10 Tips For Making The Perfect Hamburger
I have literally cooked thousands of homemade hamburgers over the years. I have also tried lots of burgers at restaurants that were cooked to perfection. Unfortunately, there are a lot of chefs here in the UK and elsewhere who need to read this list of burger tips before they attempt another.
As you can see from the recipes I’ve posted on my site, I do enjoy copying the best and also most famous burgers. Just because a hamburger is famous doesn’t mean it’s actually all that good however. Often, I end up placing the ingredients in the same sequence as the original but stick to my own rules about how to make the burger awesome.
The secret to hamburger success is all in the ingredients you use and of course how you cook your beef. This was driven home to me through my many visits to the most popular American burger joints and restaurants. Follow these tips and you will be in burger heaven every time you decide to indulge in one of America’s most popular inventions.
Definition of a hamburger
Let’s get one thing straight. A hamburger is not made with chicken. It also isn’t made with fish, pork or lamb. No, to be a true hamburger, it’s got to be made with beef and served in a hamburger bun! Any other concoction is simply a sandwhich.
So then… now that we have that straight, let’s look at the most important tips for making your hamburgers the best in the neighbourhood if not the world.
1) Use only the best well aged beef
I purchase only the best well aged minced beef from good butchers. Often I ask the butcher to mince specific cuts such chuck, sirloin, skirt or a mixture of them all.
I usually ask for a meat to fat ratio of 80% meat and 20% fat which always tastes amazing. Some popular diners and restaurants use a 60% to 40% ratio which is to die for but also a lot worse for you.
It is important to use 100% beef. Don’t ever mix with bread crumbs or egg as so many chefs do. You’ll end up with a hard formed tasteless burger.
2) If seasoning, season generously
Good quality beef doesn’t need to be seasoned at all. You can just let the meat do the talking. I tend to season my homemade patties generously, however with salt and pepper on both sides of the patty. You can also season with a good quality steak rub.
3) Get Your pan as hot as you can get it
Never place your burger in a pan that has not been heated until super hot. This is how you achieve that amazing char on the exterior of the patty. The same rule applies when grilling your meat on a barbecue. No lubrication such as oil is needed when your pan is fiery hot though I do enjoy the odd dollop of goose fat. Only when the wife isn’t looking though.
4) Make Your own buns
Those burger buns available in the plastic bags at supermarkets are usually stale and tasteless. Don’t go there! If you happen to live somewhere where you can purchase homemade hamburger buns from a baker, you could use them. I have a great local baker I use.
I do prefer to make my own, however. There is simply no substitute for homemade hamburger buns, fresh and fluffy right out of the oven.
5) Hand form you patties
Most fast food chains use machine made – pre-formed burgers that all look identical. Usually they are supplied frozen and then heated up on the grill or in a microwave.
If you are trying to do a copycat burger recipe, you may wish to form your patties in this way but for best results, form them by hand.
I like to shape my patties into balls that are then pressed down with a heavy spatula. If grilling on a barbecue this isn’t a good idea. Just form the patties so they are flat so that they cook evenly.
The spatula method is my favourite because you achieve so many different textures in the patty. It is more compact in the centre but the sides are loosely formed making the periphery meat crispier. This is how it’s done at the best diners.
6) Cook to your preferred doneness
I would never recommend doing this with supermarket minced beef. If you have a good butcher who is happy to mince your preferred cuts for you, then you are dealing with fresh steak and the meat can be treated as so.
I prefer my patties to be cooked to medium rare 56c. For rare, shoot for an inside temperature of 50c when using a meat thermometer.
7) Only flip once
You really only need to flip your burgers once! Sear on one side to perfection and then flip it over and continue cooking until your patty is done to your preferred doneness.
8) Form your patties to the right size
When forming your patties, try to make them a little larger than the bun you are using. As the patty cooks it will reduce in size so that it is the same size as the bun.
You want to have a bit of burger and bun in every mouthful.
9) Only use the freshest, crispest vegetables
You need to look for the freshest iceberg lettuce and crispest pickles and onions you can find. In-n-Out Burger in the US does this to perfection. In fact they only use the leaves from the centre of the head of lettuce to ensure the lettuce is crunch and crisp.
It makes a the difference in the world!
10) Prepare your buns so you can eat immediately
I always prepare my buns while the meat is on the grill. For best results, toast the buns too with a little butter.
Make sure that when you take your hot burger off the grill, your bun is ready to house it. Eat immediately.