Honestly, is there anything more profoundly American than a burger grilled to perfection in your backyard?
We think not.
But contrary to popular belief, crafting a “perfect” burger takes more finesse than simply slapping two buns and a (gasp!) pre-shaped patty onto a grill. Read on to learn 15 simple tips for making a delicious burger.
1. Custom grind the meat
Ask your local butcher custom grind the meat for you: preferably a rib eye steak with 75 – 25 meat-to-fat ratio. Remember: fat is your friend. Don’t pick the leanest meat, as there’s no flavor left after grilling.
2. Chill the meat
Once you’re home, let the beef sit in the fridge for at least thirty minutes before cooking.
Why? Because as you form it into the patties, heat from your hands melts the fat, which reduces the flavor. Chilling the meat first helps prevent melting and the burger retains its full flavor.
3. Form the patties quickly
Many people roll the meat into balls before pounding them into patties. Doing so only melts the fat and results in a tougher burger. Remember: less is more.
4. Aim for ¾ inch thickness.
Use one hand to gently push the meat down while shaping its perimeter with the other.
5. Leave a divot in the center of the burger.
When patties cook, they tend to contract. This leaves you with an uneven burger with a bump in the middle. To avoid this, push down the center of the patty (gently!) leaving a small “gravy boat”. As it cooks, this will fill up and leave you with a flat, perfectly cooked burger.
But don’t cook it just yet. Instead…
6. Put the patties back in the fridge for another 45 minutes.
The same logic applies here as before. Let the patties harden in the fridge, so the fat only melts while cooking.
7. Get the grill hot. Really hot.
Seriously, the hotter the better. Higher temperatures means you’ll sear the meat better and impart the flavors from the grill.
8. Add copious amounts of salt and pepper.
You can mix pepper in with the meat beforehand if you want, but don’t add salt until the last minute; otherwise, it can dry out the burger.
9. Leave that burger alone!
Let the burger sear nicely on one side before touching it. If the burger sticks, you moved too soon. When you do flip the burger, aim for a clean spot on the grill to perfectly sear the other side. Alternatively, use this slider cooker to bang out burgers in record time.
And speaking of cooking…
10. Do not EVER press down on the meat!
The single most common mistake, pushing down on a cooking burger squeezes out all the juices. Ideally, you should only touch the burger three or four times while on the grill.. and that’s only to flip it.
11. Get a crisscross pattern.
To be honest, this in no way affects the taste, but it does look mighty fine. Here’s how to do it: After the first sear, rotate the patty one quarter of the way (on the same side); then flip it, sear the other side and give it another quarter turn as well.
12. Choose the right sized buns.
The bun is just as important as the burger itself. Four inch buns are perfect as they let you taste each ingredient in one bite.
13. Melt the cheese on the burger.
For the last minute or so, place a slice of cheese on the burger so it begins to melt. Think beyond American cheese: Swiss, Havarti, Bleu and Brie all make excellent cheeseburgers.
14. Let the burger rest.
Once you take the burger off the grill, let it sit undisturbed for two or three minutes. This allows the burger time to absorb the juices and retains its flavor.
15. Offer different toppings.
Sure, pack along the usual suspects – lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, etc. – but mix things up a bit with jalapeno peppers, thinly sliced ham, sautéed mushrooms or even roasted garlic.