Grilling Basics: Building a Better Burger

by Matt Moore on June 22, 2011 · 94 comments

in Cooking, Food & Drink, Travel & Leisure

Armed with a spatula in one hand and a cold beer in the other, there’s no better way to celebrate summer than by hosting a cookout with friends.  Whether on a beach in sunny California or at a backyard BBQ in North Carolina, I love entertaining around a fully loaded grill.  There’s just something primal and manly about watching raw meat roasting over an open flame.

Of course, a cookout is never truly a cookout without our beloved hamburger.  Yet, for all of its simplicity, it’s one of those food items that can often fall flat.  You know what I’m talking about: From the burgers that resemble hockey pucks, to those that taste like lighter fluid, to the balls of meat that have you two bites into the bun thinking: “Where’s the beef?”

Since we’ve been spending the past few months covering kitchen fundamentals, and with the Fourth of July approaching, I figured it was a good time to provide my best tips and techniques for building a better burger.  Of course, I realize this is a touchy subject.  Giving an end-all-be-all recipe for a grilled hamburger is akin to telling a Southerner how to BBQ or a Midwesterner how to prepare Brats.

In other words, I’m approaching this subject with humility.

Now that I’ve made my point, please immediately refrain from the following at your next cookout: using frozen patties, adding in filler ingredients, flipping your burgers more than once, and pressing down on your burgers with a spatula while cooking.  Whew, I think I got most of it out there. We’ll touch on these points again below, just to make sure.

Moving on…what makes a great burger?  I’m glad you asked.  Since we men love seeing things clearly, I’ve outlined some of the key bullet points that will make you the king of your next summer cookout.

Ingredients

  • Creating a great burger always starts with using great ingredients!  Fresh 80/20 twice ground chuck is my preferred choice.  This blend provides enough fat content to keep the burger juicy and flavorful.  Personally, I prefer beef burgers; however, I realize many of us live by different dietary standards.  Thankfully, the options are limitless:  Lamb, Bison, Venison, Pork, Turkey, Chicken, Black Bean (Vegan), Mushroom (Vegan), etc. are all appropriate alternatives.

It's nice to be sensitive to others' dietary needs and preferences, but under no circumstances should you try to serve a turkey burger to Ron Swanson.

  • Using your hands, loosely form (6 oz) patties.  Do not overwork the meat while making the patties, otherwise the burgers will turn out tough.  Try to make your patties a little bit larger than your bun as they will tend to shrink while cooking.
  • Use your thumb to create a dimple or well in the center of the patty, as this will ensure that the burgers cook evenly without plumping up.
  • I’m a minimalist, and I want to taste the meat.  Therefore, I only season my patties with kosher salt and pepper.  Adding other seasonings or flavors is your personal choice.

Be sure you don't get so wrapped up in talking to your buddy about the latest Art of Manliness article that you burn the burgers.

Method

  • Grill your burgers over high heat.  Whether using gas, charcoal (skip lighter fluid and use a chimney starter instead), or an indoor grill pan, you want to make sure to grill your burgers over substantial heat to form that nice crust (flavor/texture) that we all love.
  • Avoid using your spatula to press down on your burgers while cooking.  Why?  Those flavorful juices are meant to stay inside the burgers–don’t waste all that flavor by pressing out the juices just to make your grill sizzle.
  • Flip your burgers only one time–about 3 minutes on each side for medium rare plus.  Keep in mind that eating burgers rare or even medium does carry certain health risks.  For the purist, you can always grind your own meat at home.
  • If you get a flare up, cover the grill.  Cutting off the oxygen should quell the flames.  Otherwise, always keep a beer in your hand to put out the fire.
  • Allow your burgers to rest for a few minutes before serving.  This will ensure that the juices redistribute into the meat.

 

Accessories/Condiments

This is where you can let your personality shine.  Condiments and accessories turn a quality grilled burger into your own piece of art.  I’ve suggested some of my favorite items below:

Bun – Slice in half and lightly butter and toast on the grill before serving.
Cheese – American, Cheddar, Blue, Feta, Provolone, Jack, Swiss, Muenster
Greens – Lettuce, Watercress, Arugula
Onions – Red, Yellow, Sweet, Caramelized, Fried
Pickled – Pickles, Jalapenos, Peppers
Tomatoes – Vine ripened, Sundried
Condiments – Mustard, Ketchup, Mayo, Pesto, Thousand Island, BBQ Sauce, Guacamole, Tapenade
Accessories – Bacon, Fried Egg, Peanut Butter, Mushrooms, Avocado, Slaw, Fresh Herbs

I for one enjoy keeping things simple.  Here’s my recipe for a classic burger:

Classic American Hamburger

Hamburgers
1.5 lb 80/20 Ground Chuck
Kosher Salt
Fresh Cracked Pepper
4 French Hamburger Buns, sliced
Unsalted Butter

Toppings
American Cheese
Lettuce
Sliced Tomato
Sliced Onion
Dill Pickle Chips
Assorted Condiments

Preheat a grill over medium high heat.  Divide ground chuck into 4 patties, using your thumb to create a small well in the center of each patty.  Liberally season the patties on both sides with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper.  Lightly butter the cut side of each bun, and add to the grill for 60 – 90 seconds, or until just toasted and browned.  Add hamburger patties over direct heat and grill covered for 3 minutes on each side for medium rare plus.  Remove from grill (or top with cheese to melt) and rest 3 – 4 minutes before serving.  Top with your choice of ingredients and serve.

So that’s my go-to recipe. But I really want this post to be a jumping off point for some great discussion in the comments. What are your tips for creating a great burger?  What combinations of toppings and condiments do you prefer?  Let’s talk burgers!

 

 

 

{ 94 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sam June 22, 2011 at 1:15 pm

I usually mince up some onion and mix that in with the meat. My girlfriend’s family is from Iran and it is the recipe they use for kabobs, sometimes I’ll throw in some cilantro and then top it with avocado and salsa.

2 Neil June 22, 2011 at 1:15 pm

Loved the Ron Swanson reference!

3 Jordan June 22, 2011 at 1:17 pm

Perfect! The only thing I would recommend is putting a bottle of Heinz chili sauce into the ground beef. It makes the burgers extra juicy.

4 Jonathan Mardukas June 22, 2011 at 1:20 pm

I’m a big fan of grilling burgers on a flat steel grill — big brick construction with a wood fire underneath. Makes for a good crust on the meat, and they cook up pretty quickly.

5 Robert June 22, 2011 at 1:22 pm

Ketchup? Just no. You might as well us the frozen patties.

6 Al June 22, 2011 at 1:25 pm

For those who enjoy a little seasoning, my dad and I both use a package of Ranch dressing mix (sans the buttermilk, of course) with the meat before we form up the burgers. Adds a nice flavor without being too overpowering.

7 Oren June 22, 2011 at 1:26 pm

My new favorite condiment: Horseradish Mustard. There are many brands. Jack Daniels makes a tasty one.

8 Nick June 22, 2011 at 1:29 pm

I’m a serious burger addict and this guide couldn’t have come at a better time. Just cleaned off the old grill this weekend :)

Definitely got to have it medium-rare or at most medium. Yeah, there may be a slight risk but it’s worth it for the pure juicy awesomeness. Unfortunately, my dad always cooked them well-done growing up so I didn’t get to experience the bliss until I was a bit older. Oh and if you’ve never tried the fried egg on top, you’re missing out big time.

9 Tyler S. June 22, 2011 at 1:35 pm

Ok, here’s something that is really good and will have you guests in awe. When you create the burger, only create 3oz halves. There is a reason for this…put the cheese in the middle. With the cheese in the middle (more than a slice) put the halves together and pinch/kneed that sides together. You essentially made a burger Hotpocket. When you cook the burger, the cheese in the middle will melt. It also cooks a little faster than normal so keep that in mind as it is less thick per half than normal. Be sure to warn you guests that the cheese is melted in the middle and allow them to cool some before they bite into it. It is just a great way to have a great burger.

10 Andrew June 22, 2011 at 1:38 pm

“Otherwise, always keep a beer in your hand to put out the fire.” That sounds like a terrible idea. Otherwise, great advice!

11 Peter Hall June 22, 2011 at 1:39 pm

This may sound wrong to some but – 1 pound ground beef + 1 pound bulk italian sausage. Makes 6 – 8 burgers. You may have to use 90%/10% beef, as the sausage is a bit fatty, but the spices from the sausage make the burgers super.
If you can’t get bulk italian sausage, cut the casing off of sausage links.

12 Ed June 22, 2011 at 1:43 pm

Here’s a video my friend made at last years 4th of July cookout. Now I normally am known for making pretty hefty burgers at our back yard cookouts (1/2 lb at the smallest), I decided to turn it up for the 4th and dubbed my creation “The Patriot”. I’m going to be doing it again this year, only with the bigger “Patriot MkII”; I can post a vid/pic of that when its done if you’d like. Personally I go with a 2:1:1 ratio of 80/20 beef:Bison:Lamb, and I always have a cast iron skillet on an auxiliary grill for bacon, and frying onions and mushrooms in the bacon fat. Always a hit.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XV6lCg6jY4U

13 Doug June 22, 2011 at 1:43 pm

I like my burgers nice and rare to medium-rare. Overcooked meat actually contains carcinogens linked to colon cancer. As for the recipe, this spring I started playing with it, drawing from a traditional meatloaf recipe. Mixing in eggs and crackers with some chopped veggies and spices has been a huge hit in our home.

14 Greg June 22, 2011 at 2:07 pm

Great article, Matt. I gotta say that ordinarily I’m pretty good at timing/cooking burgers, but I totally screwed some up this weekend. The patties were enormous – at least 1/3 pound and super thick. I cooked them SIX minutes per side (and I had to flip twice) and they were still pretty pink in the middle. They tasted good at least.

15 Rhonan June 22, 2011 at 2:11 pm

I’m a big fan of bison burgers. I should try that bison/lamb mix, as I like lamb too. I keep it simple. Fresh ground pepper, a dash of garlic, and only a hint of salt to season the meat. Cook it medium rare, and serve it on a toasted bun with mayo, and garnish it with butter lettuce, a couple of slices of tomato from the farmer’s market, and some slivered Bermuda onion. Alas, the Dr. has banned the pickle chips I used to include.

16 modF June 22, 2011 at 2:13 pm

I like to put a little kraut in my mix, or a little slaw as a topping. Of course, you can’t go wrong with a little sweet onion, and occasionally some roasted red peppers or plain red peppers.

17 Josh June 22, 2011 at 2:13 pm

Flipping burgers only once doesn’t save juices, but does cause the burger to be cooked less evenly. For example, a burger flipped once has 50% of the meat overcooked, compared to 30% for one flipped every 15 seconds. Flipping often also causes the burger to cook faster.

18 Jeremy Schneider June 22, 2011 at 2:15 pm

Got a website to share with you all, HTTPWWW.cheeseandburger.com. There are numerous burger recipes, ranging from ordinary to extreme gourmet. Some of the ingredients may be difficult to locate if you live outside Wisconsin, but the hunt us half the fun.

19 Mark W June 22, 2011 at 2:31 pm

Great article. Ron Swanson would approve!

20 Chad Smith June 22, 2011 at 2:34 pm

As a Canadian I can say it still sounds weird to have a burger medium rare. It is not an option at any restaurant nor does anyone at home ever leave any pink inside. It is not because our meat is a lower grade(Alberta beef being some of the best in the world), our safety standards must be higher. You can easily keep your burgers juicy and well cooked, just don’t over cook them. By pressing your thumb down into the center of the pattie to form a little indent, it will allow the burger to cook evenly. I only add some worchesterchire sauce, onion and S&P. Great post!!

21 Matthew June 22, 2011 at 2:47 pm

I’ve always heard to only flip a burger once too. I recently read an article that took a hard scientific look at whether only flipping once makes a better burger. Apparently, it doesn’t.

Check it out:
http://aht.seriouseats.com/archives/2010/02/the-burger-lab-how-many-times-should-you-flip-a-burger-while-cooking.html

22 Chris L June 22, 2011 at 2:58 pm

I can’t agree more with this article! As a purist, I would recommend either grinding at home or having a butcher shop grind it for you while you wait.

If you want to make the patties ahead of time, simply line the bottom of a container with a clean white towel, place your patties directly on the towel, and them cover the patties with another towel. I say white because you can bleach them. Don’t use the wife’s favorite kitchen towels.

23 Brian June 22, 2011 at 3:36 pm

I like to put shredded cheddar into the meat with some worcestershire, garlic powder and black pepper. Not a lot of those, but just enough. They come out great!

24 DaveW June 22, 2011 at 3:38 pm

Good quality pure meat (no egg, no breadcrumbs, ever, no matter what) is great, but for a real kick, try mixing in dry rub spices as you make the patties. I’m working my way through various Weber rub recipes (red book) and have discovered some real magic (ground pork with the Southwest Rub, 1.5 tablespoons per pound of meat, is a new favourite). I also have a recipe using a whole bulb of roasted garlic, allspice, mace, cardamom and a few other items, and my neighbours (serious foodies) have declared them best burgers ever. Even my wife, who is not a meat eater, is encouraging this experimentation. Don’t be afraid of flavour and spices – it takes things to a whole new level.

25 Tod Bowman June 22, 2011 at 3:47 pm

@Ed, The Patriot is awesome!! Gotta try that (my wife’s going to be soooo mad at you)!

26 iheartubuntu June 22, 2011 at 3:51 pm

Biggest and the BEST decision I ever made was to switch to organic beef. It makes for the most incredible flavored burgers ever. I think Ive lost weight just from not eating restaurant burgers which no longer taste good or anywhere comparable to homemade organic beef burgers. Sprouts farmers market in SoCal has some great organic beef and Costco also has their own organic beef which is really really good.

If I cant get organic beef, I will add a little BBQ sauce to the ground beef which adds some flavor and keeps the meat juicy. Otherwise, no need to add anything to organic beef besides maybe some salt / pepper.

On a side note… I always soak hotdogs overnight in beer… makes for the best flavored hot dogs!!!

27 Max Attack June 22, 2011 at 3:51 pm

I usually add some worcestshire. But the real trick is to add some liquid smoke (hickory essence). That gives some great smokey to the burger. Oh, bacon is a must have!

28 Dave Matney June 22, 2011 at 3:52 pm

If you’re mass-cooking burgers — for a church picnic or something — and you’re not sure whether everyone can handle rare burgers, the trick we used in my 6 years flipping burgers to pay the rent will really help:

Start with frozen burgers if you’re not making your own
When the tops of your burgers gets bloody, flip ‘em.
When the tops of the now-flipped burgers looks like someone spit on them, they’re done.

The meat will continue to cook itself for a few seconds after you pull it, so learn to anticipate the signs for juicer burgers.

Also, if you’re cooking on a flat surface, as opposed to a grill, group your burgers as tightly as you can to keep the juices that leak out from evaporating as quickly.

Finally, clean your grill with a half-onion.

29 Sam June 22, 2011 at 3:56 pm

@Doug – I believe what you’re trying to explain is the Maillard reaction. It’s not overcooked meats that contain carcinogens, it’s the process of quick searing them. So those medium-rare burgers with a nice brown crust are just as harmful.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maillard_reaction

Great article. I’ll consider all of these tips the next time I plan on cooking some burgers.

30 Shawn June 22, 2011 at 3:57 pm

Great article, I’m all about seasoning my hamburger as well, I feel like it should be able to stand alone by itself just like a good steak shouldn’t need any condiments. Ed, the Top Gun theme was pretty epic for the Patriot. Though it looks like you were using canned mushrooms, I hope I saw that wrong.

31 Kolby June 22, 2011 at 4:29 pm
32 OkieRover June 22, 2011 at 4:31 pm

“This is LITERALLY the best thing I’ve ever tasted.” – Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe), Parks and Recreation

33 OkieRover June 22, 2011 at 4:34 pm

You can add teriyaki to switch it up a bit. I make teriyaki burgers when I get tired of the norm. I’m sure you could add something else and make an oriental themed burger night.

34 Lee June 22, 2011 at 5:06 pm

Interesting. Thanks for the cooking advice.

Why is it bad to flip the burger more than once? Also, just wondering, but how exactly does the indentation in the middle work to make sure the burger cooks evenly? Do burgers need to thaw like steaks? Final question, if we buy the pre-pattied burgers from say… Costco, should we just press them down and then throw them on the grill? Or should we ball them up and reform the patty?

35 Noel Rushin June 22, 2011 at 5:25 pm

One word…. Dale’s (http://www.dalesseasoning.com/)

Try it once, but just use a little bit. Not to much or you’ll over power the meat. Give it about one cap full per burger mixed into the meat before forming the patties.

Allways gets me great compliments.

36 Joe June 22, 2011 at 5:37 pm

Nice article, great website! Here’s the best burger site I’ve seen: http://www.cheeseandburger.com/

37 broklynite June 22, 2011 at 7:04 pm

I always thought that frozen burgers were just godawful pieces of vulcanized garbage. Up until a couple of months ago, I kept that up. I had a brand new grill that I wanted to break in, but when I went to the supermarket, their meat grinder was broken, and all of the various beef cuts were just gone- I don’t know what happened, but the place was empty. Out of desperation, I looked in the frozen section, and one brand caught my eye. I tried a brand of frozen patties with a really dumb name and a claim to be 100% Angus (Don’t want to get in trouble by naming them directly, but let’s just say that the name is what your cellmate’s name would be, in the South). I served them that evening, and they were a hit. I grilled them carefully so that they came out beautifully, and the onion that was already in the meat made it really amazing. Honestly, this frozen burger was better than a lot of non-frozen burgers I’ve eaten over the years. Am I planning on sticking with frozen burgers for the rest of my life? Of course not. And I still think that most of them are garbage. But I now try to keep a box of this particular brand in my freezer at all times in case of emergencies or improptu grillings.

38 Dillon C. June 22, 2011 at 7:46 pm

I usually throw half a minced onion and a few dashes of Worstershire sauce into the meat before cooking. The onions give the burgers wonderful texture and flavor.

I you are in a hurry a packet of Lipton Onion Soup mix can provide you with a nice flavor with almost no effort or mess. Use it in moderation though, otherwise the soup mix will be all you taste. I use a mixture of 1 packet of soup mix per 2lbs of meat.

39 Cameron June 22, 2011 at 8:34 pm

Mix some Sriracha sauce with mayo, spread that on the bun and top with some avocado and greens. The sauce gives a little bit of kick and the avocado mellows it out.

40 DDog June 22, 2011 at 8:54 pm

I get my ground beef from the farmers’ market and add chopped onion, Worcestershire sauce, an egg, salt, pepper, and chili powder, and serve it on homemade bread. Depending on what’s in season and in the house I’ll top with cheese, lettuce, pickles, tomato, sauteed mushrooms and onions, and/or red onion. My girlfriend does ketchup AND mayonnaise, which I’ve never understood.

41 zenfancy June 22, 2011 at 9:04 pm

And for non-Americans … Australians add beetroot to make it complete.

42 TTFK June 22, 2011 at 9:11 pm

“If you get a flare up, cover the grill. Cutting off the oxygen should quell the flames. Otherwise, always keep a beer in your hand to put out the fire.”

Pouring something that is 98% water onto a grease fire is an extremely bad idea and VERY poor advice.

43 Ted June 22, 2011 at 10:11 pm

Ron ****ing Swanson.

44 Nick June 22, 2011 at 10:18 pm

my personal favorite burger recipe involves 3 lbs of burger, 5 shots of Jack Daniels, and some fresh ground pepper. mix the ingredients in a bowl patty and grill. delicious!

45 TJ June 22, 2011 at 11:00 pm

I’m a minimalist when it comes to my burgers as well. However I like to put crushed garlic and Worcestershire sauce in mine as well. It really gives it that extra something. Good call on the chimney. I love cooking on charcoal and lighter fluid just gives whatever I cook that lighter fluid taste. I will definitely have to try that dimple trick, I always have problems with my burgers plumping up too much.

46 JohnD June 22, 2011 at 11:42 pm

Great write-up. I would also recommend making the patties up in advance(from a few hours to 24) then refridgerating them. This will make them less likely to fall apart.

47 Westicle June 23, 2011 at 8:04 am

When feeling minimalist, I just use salt and pepper on the burger.

When a bit more time to prepare I add:
Egg
Bread crumbs
red wine
Worchester sauce
onions
garlic
salt
pepper

It sounds like a lot but it gets “oohs” and “aaaahs” evertime I make it.

48 Sean McGinnis June 23, 2011 at 8:18 am

About this high heat thing: I almost never grill over high heat. Perhaps I have been doing something horribly wrong, but I used to have terrible “burned on the outside, raw on the inside” experiences until I went to the following technique:
1.) Pre-heat the grill on high. This gets it good and hot on the inside, and heats up the metal to provide a good sear.
2.) Cook on medium-low. I am a firm believer in low and slow, for everything from fish to pork to burgers. The hot metal gives you crusty sear marks, and the burger cooks evenly.
People seem to like them. Does everyone else on the planet grill burgers on high? If so, I may need to revisit this technique.

49 Baradoch June 23, 2011 at 9:58 am

Use half *sausage meat* and half beef. The is what my Grandma–who, to me, was the best cook ever–used to do.
Toppings: a slice of fresh pineapple.
Start the cooking with high heat, sear both sides so that juices cannot escape, then turn down the heat immediately. This requires that you flip the burger twice.
Another trick to keep the juices in is to cover both sides with *dry mustard*. You don’t taste the mustard when it’s served (so long as you don’t rub it in) because it is burned off.

50 Tom June 23, 2011 at 10:46 am

Depending on your location, some stores may sell a “meatloaf mix” of beef, veal, and pork ground meat that is an excellent base for burgers. You season it up as you like (I use salt, pepper, onion and garlic powder) and you are good to go.

51 Daniel June 23, 2011 at 12:26 pm

Glad you mentioned tapenade! People say it’s too ‘fancy’ a topping for a burger, whatever that means, but rarely does anything bring out and play with the flavor of the meat so well.

As for home grinding- it’s really not as tough as you’d think. Dice your meat up into 1/2 inch cubes, toss them into your food processor, pulse about 10 times till it looks ground. I like mixing a pound of chuck, a pound of sirloin and a pound of brisket together for a cookout.

52 Matt June 23, 2011 at 12:37 pm

Great article. However, I would disagree on your point about only flipping your burger once. According to our friends over at SeriousEats, you should flip your burgers (and any meat for that matter), about once a minute. This allows for even distribution of cooking on both sides and can actually provide juicer burgers because you lose less moisture by constantly reversing to flow of juice through the meat.

Anyone interested in the article can find it here: http://bit.ly/drVVMG

Thanks!

53 Deb June 23, 2011 at 12:41 pm

For the record, I use a sea salt on my burgers that gives them even better flavor. Here’s the website where I get it from Sustainable Sourcing https://secure.sustainablesourcing.com I guarantee you won’t be sorry!

As for me, we’ve ground our own venison in the past–TWICE through the grinder, then mix (lightly!) half-n-half with regular ground beef. Oh. Yum!

Okay, now you’ve done it! I’m off to fire up the grill for supper.

54 Norfolk Boy June 23, 2011 at 1:27 pm

Best burger I ever had was at the royal Norfolk show. Best Norfolk ostrich, ground and with a little fat. Best taste ever. Burger was much thicker than normal, bun was good leatheringsett flour, hand made on the day. No accompaniment necessary. Ostrich makes surprisingly fine burger.

55 Josh Calkin June 23, 2011 at 2:54 pm

I’m a big fan of Red Robin Banzai Burgers, so I make them at home.

Ground Beef w/ salt, pepper and teryaki sauce mixed in, Top with sharp cheddar, mayo and a slice of grilled fresh pineapple. Just awesome.

56 Stephen June 23, 2011 at 3:07 pm

@TTFK: Your BBQ shouldn’t really be a grease fire, so pouring liquid on the coals / turning off the gas is usually fine to put the fire out. Beery charcoal is hard to get burning again so treat it as a last resort and just try not to let your BBQ go out of control.

I’m not as big a fan of the concept of massively fancy burgers (I don’t think you can taste the difference between organic meat and non-organic (?!) meat) because I think cooking it properly affects the taste more and a lot of people can’t get great cooked meat out of a BBQ. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter what your cow ate if you cook it badly.

57 Steve June 23, 2011 at 4:37 pm

I like to use some garlic and italian seasoning on mine

58 2buttonswag June 23, 2011 at 5:45 pm

My stomach is kicking my ass right now while reading this! I think I may go home and make every suggested burger tonight!

59 Jeph June 23, 2011 at 5:45 pm

If you want to add some nice flavor and keep your burgers super moist, mix an egg, some bbq sauce, garlic powder, salt, pepper, diced onions and some worcestershire sauce into the ground beef before making your patties. Strays a little from the purist burger but you will thank me later.

60 Jeph June 23, 2011 at 5:49 pm

Also, try grass fed beef. It’s more expensive but WAY tastier. Cows weren’t meant to eat corn, which is what most cows are fed today. The can’t digest it properly so they get too much acid forming in their stomachs, need to be fed antacids and antibiotics to keep them going. Basically, a corn fed cow is a sick cow. Grass is what they were meant to eat and you can taste the difference big time. It’s also a healthier choice.

61 2buttonswag June 23, 2011 at 5:52 pm

I do have a recipe for an Umami Burger that I have not tried yet, but apparently, once you have it, no other burger will be the same. Kind of like this new Peanut Butter I found that has honey in it. Now normal peanut butter just saddens me.

62 2buttonswag June 23, 2011 at 5:53 pm

@ Jeph

SOLD!

63 David M. June 23, 2011 at 5:58 pm

I keep a spray bottle handy and just squirt out the flames with water as they come up. Using leaner mean typically keeps the flare-ups to a minimum, but you also sacrifice some flavor and juices.

Always good to keep a box of salt incase a major fire breaks out. I never carry it with me to the grill, but I know where a box is just incase.

64 John D June 23, 2011 at 7:59 pm

One of my favorite things to do is to take a little pad of butter and form my patties around it. As the burger cooks, the butter melts and diffuses throughout the meat. I’m a minimalist myself, so salt and pepper is really all I need other than that. It’s a simple, but delicious, trick!

65 Tryclyde June 23, 2011 at 8:17 pm

@broklynite: I’ll say it – Bubba Burgers! Their angus burgers are better than most burgers I’ve had in restaurants as well as fresh burgers I’ve grilled. Whenever I grill now, they’re the only ones I buy.

66 Andy June 23, 2011 at 8:39 pm

I put a grilled pineapple, bacon and bbq sauce on my burgers.

67 Bobby June 24, 2011 at 12:47 am

If you like your burger cooked all the way through but don’t want a tasteless burger, freeze your patties, cover them in butter and salt and pepper, and cook them over very low heat.

68 Matthew June 24, 2011 at 12:55 am

I typically use the 80/20 ground chuck, but I make my burgers quite differently.

For 5 lbs of beef:
2 finely diced habaneros
6 finely diced small mushrooms
1/2 finely diced vidalia onion
a palm-full of diced green onions
half a bottle of Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce (or your choice)

Cook the onions and mushrooms in a pan with some sunflower oil until they are soft., then mix everything into the meat. Form into patties and grill or fry in a pan.

You can also mix in cheese, but the results are more iffy with that.

69 Boris June 24, 2011 at 12:40 pm

Quality. This sounds worthy of cooking to bang.

70 Pipi Kalua June 24, 2011 at 6:02 pm

Good article but it left out one extremely crucial detail….

Grind your own meat and do it just before making the burgers. This makes all the difference! Even the best quality ground beef has been in the butcher case for at least a few hours and it is definitely on the downhill side of optimal freshness.

Use boneless short ribs from Costco. This has the perfect fat/meat ratio and it’s a great beefy-tasting cut.

Cut the rib meat strips into 1/2 inch chunks then, working in small batches, PULSE the meat carefully in a food processor until you get the correct ground beef texture. There is a fine line between the correct texture and meat puree so don’t get carried away!

Keep the meat and food processor VERY COLD at all stages of production. (Put processor bowl and blade in freezer 30 minutes before using.) Use the ground meat immediately or within 1-2 hours at most! You will keep the meat very cold, wont you? Of course you will.

Do this simple step and follow the directions in the article and you’re good to go!

71 Barry June 24, 2011 at 7:35 pm

This makes me hungry. I was a “add stuff to the meat” guy for a long time. I’ve gone minimalist. Salt and pepper only to season the meat; 80/20 beef. I’ve never eaten any of the more exotic meats (venison, bison, ostrich, etc); I just mean that any other mixture (90/10, etc) is a recipe for not a good burger. I don’t care what you add to it or how you cook it.

I do have one question, though. I understand that midwesterners make a smashed burger – take the meat, form a ball; let it cook for a couple of minutes in the hot pan, then smash into a patty and finish cooking. Seems this technique automatically make the patty dry by forcing out all the juices. Yes, no, maybe?

72 Ron June 24, 2011 at 7:35 pm

Also, remember to place the lettuce on the bottom half of the bun, with the hamburger place directly on top of the lettuce — this keeps the juices from making the bun soggy.

73 Don June 24, 2011 at 9:27 pm

Skip the bun and substitute two slices of a good sourdough bread. Lightly toast with garlic butter spread on one side of each slice. Toast the plain sides of the bread so that they have a firm, slightly crunchy texture with nice medium to dark brown grill marks which will form the outside of the sandwich.

Top the grilled burger (seasoned only with the salt and pepper you like best) with a slice of quick grilled Canadian bacon and a slice of sharp cheddar cheese or pepper jack cheese. Add some grilled onions between the Canadian bacon and the cheese if you like.

Leave off the lettuce and tomatoes and put them in a nice salad instead.

74 Josh June 25, 2011 at 1:36 am

i hate the term filler- it is enhancer! i love to add one slice of white bread dipped in milk, and one egg to about a pound of beef! it keeps the meat unbelievably moist, without taking away the flavour… “purists” are simply afraid of change

75 Chris June 25, 2011 at 4:49 pm

On behalf of the Australian men – It just isn’t a hamburger without beetroot!

76 Tony June 25, 2011 at 4:49 pm

I’ve processed my own meat for years. I also follow the minimalist rule for burgers using salt and pepper but I do add one other thing, a splash of Jack Daniels to each burger. Selecting a good cheese is also a key to a good finished product.

A burger we like is the kimchee burger. We top the basic cheeseburger with homemade kimchee. This burger gets a nice crusty roll instead of a regular hamburger bun.

77 Joe June 25, 2011 at 5:48 pm

Throw half a packet of Lipton’s Onion Soup mix into your meat before making the patties — you won’t be disappointed! (Unless you don’t like onions, in which case you probably will.)

78 Edvard June 26, 2011 at 10:25 am

Hi!

Wonderful recepie apart from one thing. If you cook a thich burger, how did you decide only to flip once? I really recommend you take a look at this in-depth analysis of the subject. Dissapointing, since the flip-once rule only applies to thin patties if you don’t like the taste of overcooked meat.

Just my cents
Edvard

79 Edvard June 26, 2011 at 10:25 am

Hi!

Wonderful recepie apart from one thing. If you cook a thich burger, how did you decide only to flip once? I really recommend you take a look at this in-depth analysis of the subject. Dissapointing, since the flip-once rule only applies to thin patties if you don’t like the taste of overcooked meat.

http://aht.seriouseats.com/archives/2010/02/the-burger-lab-how-many-times-should-you-flip-a-burger-while-cooking.html

Just my cents
Edvard

80 joe June 26, 2011 at 2:53 pm

I like crushing about 240 mg of oxycontin per pound of beef and just salt and pepper. I have never had any complaints and I.swear I’m just addicted to these burgers , I eat them daily

81 TomH June 27, 2011 at 11:46 am

Something I learned recently from my son who has turned out to be an excellent chef (watch for him on TV), is that you should put the pepper on the burger while it cooks but save the salt until the burger is done. Salt Draws the moisture out of the beef.

Also, try mixing a little ranch dressing into the burger meat before making your patties. It is delicious!!

82 caleb June 27, 2011 at 11:55 am

We go KC Style – mix in onion soup mix. Gives great flavor and keeps it most, especially when some prefer medium-well or well.

83 chris R. June 27, 2011 at 8:25 pm

Why only flip it once? There was an article on one of the gizmodo sites that showed more flipping actually made a more evenly cooked burger.

84 TomD June 27, 2011 at 8:32 pm

Check out Dakota Buckaroo Sauce. It is amazing for hamburgers as well as steaks etc.
http://www.dakotabuckaroo.com/
You can get in some grocery stores out west. Otherwise I guess you’ll have to order. I always use it and everyone loves it.

85 FingerSoup July 3, 2011 at 1:42 am

I’m into “Creative” burgers. I wrap them in Bacon, put diced onions in with the meat, or creatively spice the meat (Jamaican Jerk burgers… Glghahghghgh). My most “impressive” trick is cheese stuffed.

For Stuffing burgers with cheese, it helps to mix some egg and breadcrumb along with a little BBQ sauce to have a binding agent in the meat to keep the cheese from leaking out. This also keeps them moist, as they need to stay on a little longer (to ensure the cheese melts, and to ensure there’s no raw egg). Make a large patty with a divot (as mentioned in the article). Place shredded cheese (aged cheddar works great. Crumbled blue cheese works too, if you’re a fan) into the divot, then fold your edges over the “cheese hole”, to cover. squeeze into seamless patties (Make sure you can’t see where your cheese hole was). Place covered in the fridge for 1 hour for them to set.

When cooking these, I’m a two time flipper, who likes to manage the heat of his grill. I have a hot and a “cool” side to my grill (either by adjusting the gas, or stacking the charcoal closer to one side). cook both sides fast and hot first. Grill them until you get the char marks you want. Spend a little more time on the second side to cook it through a little more on that side. Then flip it to the cooler side of the grill (the first side down again) and close the lid for some indirect heat to cook the burger through.

You will end up with a juicy burger that is medium-well, with molten cheese oozing out in your first bite. It’s truly a perfect burger experience.

I don’t trust rare/medium-rare ground beef… But that’s usually because I get my meat at the supermarket. I’d trust it more if I had a good butcher near me, with some idea where his meat comes from.

86 Greg July 3, 2011 at 2:04 pm

Josh is right, take a piece of bread, soak it in milk and tear it up into crouton sized pieces and mix them in with the ground beef; as the meat slowly loses grease, the milk keeps the burger moist. Also, if you really want to keep the buns dry, having a piece of lettuce touch each (bottom-top: bun lettuce burger cheese tomato lettuce bun) then the lettuce acts like saran wrap and keeps moisture from soaking the buns. I’ve had good experience with a little chopped garlic and a1 sauce

87 fuchikoma July 4, 2011 at 6:35 pm

I also agree with others about flipping more often than that.
For the burger in the bottom picture… I’ve had my share of burgers like that, and I think the chef forgets that they’re a kind of sandwich. I’d dislocate my jaw trying to open it farther, then scrape a little bit off the top half and a bit off the bottom half, then settle for fries instead. IMO a good burger patty is up to a half inch thick, and if more are needed, they can be stacked. There’s also less concern whether the middle will be raw.

I do agree about keeping the recipe simple! I’ve had a lot that were packed with onion soup, breadcrumbs, egg yolk, etc… really more a Salisbury Steak than a hamburger!

88 Ed July 10, 2011 at 5:10 pm

Here’s the video from this years Patriot MkII:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5yGnpW3lhd4

89 Brentallica February 1, 2013 at 2:45 pm

For PERFECT doneness, wait for the little well you used your thumb to make in the center of the patty to fill with juices. When there’s some good juice in there, flip it and cook 2 MIN LESS than the first side. Perfect. Every. Time.

90 Rodney March 13, 2013 at 8:03 am

I like to work a little extra virgin olive oil into the meat along with kosher salt and cracked black pepper.

91 Cheryl April 17, 2013 at 3:04 pm

I use Wolferman’s Cheddar english muffins buttered & grilled instead of rolls…they have enough body and are big enough for really good juicy burgers…..

92 Shawn June 11, 2013 at 3:22 pm

@ ED – You are the man! What are you going to do to top that?

93 Ian ST John September 18, 2013 at 7:00 pm

Tomato ketchup and a little flour works well as a binding agent, particularly for lean meat such as buffalo or black Angus beef. Same for veggie burgers. I like to use a mix of three condiments in a burger, just like most fast food joints. Slightly toasted heels of wholewheat bread make large robust buns. It eliminates slippage, sogginess and disintegration.

94 Andrew January 30, 2014 at 9:22 am

The best burger I’ve ever had was on a Thai Air Force base near Pattaya. They called it the “big greedy dirty bastard”. Two patties with cheese between them, bacon, a fried egg, and a slice of ham, covered with sweet red chili and between two slices of toasted white bread.

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