Recently I decided I was not happy with the burgers I'd been making for years. They just weren't the same as what you'd get in a restaurant - always a little dry and very dense. I started to research what made a burger awesome and trying out every trick I found - this instructable is a compilation of all the tips that made a difference for me. :D
If you want to find out how to make a great burger at home, keep on reading! It's really not as complicated as you'd think.
I'd also love to hear how you cook your burgers - if you have any tricks, post them in the comments below!
Step 1: Things You'll Need for a Great Burger
- good quality ground beef - preferably 80/20. It needs the fat to be tasty! Try to find local grass fed beef and buy it from a butcher if you can - the better your beef the better the burgers.
- salt & pepper
- tasty buns - I like to buy them from local companies so they're nice and fresh.
- bacon fat - this is my preferred fat to cook all burgers in! You can store bacon fat forever in the fridge, or you can just cook a few strips of bacon before you put the burgers on.
- whatever toppings you enjoy
That is really and truly all you need for a great burger. As long as you have good ingredients and follow this instructable you'll be a burger hero. :D
- a cast iron OR heavy nonstick skillet
- an instant read thermometer (optional, but really helps if you're new to cooking burgers!)
Step 2: How to Form Burgers Properly
The big thing to remember here is to be gentle. The less you touch the ground beef, the better the burger will be.
This means no mix-ins. But I promise you don't need them.
Decide what size burgers you want and split your ground beef into equal amounts. (We normally make 4 burgers from 1 pound of beef.) I just eyeball it and break it up with my hands, though you can use a scale if you're feeling scientific. Once it's divided out, make a ball from each portion - just gently roll it in your hands.
Then flatten each ball gently between your palms - smooth out the edges with your hands. Try to make the burgers just slightly larger than the buns because they'll shrink a little when they cook.
Make a fairly deep dimple in the very middle of each burger. This dimple will keep the burgers from puffing up as they cook - they'll stay a little flatter!
Step 3: Make Sure to Season the Burgers Well
The ultimate rule of making a delicious burger: only season the outside of the burger patty. Never, ever season the ground beef and then mix it before forming the burgers. This makes for extremely dense burgers that are not great to eat. The kneading and salt just turns them into bricks. Check out this awesome post at Serious Eats for photo proof!
As far as proper seasoning: I put a TON of salt on the outside of the burgers. A big pinch on both sides, sometimes two. You need to be able to see the salt. You will lose a little in the pan while it's cooking, so don't worry if it looks like a lot.
Apply as much pepper as you like - it's not as important to the finished product, so it's just a matter of personal taste.
Step 4: Cook Up Some Bacon
I love cooking my burgers in bacon fat.
If you don't have bacon fat on hand, cook up a few strips of bacon before cooking the burgers. Bacon on burgers is obviously a magical combination, and cooking your burgers in bacon fat makes them 800% more magical.
If you're not into bacon - try using unsalted butter to cook in instead!
Step 5: Toast Your Buns
I never used to do this, but it really does make for a burger with more texture. Toasting the bun helps it stand up to juices from the burger and any condiments you add. I like to go fairly dark when toasting - I think it really helps the flavor of the burger. :)
Step 6: How to Cook a Burger
You want to cook the burgers over high heat fairly fast. That means you'll get a nice sear on both sides. On my gas stove, I cook them at medium high heat. (Knob set between 7-8)
Heat the pan up and make sure you have a nice layer of bacon fat across the bottom of the pan. Once it's nice and hot place the burgers into the pan dimple side up. If you don't hear a lot of sizzling, your pan is not hot enough.
General cooking times:
- 1/4 pound burgers, I normally cook them for 2 minutes on the first side. 1 minute more on the other side.
- 1/2 pound burgers normally get cooked for 4 minutes. 3 minutes on the other side.
As soon as you flip the burgers, add the cheese if you're into that.
After flipping them, you can either test the burger by poking at it (this will come naturally with practice, but it's tricky to do at first!) or by using an instant read thermometer.
I always cook my burgers between 140 - 150 F. The USDA recommends 160 F but I find that leads to crumbly, dry and pretty terrible burgers. I've never ever gotten sick, but keep in mind that there is a small risk!
As soon as your burger is where you want it, pull if off the heat and put it onto a bun.
Step 7: Top It With Whatever the Hell You Want
Really. I'm not about to tell you what should go on it!
Lately we've been really into homemade BBQ sauce (Though I've been subbing in chipotle powder for chili powder), bacon, homemade pickled jalapenos, and raw white or yellow onion. SO GOOD. Tyler adds cheese to his but I abstain for the sake of my stomach - it's amazing even without it!
In the last few weeks we've probably had that style of burger six times. It's such a simple and easy dinner. Check out my other instructables for some great side dishes, too! :D