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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

Ingredients:

  • 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

Tools:

  • 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

<p>Looks delicious....would you say it's much of a difference going from bacon fat to unsalted butter? I ask because I don't eat bacon.</p>
<p>The only real difference is you can REALLY taste the butter. But that's not a bad thing :D</p>
<p>Those are masterpieces!!!! I miss your delicious dishes, Jessy!</p>
<p>Well if you guys ever want to come visit us in CO, I'll cook for you :D</p>
That would be great!!!! Thanks!! :-)
<p>Looks tasty</p><p>One question: 80/20 beef means 80% meat / 20% fat? I sometimes take 30% pork for extra juiciness. The buns are self made. </p>
<p>Yup! <br>And those buns are GORGEOUS</p>
<p>Thank you for the Delicious recipe! I made your recipe this afternoon and my hamburgers were delicious and the best I have ever made. I had given up on making them at home but now I know the secrets! The only thing I did differently was to slice a couple of fresh jalape&ntilde;os and sa them in the bacon grease for a few minutes and I added the cooked bacon to my burgers. Thank you for sharing!</p>
<p>Cooking the jalapenos in the bacon fat is such a good idea! I think I'll try that next time I don't have any pickled ones on hand. :D</p>
<p>Yummy,....</p><p>Very </p><p>tasty,</p><p>I make mine in a similar way.</p>
<p>thank you..!!!</p>
<p>I prefer to cook the burgers in just the barest touch of butter. Bacon grease makes the burger flavor too rich/heavy; if you want bacon flavor, add some bacon after. Pepper really has no place on a burger. Optionally, use a dusting of garlic powder, anywhere from very light to fully coated; adds a gentle sweetness to the burger. Keep the burger on the thinner side, and keep the heat down, such that by time the middle is perfectly pink, you get a sear on the outside with no char.</p><p>The tip to not work the meat any more than you have to is the absolute key.</p>
Can't beat a good burger! These look excellent :)
<p>Great instructable. I owned and ran a hamburger place back in the 1950's. Yes, that was 65 years ago but these suggestions still apply:</p><p> Fresh ground beef is much better than frozen. We always greased the bun with oil before toasting. Toasted both halves of the bun before turning the meat. Cover meat (or meat &amp; cheese) with top half of toasted bun. While the meat is cooking (after it has been turned), add the mayo, mustard, BBQ sauce, tomato, or whatever, to bottom half of bun. All these things makes the burger taste juicer and speeds up the process. Eat immediately or wrap it with paper napkin to hold in heat &amp; flavor. </p>
<p>I haven't tried bacon fat, but my brother always used that to pop his popcorn in. Anyway, my boyfriend loves my homemade burgers; I put in one packet of dry onion soup, and some teriyaki sauce. The only thing I don't like about it is that the teriyaki does like to burn. I spray the pan first with PAM or equivalent, and that helps.</p>
I make my burgers similarly. I always use a hot pan or grill. I like my iron skillet. Tips:<br>1. Cook on each side 6 minutes and dont mess with themin between.<br>2. Never press them down. I dries them out.<br>3. I dont put anything on them while im forming them. You can form them with two saucers or tupperware patty forms.<br>4. My sauce; 2tsp warchestershire sauce. 2 tblsp dales steak sauce. 1 oz mtn dew. 1 tsp honey. 1/4 tsp pepper. Stir is together then pour some over each patty right before cooking.
<p>Absolutley add the W sauce. . . I sprinkle it over them while cooking, both sides.</p><p>Don't need the rest. . . . </p>
<p>Great advice all around -- I wouldn't change a thing. If you don't want to use bacon fat or don't want the bacon flavor, use clarified butter. That's what I use on both burgers and steaks. And since I almost always use the outdoor gas grill for this kind of thing I put the fat or butter on before the meat hits the grill. And I get the grill really hot. When the greased or buttered meat hits the grill it will flame. But don't worry -- the grease/butter will protect your meat and give it a good sear/char. On the hottest grill I do 3 1/2 to 4 min. a side for a 6 to 8 oz. burger. That will give you a warm pink middle.</p>
<p>I think you can get the MARTINS POTATO rolls at WalMart--I know some people hate it but they do have a wide selection. Also--for those who are sensitive to NITRATES and the like--ALDI's has bacon that is cured WITHOUT that and it really is GOOD. For the other members of our family we get DAKIN FARM SMOKED--we live nearby but you can mail order it--worth it! (They also have a smoked pepperoni that is AMAZING--and wonderful cheeses! )</p><p>IF you don't like to cook in too much oil a PROPERLY SEASONED cast iron pan can just be HEATED and then a fairly decent layer of KOSHER SALT (coarser crystals) sprinkled in there and just cook the burgers (or steak or chops---) right on the salt (do not salt in advance if you use this method!) also cuts down on splatter and smoke! </p>
<p>Tried it. Tastes just gorgeous :-)</p>
<p>GREAT!!... Got my vote!.... Makes me hungry just to look at it!....</p>
<p>Been making mine like this for YEARS! spot on! One thing i do is ,i like to put 1/4 of the meat sirloin with the 80/20. give a little steak kick! when you get the cast iron good, the burgers rival a grill. and if you are lucky enough to have a gas stove with the grill feature,heaven! I am stuck with electric! the bacon grease is the only way to go !</p>
<p>one thing. wish i could find good rolls like the ones pictured!</p>
<p>If you have a &quot;full service grocery&quot; near buy, try and find Martins Potato roll products...nothing better!!!!</p>
<p>The only extra thing I do is make two smaller patties, use a spoon to make a dimple in one, place my cheese, fine diced onions, whatever in the dimple. Place the second small patty on top and pinch the edges together.</p><p>In several areas of the country this is known as a &quot;juicy lucy&quot;.</p>
<p>I'm thinking about smoked bacon, I mean bacon literally cooked in our smoker.</p>
Your photography is beautiful too!
Your hamburgers look delicious! I stopped making them at home a few years ago for all the reasons you mentioned. I am trying your recipe today! Thanks!
You had me at cook in bacon fat! :D
<p>Great way to cook the burgers. I will try them tonight fried in avocado oil and topped with guacamole.</p>
<p>Mayonnaise!</p><p>Like a good steak, I kill the heat on the pan a little before it is done. The meat will continue cooking itself a few more degrees and if you let it rest in the pan, it will soak back up some of the juices that cooked out making for an even juicier burger.</p>
Being a home burger fan forever... it's funny that I've never thought to make an effort to improve them. Now my world has changed. Can't wait to try these tips :)
<p>I think you'll be really happy! The salting trick alone makes them so much better to eat. :)</p>
Yum
<p>:D</p>
They look like they could be served in a restaurant, beautiful and delicious!
<p>aww, thanks lady!</p>
<p>Good tip about not mixing the salt into the ground meat. I didn't know that!</p>
<p>It makes such a huge difference!</p>
<p>If you ask me, it's near to impossible to find good quality ground beef. And why stop at salt and pepper? Meat can endure a lot of spices, I like to experiment personally</p>
<p>It definitely can be tricky to find good quality ground beef which is why I hope folks reading this can find somewhere locally that grinds it in-house. We're very lucky to have two good sources within walking distance! :)</p><p>And that's true. I just really like adding lots of toppings instead of extra seasoning! </p>

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Bio: part of the Instructables Design Studio by day, stitch witch by night. follow me on instagram @makingjiggy to see what i'm working on! ^_^
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