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February 28, 2007

Sex and The Art of Shaping Hamburgers

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

I need to be careful. Very careful.

That's because I'm now living in ultra-liberal Seattle and this post will be stunningly incendiary to the sensitive souls that surround me. Doubtless I'll have to continually "check my six" (that's combat pilot lingo) till next week when I head to California to help with the move.

What's this all about?

Shaping hamburgers.

When I form a hamburger patty I use a flat surface and do my best to create a shape like a very short cylinder. A number of the women in my life over the years (but not Mom, thank heaven) form hamburger patties as if they were were making slightly flattened snowballs.

And slightly flattened snowballs are a poor shape for evenly cooking the meat, as compared to the cylindrical alternative.

My conclusion from this scientific sample of three or four people? ... There is a clear genetic distinction in hamburger-shaping between the sexes.

In fact, I'll hazard the proposition that this rivals the well-proven fact that women squeeze toothpaste tubes from the middle whereas men squeeze from the end opposite the opening.

Of course I'll toss in the obligatory weasling that I'm speaking of tendencies rather than Iron Laws of nature.

Anyway, now you know. And please excuse me while I go into hiding.



posted by Donald at February 28, 2007


According to you, Donald, I am a man.
Gee, and all this time I have been wondering what's wrong with my life?!?

Posted by: Tat on February 28, 2007 12:28 PM

Tat -- Hey, I said that my mother made 'em flat too.

Now back to hiding.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on February 28, 2007 12:55 PM

Here too, Tat. I form them by hand, but they are flat. Of course I also take into account grilling time so that my husband's "well done" and my "rare" are perfectly cooked at the same time. Mine then, are about 3/4" thick and smaller in diameter than his 1/2" burger.

Posted by: susan on February 28, 2007 12:59 PM

Donald, but it's confirmed by the toothpaste test.
In fact, I not only squeeze it from the bottom, I sometimes fold up that bottom part along the way!
Susan: I too form them by hand. And my mom, and grandmas, and all the women of my two clans centuries before me!

Posted by: Tat on February 28, 2007 1:23 PM

From what I've read, one should compress the meat as little as possible when forming hamburger patties. Traditionally, since women would do the bulk of the cooking, this accounts for the male/female difference? Men just don't know better?

Posted by: Bryan on February 28, 2007 1:26 PM

Not only am I a man, my boyfriend is evidently a woman! He insists on squeezing from the middle, no matter how many times I point out that squeezing from the end is much more efficient.

Honestly, what do we get from these exercises other than the mild thrill of flipping our finger at some P.C. strawman (or strawwoman, as the case more often is)?

Posted by: Amy on February 28, 2007 1:38 PM

Another difference between the genders involves the way people look at their fingernails. A woman turns her palm away from her face and extends her fingers. A man turns his palm toward his face and curls his fingers. I would imagine the difference is because women use the fingers-extended position to apply nail polish.

Posted by: Peter on February 28, 2007 1:58 PM

The Wife and I don't eat hamburgers, so I have nothing to contribute there. But on the other points we conform to stereotype: she squeezes the toothpaste wherever she damn well sees fit, where I proceed methodically from the bottom up. And she definitely inspects the fingernails with fingers extended, while such a move would never occur to me. I should probably inspect my fingernails more than I do, come to think of it. I wonder it there's a difference in frequency of fingernail-inspection between the sexes. Hmm. I notice on the subways that men are far more prone to be fingernail gnawers than women are. Are women more genteel? More fearful of germs? Superior creatures generally?

Speaking of which ... Are women's hands generally more flexible than men's? Joints, bones, etc? I'm often amazed by how far over backwards women can pull their fingers, and by how delicate/wobbly/mushy women's hands are. And god knows that women in yoga classes tend to be far flexier than guys. But since my own hands, fingers and wrists definitely tend towards the non-flexible end of things, and since I don't often hold hands with dudez, maybe I'm judging from too-limited a sample. Still: Is anyone else struck by how flexible women's hands can be?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on February 28, 2007 2:44 PM

Right on with the toothpaste! My wife squeezes haphazardly...I come along and tidy it up. This has been going on for over 30 years...

Posted by: Charlton Griffin on February 28, 2007 3:19 PM

I'm looking at my co-worker, who is a woman. She is sitting slumped in her chair, typing. Why is it that ALL women must type this way? It must be a genetic difference between the sexes, because I sit up straight while typing, although I dare not mention that lest the PC goons come to re-educate me. They;'re everywhere, you know.

Posted by: the patriarch on February 28, 2007 3:45 PM

Ah, didn't mention the toothpaste issue because in our household we have solved the problem (both being middle squeezers): We have one of those glorious roller-uppers that gets out every single last smidgen of paste and allows us to squeeze wherever we want.

Posted by: susan on February 28, 2007 8:44 PM

All these problems are easily solved if you just use the right mail-order catalogues. The high-end ones like Williams-Sonoma are bound to have hamburger patty squishers and extruders that make them practically mathematical. (Doesn't your meat supplier offer perfectly shaped hamburgers, all packaged up with the fat content printed on the package? Mine does.) The low-end ones (Miles Kimball, Harriet Carter) always have little key-dealies with slots to slide over the tube so you can wind it up or slide it up. It's kinda hard to just fold up the plastic tubes -- not like the old soft metal ones.

Gizmos often work better than arbitration.

Prairie Mary

Posted by: Mary Scriver on February 28, 2007 11:35 PM

My mom made thick female-type hamburgers and I loved them. At best they'd be hot, juicy, and rare on the inside and well done, almost crusty on the outside. I've never been able to get that right.

I don't cook a lot of hamburgers. When I do I make them out of ground lamb with garlic chips. Probably doesn't count as hamburger.

Posted by: John Emerson on March 1, 2007 8:12 AM

Bendy tendril fingers are not universal among women, though I haven't seen many among men. An article about which people should play which sports suggested that the bendy flexible flyer folks ought to go for track and basketball, while the tight-jointed, stiff-fingered ones ought to play tennis where controlling tightly the angle of the racquet face counts for a lot, etc. I suspect that if you're hanging with a yoga crowd, they are self-selected towards both femaleness and bendiness.

Prairie Mary

Posted by: Mary Scriver on March 1, 2007 12:50 PM

Hmm, I don't recall on which show I saw it (Good Eats, perhaps?), but the scientific way to be certain your burger cooks all the way through evenly is to make your flat/short cylinder (slightly rounded edges are fine) and then make small indentations in the top and bottom's centers. I.e., holding your patty in one hand, you'd squeeze in with your thumb (on top) and forefinger (from below) towards the center.

Posted by: claire on March 1, 2007 6:59 PM

Yup, slightly flattened snowballs is how my mom made them. Drove me crazy.

Posted by: Steve Sailer on March 2, 2007 1:53 AM

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