Tips for Making Better Burgers
It's no question that a good old-fashioned hamburger makes for an easy summer dinner, but if you want consistently juicy, flavorful burgers, try our easy tips to ensure great results every time.
Pictured above (top to bottom, left to right):
- Vermont Cheddar Burgers with Warm Maple Ketchup
- Grilled Hawaiian Burger with Teriyaki Ketchup
- Chimichurri Burger
- Scallion Burgers with Sesame Slaw
Buying ground beef:
- The first step to making great tasting burgers is to be sure that your meat is freshly ground.
- By nature, ground meat loses its moisture rather quickly, so be sure to ask your butcher for meat that has been ground the day you plan to use it.
- When choosing your meat, consider the fat to meat ratio. Leaner is not always better. Ground beef with at least 15% fat content works best and ground round and ground chuck are both good choices.
- If you prefer lean ground beef add 1 tablespoon of olive or vegetable oil per pound of meat.
Grinding your own:
- For maximum freshness, you can also try grinding your own beef. It's really easy to do and there are equipment options for all budgets. Here's how:
- Cut your meat into 1-inch cubes (don't trim the fat), place it in a plastic bag and freeze for 30 minutes. This prevents the fat from getting too soft resulting in a juicier, less dense patty. Use a grinding blade with 1/4-inch holes and freeze that along with the meat to keep it as cold as possible.
- You can also use a food processor to "grind" meat. Freeze the blade along with the meat, then pulse the cubes in small batches, just long enough to mince it. Be sure not to overload the work bowl to avoid over processing - you don't want to end up with a paste.
Note: For our recipes, we ground top sirloin using an attachment for our stand mixer.
Forming and cooking the burgers
- Make sure your meat is well chilled and don't overwork the meat with your hands. The warmth of your hands can start melting the fat resulting in a less juicy burger.
- If you're adding other flavoring ingredients to the meat, make sure they're chilled as well.
- Always season your meat before forming into patties.
- Make a depression in the center of each patty with your thumb. This will help the burger retain a flat shape during cooking.
- Oil the grates and preheat your grill completely. Medium-high heat is best.
- Don't try to turn burgers over too quickly. Allow the juices to bead on the top of the burger first as this indicates that they are cooked through the center.
- Never press or flatten your burgers during cooking. This squeezes out all of the juices, increases the possibility of flare-ups and results in a dry burger.
- Toast your buns lightly and have your toppings ready to serve.
- Cooking times will vary depending on the size and thickness of your burgers and the heat intensity of your grill. As a general rule of thumb, a 1/4-lb burger, cooked over medium-high heat will take 6 to 7 minutes to cook to medium doneness.
- Always allow the burgers to rest for 5 minutes before serving. This helps to hold in the juices.
Our Basic Burger Recipe
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon panko crumbs
- Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
Place the ground beef in a shallow bowl. Add the salt, a few grinds of black pepper, the mayonnaise and the panko crumbs. The mayonnaise and panko combination helps to hold the juices in the burger during cooking, but doesn't change the flavor or texture of the beef. The coarse texture of the panko crumbs is important because they don't add density to the burger like dry breadcrumbs would.
Use a wooden spatula to combine the meat ingredients as best you can before doing a final, gentle mix with your hands. Gently form the patties into quarter-pound portions and make a slight depression in the center of each with your thumb. This helps the burgers maintain an even thickness rather than developing a thicker "dome" in the center. Transfer to a plate and chill for at least 15 minutes before grilling.
Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to a medium-high temperature (about 400°F). Oil the grates, add the burgers and grill for approximately 4 minutes on the first side. You'll know when it's time to turn them because juices will begin to bead on the top of each burger indicating that they are cooked through the center. Use a spatula to turn them and grill for an additional 2 to 3 minutes on the second side. Transfer the burgers to a plate and allow them to rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Makes 4 servings