing wonderfully. Not only in Ireland is the correlation between income levels, education etc., linked to childhood obesity but sadly here in Canada, the US and I would guess, most likely everywhere.
    My parents raised seven kids for most of our formative years on one income and it was not a large one, my Dad was in the military and during his time in, the salaries were nothing to what they are now. Kudos to my Mom though as we were fortunate to always have nutritious meals and the only take-out we ever got was the rare outing to the local chip stand where each of us kids would get a 25 cent cone of chips. One of my favourite food memories was coming home from school and smelling a pot of my Mom’s home-made beans with molasses cooking in the oven. She always made her spice cake for dessert on those nights. Inexpensive meal that fed a lot of hungry little mouths 🙂

    • You know Paula, we grew up the same way just worlds apart :0) There were five of us (kids) and Mum and Dad were foster parents so there was always an extra mouth at the table. We are so careful with the ‘meat’ intake around here. We have our own meat grinder (for the Kitchenaid) and find that this is the best way to make sure you know what you are eating. The ability to stretch the food and save save save comes from reading labels, being aware of the price per kilo (or pound) of your product and knowing that the kids will not starve to death or lack in nutrition if they eat plenty of veggies. Loving your bread wreath for Christmas decorating Paula. The Chef (being a baker) is going to try one tomorrow and I am going to be landed with the job of decorating it ;0) Thanks for the visit Paula!

  • I’m with you on the fast food side of things. Homemade burgers are just fantastic.

    • They are the bomb – and we would be lying if we did not admit that it is something everyone craves occasionally.
      Working on a vegetarian one next…….

  • Hi Mona,
    We don’t eat too much red meat, but we do eat a lot of pork, which we consider the other white meat. Haven’t tried pork burgers yet, but eat lots of pork chops, and make pulled pork too. Rarely do we make hamburgers, but ground turkey is almost a staple in our kitchen. In California USA we don’t see that much ‘ground pork’ in the grocery stores, but I’m sure you can get it at the local butcher’s if requested.
    Next time you make your pork burger – add a slice of pineapple – yummy! Nice posting – looking forward to the vegetarian one to come next.

    • One of my other readers, Robert from Kentucky – HI ROBERT!) asked the same question about the Pork.
      We tend to buy Pork shoulder/Pork butt and grind our own because we ‘know’ what we are getting in our ground meat.
      This part of the pig will have enough fat in it to make the burger juicy and delicious.
      Both the Chef and I have serious trust issues when it comes to buying processed meat. We like to buy it whole and on the bone.
      Our butcher is very patient with us, but in saying that, I still (almost) never buy ground meat (minced meat) off the shelf in a grocery store.
      Also, it does take up quite a bit of freezer space but buying a whole (or half) Lamb/Pig each year and is not a bad idea – it is so much cheaper
      and you have control over how you want it butchered. Thanks for reading and the comment Bernadine!

  • I’m a bit confused about the pork. In the states @ most meat stores where I shop, the only choices in ground pork are sausage and Italian. Both are very spicy and may not be good candidates for a burger.I’m really interested in trying a pork burger. Is the ideal to buy a pork loin and ask the butcher to ground it up? I use Italian ground pork for meat sauces, so dividing the remainder up and using it would not be a problem.

    • Hey Robert,
      I just answered your question in an earlier comment, but because you are a ‘regular’ here on WiseWords I feel that I should give you your own answer.
      Buy a meat grinder dude. Ha ha ha. No. Ask for Pork butt or Pork shoulder and ask the butcher to grind it up for you ‘whilst you wait’.
      There is an ample amount of fat on this cut of meat to make your burger juicy and moist and tasty. You are right about ground pork not being available
      in the states. And the funny thing about that is that here in Ireland you cannot get sausage meat……..I mean, the sausages are totally different and you can’t even
      buy a pound of sausage meat off the shelf. You have to ask for it and sometimes they just give you the sausages and you have to squeeze the meat out of their skins.
      I am not kidding. .. . . .Anyway. Vegetarian up next so stay tuned!

  • Hi mona,
    I guess we here in the USA are somewhat at the mercy of the ‘pre-packaged’ meats, unless you live in a rural area and have access to the larger cuts and/or freezer space. I do note with the ground turkey we frequently use, there is a high fat content, but if you shop around you can find 93% fat free. thanks for the information & high robert from kentucky, I’m from central california.

    • I know what you mean on being at the mercy of the pre-packaged foods. Have you thought about joining SLowFood? When we lived in Ohio, being active members of our local SF chapter introduced us to a lot of foodies
      and out of this friendships and food bartering trade blossomed :0) Here is the link …… should think about it. A very very wonderful group to belong to.

  • Hello!!…….I also hate fast food! I NEVER buy minced meat already packaged (you never know what it contains), but always ask the butcher to mince a piece (whether it be pork or red meat). It’s also intersting to try this with chicken thighs (skin off) and then mince at home. Thighs are much tastier than breast and also much cheaper. Agree that having your own mincer is so much more helpful. Mine is exactly 17 years old!!!……Still works…. Cheers

    • Ha! SEVENTEEN years – well done! Having a meat grinder attachment on a Kitchenaid is one of the best investments ever, I agree. We use chicken things a lot too and they are the Chef’s favourite piece of chicken, hands down.
      I think that people are becoming a lot more aware of what they are buying these days and I agree ‘mystery minced meat’ is a no go here too!

  • This article Living Leaner. Pork Burgers | Wise Words, offers really great advice and I learned specifically
    what I was searching for. I Appreciate it.

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About Móna
I am a native Galway girl that seems to be drawn to professions that rhyme with 'err'. Writer, Mother, Restauranteur, Wedding Planner, Dishwasher, Grass cutter, Cocktail maker. I suppose you could say I am a well rounded entrepreneur.
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