Everyone has their own way of making their hamburgers. The American hamburger grew chief among a favorite that there are regional hamburger styles! If you’re trying to make one now, how do you make it perfect?
How do you make perfect burgers every time? The five components to a perfect hamburger are meat, proper preparation, cookware, cooking technique, and toppings. These five tips can give you the best burger that you’ve always wanted.
Curious how can you do these five tips at home? Take a look and follow our guide that can make you the king (or queen!) of uber delish burgers.
1. Choose The Right Meat
Ask any enthusiast who cares about their burgers and they will tell you to focus on the patty. The hamburger patty is one of the most important, if not the most important, part of your sandwich. You need to get this part right every time.
Many people, however, get the meat wrong. There are many misconceptions about the type of meat for your burger patties. It’s easy to make it mediocre either.
If you’re serious in making the best hamburger you ever put your lips on, start with the right meat.
Picking Your Meat
When picking your meat, people will have different tastes. By normal standards, it’s best to choose beef for your patties. The quintessential American burger is 100% pure beef with no other meats mixed in.
When picking your beef, choose cuts with a good amount of fat. Remember that fat is flavor, so you want to get all the beefy juices rendered and back in your patty. You want the proper ratio for your patty to have a consistent combination of flavor and meat.
For hamburgers, pick either the chuck or the short rib for your ground beef. The chuck has the best fat to meat ratio that will give you the right flavor every time. The chuck is around the shoulder, so it won’t be a prime cut that will set you back a lot.
If you have a bit of extra, the short rib can give you the same lean to fat ratio as a chuck. The short rib comes, well, from the rib, so you get a good layer of intramuscular fat. This part doesn’t move a lot, so it’s soft and dainty to the mouth.
It’s best to not use lean cuts of beef like round or sirloin. They can be soft but they are too lean and can taste bland.
As a rule of thumb, always pick fresh meat. If you will make burgers on Saturday, but the meat Saturday morning or the night before. Never buy frozen and chill the burger before cooking.
For those who are not into beef too much, adding ground pork can help with the flavor. Ground chicken and turkey can be an alternative for people looking to cut back on fat.
The Right Lean-To-Fat Ratio
We’ve mentioned it already but let’s expand on the concept a bit. The lean-to-fat ratio is a crucial element of burger patties. It will guide you into choosing the right meats to make perfect burgers.
The perfect lean-to-fat ratio is 80% lean and 20% fat. This meat, called 80-20 beef, is a specialty ground beef you can ask for from your local butcher. The deep meaty taste is something to behold, but it doesn’t have excessive fat.
Therefore, the ground chuck is the best value choice for the perfect hamburger patty. It will also have the right juiciness inside that will prevent excessive burning.
Here’s a pro-tip: never buy ground beef labeled ground hamburger. The ground hamburger comes from different parts of the cow as scraps. It will have different muscle graining and fat content, which can cause uneven cooking and burning.
Pre-Ground Meat vs Grinding It Yourself
There’s a debate everywhere on whether you have to get your meats pre-ground vs grinding it yourself. There are several ways to go about this, depending on a few factors.
Pre-grinding meat is great for people who can trust their butchers and have no time or equipment to do it. If you don’t want to DIY, it’s best to pick the meat yourself from your butcher’s selection. From there, ask your butcher to do a coarse grind so you know what you’re getting from the meat.
If you have a meat grinder at home, it’s best to do the meat grinding by yourself. This assures you of the quality of the meat you’re getting and the freshness of the patty. For best results, grind your meat a few hours before use and chill it to keep the ground beef together.
Always pick coarse grind meat in your burger patties. This assures that the meat grinds with grinder plates with bigger holes. Too fine a grind and it will cause a mushy patty – something you won’t like.
2. Do The Proper Preparation For Your Meats
Now that we know the meat that we need to use for your perfect hamburgers, let’s move on to prep. Proper preparation can be essential to a proper burger. Meat preparation can change how the patty cooks and how it changes.
Something as simple as shaping and adding seasoning can enhance or ruin a great burger patty. Doing it right is only a matter of technique. Here’s how you do it right.
Shaping Your Burger Patty
When shaping your patty, it’s best to start with a ball and flatten it to a thick disc shape. Depending on your preferences, it’s best to keep the thickness to a reasonable degree. ½-inch to 1.5 inches (1.25 – 3.75 cm) thick is a reasonable degree. 4 to 6 ounces (114 – 170 grams) patties are usual.
When shaping, there are two common ways to improve your patty. The first method is to press a shallow indentation into the center using your thumb. The second method is to shape a shallow volcano in the middle of the burger.
These techniques offer two benefits that cause a great burger. First, they control the moisture inside the burger, adjusting water loss and giving off a steamy puff. Both methods also give your hamburger patty room to expand without a bulging center.
You can also try a few regional variations of the hamburger. The more famous is the smash burger from Shake Shack, flattening it as wide as possible. This creates a crispier fast-food style burger.
Another way is to make a Juicy Lucy, which is two 4-ounce burger patties on top of each other. This Minneapolis staple adds a small block of cheese in the center for an extra juicy, gooey patty.
Seasoning Your Patty
The beef patty is tasty enough as it is. With the right fat content, you won’t need to season the meat too much. A nice amount of salt and pepper to cover the side of the patty is more than enough.
Always salt your burger patties right before you cook them. Salt can change the protein components in the meat and draw out the moisture inside. Salting when mixing the meat can make it dry and make it fall apart.
Don’t add binders and fillers to your patty as it can change the texture and consistency of the patty. Adding breadcrumbs and/or eggs to your meat can cause a different flavor profile. You’re making a hamburger, not a meatball.
3. Use The Right Cookware
Now that your hamburger patty is ready to cook, you need to have the right cookware. It’s not complicated to make hamburgers and you can use almost any cookware with a flat surface. Even then, the results will not be the same.
The best cookware you can use for the perfect hamburgers are:
- The skillet
- The flattop
- The broiler oven
Each one of these gives a different flavor profile that you would love. If you have them at home, pick one of them and see which one’s the best.
Using Pans and Cast-Iron Skillets
When cooking your patty, there’s no need to use a nonstick frying pan to do so. The burger patty will have enough fat to make the bottom easy to release using your spatula. If it’s the only one you have at home, there’s no problem.
You can also use a cast-iron skillet to cook your hamburger patty. Cast-iron is great at creating an even spread of heat. This creates a more even heat for the contact surface, assuring even cooking across the meat.
Using Griddles and Flattops
Using a griddle or a flattop is another great choice. These give you the right flexibility to do extra work on your hamburger. They also assure that your burger gets a nice, even contact surface wherever you put your patty.
When using a flattop or griddle, you can make burger variations like Oklahoma-style onion burgers.
Using Your Broiler
Using a broiler on your burgers gives you that different broiled taste that many people love. If you don’t have the option to grill and you want something less greasy, broiling is great.
When you broil, the advantages are simple. The convecting heat from the top of the broiler creates for a more even cooking. It can also eliminate much of the fat if you’re the type who loves your burgers a bit lean.
4. Follow The Right Cooking Methods
So, we have the meat, we seasoned it, and our cookware is ready. Outstanding moves! Now, you need to start cooking your burger. Some components make the perfect hamburger.
You want to consider if you want some crisp layers on your burger. The cooking temperature also plays a vital role in your final flavor and texture. Like any delicious cut of steak, letting the meat rest also gives you great flavors.
Creating A Crisp Layer
When considering the crisp layer, you want to consider if you need to add extra oil. Extra oil can help with the cooking process and add more flavors to the hamburger patty itself.
When cooking a burger, there are a few considerations. This includes using oils to enhance your burger patty.
You don’t have to use oils when cooking your burger patties. The burger should have enough fat juices to help it be moist. Less extra fat also means the burger’s a little healthier.
If you insist on using fats, it’s best to use bacon fat or beef fat. These oils will have long-chain fatty acids that will add richness and flavor to the meat. Do not use butter as it can burn with the level of heat you need for the burger.
The flatter you cook your burger, the crispier it can get. Depending on your tastes, you can go for a nice thick and juicy burger or a nice, crispy smash burger.
Finding The Right Cooking Temperature
Nobody likes overcooked burgers. If you’re not careful, you will get either a charred piece of meat or a tasteless and unappetizing slab. The most perfect hamburger should have somewhere between medium-rare to medium-done.
Medium-rare is great if you did the grinding yourself. With an internal temperature of 145 F (62.8 C), medium rare is both juicy and delicious too. To get a medium-rare, cook one side for 3 minutes, flip, and cook the other side for another 3 – 4 minutes.
If you’re buying straight from the butcher, it’s best to cook at least medium. This will help kill off more bacteria that can be a problem for your health. To cook your meat medium, you want around 160 F (71.1 C) in internal temperature.
To test for doneness, you can use an instant-read thermometer on the patty itself. If you don’t want to fuss around with a thermometer, you can use a timer. For people using different cuts of meat, there’s another technique.
Use your fingers and touch the upper surface of the meat. You want the burger to have a good firmness with very little give. If the burger is still soft, give it a few more seconds.
Never cut your patty to check the center mid-cooking. This will remove all the juices and give you a dry product.
If you are cooking chicken or turkey, cook them all the way to well done. Salmonella in chicken and turkey can stay far longer and would need full cooking to purge it.
Let The Burger Patties Rest
Letting burgers rest is an important part of cooking hamburgers. This allows for the meat to drain off any excess moisture and even fats while locking in the flavors. Letting these drip instead of getting it in the bun will give you a nice, crispy burger.
When you rest your burger, you would want to give it 5 minutes before scarfing down on it. Let it sit on top of a grill rack to let the oil drip can cut down on the excess moisture.
5. Choose The Best Toppings
So, you made your perfect hamburger patties. Are we done here? Not quite.
Having the right accompaniment for your juicy burger patties can help enhance your entire experience. Proper toppings add an extra level of complexity to your perfect hamburgers. Buns, cheese, condiments, veggies, and more meats can give your burgers the extra oomph.
Reminder: Keep It Simple
One of the major tenets of the perfect hamburger is keeping it simple. While a fully-loaded hamburger with the works looks awesome, it can be cumbersome. Eating a hamburger means you should be able to relax without too many headaches.
A burger can be great with only the buns, the patty, and the cheese. Many classic burger meccas, like the JG Melon in NY or Louis’ Lunch in New Haven, CN, serve their burgers with only 1 to 2 extra toppings.
Every person has a different preference. If you want to stack it, go for it. Even then, a simple, no-frills burger should be the best choice for you.
Picking Your Burger Buns
When picking the buns, there are a few buns that people prefer. Some of the most common include:
- Brioche buns
- Kaiser rolls
- Potato buns
You can never go wrong with any of these three. If you’re buying pre-made, potato burger buns are the end-all, be-all buns.
It’s best to toast the burger buns to make them lighter and crispier. When toasting, use a pan or an oven and toast them for around 5 minutes. You want to do a light sear on the white surface to give it crunchiness and help cradle the contents.
Picking Your Cheese
The cheese is another crucial component of the burger. If you like some extra richness and a change in texture, a slice or two of cheese is awesome. Picking the right cheese, however, can be tricky.
The secret to having the right cheese is moisture. You want a moist but still solid type of cheese. Cheddar is the absolute bottom dollar you use because of its delicious richness and great meltability.
Gouda, Swiss and Pepper Jack are also some of the best cheeses for the job. Their meltability is on point and would be creamy as is. American cheese is ok because of its meltability but it doesn’t pack in as much flavor.
The Right Condiments
The three base condiments you want in a burger is mayo, mustard or ketchup. You can make do with only one of these or none of these, depending on your tastes.
The usual best move with condiments is to offer them as sides in a squeeze bottle. Add none to your burger and let the taster adjust to their tastes.
Other condiments like guacamole, sriracha, and even ranch can change depending on preference. Again, keep it simple and you won’t go wrong.
Veggies and Meats When You Make Perfect Burgers
For veggies and other meat toppings, you have a few fine points.
Lettuce and tomatoes are a great pick if you’re making your standard burger. Add onions or even caramelized onions if you want some sweet zing to that creamy patty. Pickle chips and even pickle relish can be a great side or add-on burger toppings.
For extra meats, bacon is the standard choice for the meathead in you. An extra patty or some roast beef is also great if you have it at home.
We love to create a stack of meats and toppings on their burgers. Fastfood spoiled us to the absurdity of meat on top of meats on top of meats. You get the idea.
If you’re picking veggies and meats, a pro-tip is to make one that you can fit in your mouth. You don’t want your burgers too messy and you won’t want to eat it with a fork and knife.
If you want to make perfect burgers every time, you want to have the five most important elements.
The correct meat can give you the proper burger taste you deserve. Proper preparation prevents you from ruining the taste of the burger itself. With your choice of cookware, you get to create a consistent, tasty burger.
Learning special cooking techniques will help you make the burger beyond your average fare. Your preferred toppings make the burger all yours.
The perfect burger is doing it right from start to finish. When making your next hamburger, try to follow our tips. We’re sure you’d enjoy the perfect hamburger you make with your own hands.
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