Just a mom of two trying my best to keep up with all the latest trends, pitfalls, philosophies, and challenges of parenthood.
Hamburger Tips and Tricks
My kids say I make the best hamburgers. Some think burgers are just easy junk food, but I take them very seriously. They're not hard to make, but there are a few things you need to do burgers right. Here are a few of my tricks:
- Always use good meat: fresh, the right cut of beef, the right amount of fat. (More on this below.)
- You gotta get your hands dirty to mix the meat properly and get the patties just right. Take an extra moment to form the patty into the perfect size and shape but be careful not to overwork the meat, as this will make it tough!
- Bring the meat to room temperature before cooking and dot each patty with a thumbprint to help it cook properly.
- Always pre-heat your cooker (whether you use a pan or a grill)!
- If you put the "toppings" on the bottom, under the patty, the burger will be easier to eat.
- Use a soft bread, like a potato bun. The softer, the better (although toasting the inside of a soft bun can make it really pop!).
- For toppings, the perfect mixture is something creamy, something crunchy, and something either cheesy OR acidic. (See the list of flavor combination suggestions below.)
|Prep time||Cook time||Ready in||Yields|
- 1 1/2 pounds / 24 oz. ground beef
- 2 cloves garlic, pressed or pulverized (or 1 tablespoon garlic powder)
- 1 tablespoon Worcheschire sauce (or 1 tablespoon tomato paste)
- 1 tablespoon chile (paprika, ground chile, or chili powder)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Pinch minced fresh herbs (e.g., parsley, basil), only if you have fresh ones on hand
- 4 buns
- Toppings (see list of options below)
- Take the meat out of its package and put it in a mixing bowl.
- Add the garlic, salt, pepper, spices, and Worcheschire sauce.
- Use your clean hands to "fluff" the meat thoroughly (the goal is to mix, not to compact the meat) and divide it into four equal parts.
- Being careful not to work the meat too much (but firmly enough to hold the meat together), form the patties. Place the patties on a plate in the fridge while you're pre-heating your pan/grille.
- When your pan or grill is piping hot, place the patties on it. Cook each side for about 4 minutes. Don't flip more than once.
- If you want cheesburgers, lay on the slices of cheese on the burgers about 1 minute before the second side is done cooking.
- Let the burgers rest on a clean plate to allow them to soak up some of those juices before you put them on the buns.
Burger Cooking FAQs
Here are some common questions about cooking burgers.
Do you need oil to cook a hamburger?
No, you don't need oil. . . but you might want it for an extra-seared crust. If your meat is 20% fat, that should be enough to prevent the burger from sticking to the pan, so if you're concerned about added fat, just skip it.
I like fat. I usually take a look at the meat: If it looks fatty, I cook it without added oil, but if it's lean, I add a little oil to the pan.
How many times should I flip the burger?
Flip only once, if possible! Flipping more just dries the meat out. I find that cooking each side for four minutes is perfect.
What internal temperature is ideal?
If you don't know when to flip, I recommend using a meat thermometer:
- Rare: 120-125°F
- Medium rare: 130-135°F
- Medium: 140-145°F
- Medium well: 150-155°F
- Well done: 160-165°F
What's better: Thick or thin patties?
This is a matter of personal preference. Thin patties cook more quickly (and can therefore end up more tender), but thicker ones will pack a lot more flavor into each bite.
How long should you cook a burger?
This depends on the thickness of the patty, but I find that four minutes per side works for me.
- Rare: 2 minutes per side
- Medium rare: 3 minutes per side
- Medium: 4 minutes per side
- Well-done: 5 minutes per side
Should you press or smash the burgers to help them cook?
Nope, you should not press your spatula down on top of the burger while your'e cooking it. This just pushes the juices out (and you lose all that moisture and flavor).
What's best: Frying or grilling?
A woodsmoke grill might offer wonderful flavor, but it's a lot more work. You can make an excellent burger on the stovetop if you do it right.
- If you fry your burgers, use a cast iron frying pan and get it really, really hot before you put the burgers in.
- If you use a grill, also make sure to pre-heat to get the right sear. Always make sure to clean the grill properly before each use.
What Kind of Beef Makes the Best Burger?
Here are some things to keep in mind about beef.
Which Cut of Beef?
Chuck is best. Ground round is not ideal because it's tougher and less flavorful. I also avoid anything marked generic "ground beef," since there's no way to guess its texture or flavor.
How Much Fat?
Meat with a little fat in it cooks and tastes best: I suggest using at least 20% fat (or 80% lean). You need fat for flavor!
Pre-Ground or Not?
The pros say you should never buy pre-ground meat. If you buy your meat from a proper butcher, ask them to grind some up for you on the spot.
I like to buy the best, kindest, healthiest meat when I can. It's true that grass-fed beef is often tougher than grain-fed, but it's also more flavorful.
What About Buffalo Meat?
Like organic, grass-fed beef, buffalo meat tends to be leaner and tougher than grain-fed, but it's also healthier.
How to Make a Gourmet Hamburger
A fancy burger needs three things: good meat, good bread/bun, and imaginative toppings. Since we've already discussed the meat, let's look at these other elements.
- Bread: Of course the better bread you use, the better your burger will be. I like a soft roll myself. Potato rolls are soft in the mouth but strong enough to hold the whole thing together. Using toasted sliced sourdough, a seeded bun, or an olive bread will up your game. Toasting the bread will add a pop of flavor and texture.
- Toppings: When topping a burger, you want something creamy, something crunchy, and something cheesy. If you don't want cheese, then choose an acidic ingredient to add a little pop of flavor. Below, you'll find a list of imaginative flavor combinations.
Burger Topping Flavor Combos: Creamy, Crunchy, and Cheesy
|Creamy or Soft||Crunchy or Crisp||Cheesy OR Acidic|
blue cheese dressing
slice of tomato
raw red onion
splash of balsamic vinegar
a soft sesame bun
whole grain mustard
sweet corn slaw
pickles or relish
slice of grilled pineapple
red lettuce or radicchio
cranberry sauce or chutney
creamy ranch or dill dressing
slice of fresh tomato
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