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!

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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

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44 Discussions


2 months 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


2 months 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.


1 year 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.!


2 years ago

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

1 reply

Reply 1 year 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.


1 year ago

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


2 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.

2 replies

Reply 1 year 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.


Reply 2 years ago

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

jessyratfinkM.C. Langer

Reply 3 years ago

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


4 years ago on Introduction

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.

The tip to not work the meat any more than you have to is the absolute key.


4 years ago

Can't beat a good burger! These look excellent :)


4 years ago on Introduction

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:

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 & 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 & flavor.

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.


4 years ago

I make my burgers similarly. I always use a hot pan or grill. I like my iron skillet. Tips:
1. Cook on each side 6 minutes and dont mess with themin between.
2. Never press them down. I dries them out.
3. I dont put anything on them while im forming them. You can form them with two saucers or tupperware patty forms.
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.

1 reply
Odie Sr.OeGadgetGuy

Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

Absolutley add the W sauce. . . I sprinkle it over them while cooking, both sides.

Don't need the rest. . . .