There is nothing more American than a perfectly formed, grill mastered, juicy, succulent, satisfying hamburger. So as Memorial Day weekend marks the opening to “grilling season” (whatever that is). Let’s kick it off right by building the perfect burger! Here are 10 steps to help you build the perfect burger:
Step 1: Buying the right meat.
Fat equals juiciness and flavor, people! This is why the lean-to-fat ratio in ground beef is critical. If you want a good burger, 80/20 is definitely the way to go. 20% fat is ideal if you want to cook your burger anywhere from medium-rare to medium-well. Of course, if you like your burger well-done, then maybe you should be more like 40% fat, but if you want it to be really rare, you would bring down the fat content. Trust me, you don’t want a lot of unrendered fat in your burger.
Key factors when shopping for meat:
- Shop for the freshest and best quality meat you can find.
- 80% lean, ground chuck
Step 2: Don’t overwork the meat while forming the perfect patties.
The more you handle the meat, the tougher your burger will be. In a large bowl, pull the meat apart into small chunks, add salt or other seasonings, and toss gently with fingers spread apart until loosely mixed.
Key factors when forming patties:
- Use Wet Hands to Form Burger Patties – A bit of dampness at the start will keep your hands from getting sticky. It also allows the meat to come together faster and prevents over-handling.
- Make Burger Patties With a Dimple In the Center – Divide the meat into equal portions and form patties about ¾-inch thick at the edges and ½-inch thick in the center. The burgers will shrink and pull in as they cook. The dimple will even out as the burgers cook. When the burger is done, the patty will be more even shaped.
- All you need is salt and pepper – Really good burgers do not need any special seasonings. If you want a meatloaf,
make a meatloaf. For burgers, stick to basics. How you prepare the meat is the key to a great tasting burger.
Step 3: Keep ‘Em Cold!
Put the patties in the refrigerator while the grill heats up. This helps more of the flavor-carrying fat stay in the meat. Unlike other meats that will cook up better if brought to room temperature before grilling, keep your patties cold. This will help them stay together and it will keep them juicy.
Step 4: A Clean Grate.
Start with a clean cooking grate. Bits of debris will encourage sticking and so does an un-oiled surface and too low a temperature. You want your burgers to sizzle immediately, firm up quickly, and release from the grill.
Step 5: You need a hot grill.
You want to keep your grill at a steady high heat. Hold your hand 1 to 2 inches above the grill level for 2 to 3 seconds to check for consistent heat.
Key Factors For A Hot Grill:
- CHARCOAL: You want ash-covered coals to produce even heat.
- GAS: Keep the lid down while cooking
Step 6: Handling your meat properly.
- Flip Burgers Once and Only Once! Constant turning will toughen and dry out meat, and if you flip too soon, burgers will stick. Cook 2 minutes per side for rare, 3 for medium-rare, 4 for medium, and 5 for well-done.
- Don’t Press Burgers While Cooking! This is an all too common mistake when grilling burgers. When a cook mashes down on the burger with a spatula, the juice just pours out onto the flame, taking all that moistness and flavor with it. JUST DON’T DO IT!
Step 7: Cheese them babies and toast those buns.
If you are making cheeseburgers, add your chosen cheese 2 minutes before the burger is done. David loves adding both Sharp Cheddar and Swiss cheese to our burgers for maximum cheesiness.
When the burgers are topped with cheese, now is the perfect time to toast your buns. Toasting the buns not only brings out the flavor of the bun, but it gives the bun a firmer structure and helps prevent it from absorbing too much moisture.
Step 8: A rested burger is a juicy burger.
Allowing the burgers to rest, allows the meat to finish cooking and allows the juices within redistribute throughout the patty for maximum juiciness. 5 to 10 minutes will make a difference.
Step 9: Lettuce should not be a topping.
When building your burger, simply put the lettuce on the bottom underneath your burger. It will help the greasy goodness from the burger from saturating your bun. It will help keep it together longer and make eating it a little less messy. Trust me, IT WORKS!
Step 10: Crown your burgers with bacon.
We always top our burgers with bacon, but ever since I made those first Bacon Onion Burger Crowns made to top ordinary cheeseburgers it has become a staple when making cheese burgers. Basically it is an onion with bacon wrapped around it. To learn how to make them for your burgers, click HERE.
BONUS: Adorn your crown.
After making your crowns you’ll have a nice little halo of bacony goodness for my toppings to go into.
- Chili – David makes a really nice beef chili out of Ground beef, chili powder, ketchup, a wee bit of mustard and a splash of Worcestershire Sauce, to taste.
(Sorry folks, we haven’t worked this out to precise measurement yet, mainly because the amount of beef we have leftover varies.)
- Fried Egg – If you have never tried a fried egg on your cheeseburger. YOU HAVE TO!! David hasn’t tried it yet, but I have. The first time I tried a fried egg on my burger was at Red Robin. I cannot express the foodgasm that this put me in. The cream yolk oozed down into that juicy meat and cheese and encompassed it into this little package of heaven inside your mouth. Yep, YOU HAVE TO. I now adorn my crown with egg at home.If you do, fry the egg while your burger rests. It doesn’t take long to fry an egg and once you’ve tried it, you will understand the euphoria this adornment can put you in. TRY IT!
So what are you waiting for? GO GET GRILLING!