How to Make Great Burgers at Home

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Introduction: How to Make Great Burgers at Home

About: I work at instructables by day, and turn into a stitch witch by night. follow me on instagram @jessyratfink to see what i'm working on! ^_^

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

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51 Comments

0
Pinaynomad
Pinaynomad

7 months ago

That looks delish! I wanna try!

0
Mj3x
Mj3x

10 months ago

hello
great food

0
SteveJ73
SteveJ73

10 months ago

One thing I've learned is that we now leave the burgers out at room temperature for at least a few minutes before cooking if they were formed and refrigerated earlier. Letting them warm up a bit lets the inside get to temperature faster when cooking, without overcooking and drying up the outside.

0
LokiGnosis
LokiGnosis

11 months ago

Jessyratfink, this is strange because I made burgers today and then saw yours after your post on my Instructable, I like the look of yours and very good pics!
I'm sorry but I have been adding fresh herbs and spices for years because I didn't know not to but there again I am only folding the ingredients together, not pounding them.
Today I tried an experiment, whereby I added in finely diced onion, tomato sauce and English mustard, to see if I can negate the need for adding them after cooking.
I have left them in the fridge until tomorrow, another experiment to baste the meat before cooking.
I will, reluctantly, have to leave the bacon fat, as I am only just getting over a heart attack and insertion of a stent in a foreign country and I am still stuck here in lock down and bacon isn't on my list of very bland foods I can eat, hence the experiments!

0
Galt
Galt

1 year ago on Step 7

We raise Kunekune pigs, so the grass fed extends to your pork too - it's a completely different food from the CAFO garbage, and the lard is to absolutely die for! If you want a little more flavor try adding ground chuck to ground sirloin and some nice chewy back fat from a grass fed pig. I go with a little fat heavier 75/25 blend 'cuz the lard renders and leaves everything nice and juicy. Hadn't even considered the effect that over-mixing the meat was having all of these years, so thanks for settin' me straight. Guess what's for dinner? ;)

3
CoffeeGirlWood
CoffeeGirlWood

1 year ago

Aww.. Looks tasty. I'm not into meat for some time already, but this one made me remember the most delicious burgers I have ever had :D

1
immaculatelation
immaculatelation

1 year ago

You hit the nail on the head. Dry burgers are a result of using too lean a meat, over-working the meat (my OCD struggle), and/or adding seasoning inside the ground meat, as opposed to the exterior. I like to let them sit for 30 minutes after salting, but that's not for everyone. If someone feels they absolutely MUST mix things into the meat, make sure it is not salt, or anything else that robs moisture (anything dry like herb seasonings); but rather, things that contribute to moisture, to help counteract the over-working of the meat (such as freshly chopped veggies or herbs, and/or some soft cheeses such as blue cheese). Also, do NOT use any seasonings with sugar in them. This causes major sticking in the cast iron pan or grill, and will lead to a lot of frustration during cooking and cleaning.

0
misterxp
misterxp

2 years ago

Slurp! we make burgers once or twice a month. Will have a go at these next time! thanks for sharing! Like your plant instructables too.!

3
jenuin_rticl
jenuin_rticl

3 years ago

I like to mix in onions and jalapenos....and beer. The flavor is fabulous and the meat is wonderfully juicy

0
JohnC430
JohnC430

Reply 2 years ago

Yeah!!! chopped green onions, chopped jalapenos, i also add Cilantro, garlic and some spices....i love it like that.....Cant do meat without garlic and onions.... but never tried the beer idea. gonna try that next time.

0
Dwargh
Dwargh

2 years ago

Mouthwatering i'ble, Jessy! I will try it out tonite!
Thank you!! :D

0
Sharpest32
Sharpest32

4 years ago

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.

0
sabechamp
sabechamp

Reply 2 years ago

I’ve been using bacon drippings to cook hash browned potatoes for years. Mild flavored food really pick up the bacon flavoring quickly. I consider the ground beef to be of mild flavor. It’s everything people add to it that changes that. Experiment with changing the flavor by adding different spices and herbs to the butter you’ll fry the burgers in. Garlic butter is just one possible choice. Also try buttering your hamburger buns with a seasoned butter before roasting them.
(Place butter in a bowl, sprinkle on seasonings and soften butter with a fork, blending the seasoning well throughout. Chill before using). Don’t forget to label your container so you know what spices/ herbs / hot sauce are in there. You could also season your mayo if you prefer.

0
jessyratfink
jessyratfink

Reply 4 years ago

The only real difference is you can REALLY taste the butter. But that's not a bad thing :D

0
M.C. Langer
M.C. Langer

5 years ago on Introduction

Those are masterpieces!!!! I miss your delicious dishes, Jessy!

0
jessyratfink
jessyratfink

Reply 5 years ago

Well if you guys ever want to come visit us in CO, I'll cook for you :D

0
M.C. Langer
M.C. Langer

Reply 5 years ago

That would be great!!!! Thanks!! :-)