The best start to a tasty burger is to use the right meat. Fat is critical to flavor and it’s important to get the right amount of fat in the burger meat. That right amount? Well, most agree that 80/20 (80% lean, 20% fat) beef will give you a burger with enough fat to keep the burger not only tasty, but moist too. Many people try to avoid fat and opt for extra lean beef (also known as 90/10 – 90% lean, 10% fat) for all their cooking, but this low fat content will end up leaving you with a dry, tasteless burger. Remember, some of the fat in that burger will be rendered out as it cooks, so you’re not ingesting 20% fat. On the other side of the scale, if you have more than 20% fat in your burger meat, you’ll end up with a greasy burger – not ideal. Opt for 80/20 ground beef.
Another way to add flavor to your burger is, of course, to season the burger properly. This means you should season the burger meat as you mix it and shape it, and then season the surface of the burger again when you cook the patties. If you end up seasoning just the surface of the burger, you’ll only affect the outside of the patty and the inside of the burger will be bland.
Love me Tender
Tenderness is another critical aspect of the perfect burger and the trick here is to not over work the burger meat. It’s actually quite logical – the harder you pack a burger into a patty, the harder that patty is going to be. I prefer to toss the burger meat back and forth from hand to hand to pack it into a ball. Then, squeeze that ball into a patty, using your fingers to make an indentation in the center of the patty so it sort of resembles a doughnut. This divot in the center will rise when the burger cooks, leveling out into a nice flat patty. If you start with a flat patty, the center of the burger will still rise and you’ll end up with a little baseball.
Now that you’ve got the right burger meat and have packed and shaped your burger properly without over-working the meat, the last task is to focus on keeping it juicy. There are two tricks here. The first is to resist the temptation to press down on the burger with the back of your spatula. When you do this, you’ll notice juices squeezing out of the burger and guess what… they don’t come back! What you’re doing is forcing the juiciness out of your burger, so no pressing your burger. Secondly, let your burger rest for a minute. Just as with steaks, pork chops and any other meat, the proteins in the meat need just a few minutes to relax before you bite into that juicy, tender, delicious patty. Let the burger rest and it will retain more of its juices. Besides… you need time to toast the buns and prepare all the condiments!
When it comes to cooking your burger, you have options. For a crusty exterior, the best tool you can use is a cast iron pan on the stovetop. Cast iron gets hot and stays hot, giving your burger patty a great sear and, by not moving it around too often (which is the most common mistake), allows for a crust to form on the outside of the burger. Of course, you can use a regular sauté pan or skillet on the stovetop instead, but cast iron will give you the best crust on the burger (if that’s what you’re going for).
You can also use an outdoor grill (gas or charcoal) to cook your burger and this might be the most popular method. You need a hot grill for burgers. Pre-heat your grill and after several minutes check the grill by holding your hand a couple of inches over the grill grates. The heat should be so intense that you’ll want to pull your hand away after just 2 or 3 seconds. Then, your grill is hot enough. Once the burgers are on the grill, try not to over-flip them. Let them cook for at least half the time you expect them to take for your desired degree of doneness (probably about 8 to 10 minutes) before you even attempt to move them. Then, flip them once and let the burgers finish cooking through.
Finally, the air fryer is a great appliance for cooking burgers. The element in the air fryer is on top of the unit and sends direct heat down on the burgers. The patties sit in a perforated basket so the grease can drip down away from the meat as it cooks, which is convenient and easy to clean up as the grease collects in the drawer below. As with the grilling method, you will have to flip the burgers once in the air fryer in order to cook them evenly, but you were planning on that anyway, right?
Finally, you can broil your burgers if you only have an oven at your disposal. Broiling is like grilling upside down, with the heat coming from above as opposed to below. The only challenge to grilling a burger is that it can be messy and smoky. The fat in the burger can spit up and hit the element of the broiler and it will also gather on the sheet pan and can burn there. So, place your tray of burgers about 6 inches below the broiler to reduce both mess and smoke, and broil one side and then the other until your desired degree of doneness is reached.
The rest is up to you. What type of bun or bread (or lettuce?) you use, what condiments you pick and whether or not you like toppings like cheese, mushrooms, onions, bacon or tomatoes, is completely a matter of personal preference. Dress it up the way you like it and enjoy!
- Start with the right meat: 80/20 ground beef.
- Season the meat when you mix the burger meat and again when you cook the patties.
- Don’t over-mix or you’ll get a dense and tough burger.
- Make an indentation in the burger patty so that it stays flat as it cooks.
- To keep the burger more juicy, refrain from pressing down on the burger with a spatula when it cooks.
- Cook burgers on a hot grill, in a 400ºF air fryer, in a cast iron pan on the stovetop or 6 inches under a broiler.
- Remember to flip the burger no matter what cooking method you use, but only once.
- Let the burger rest for a couple minutes before digging in.