Summer's coming, and that means burger season. Okay, never mind... every season is burger season. Burgers are universally loved; they're the one meal you can find at numerous fast food shacks and haute cuisine spots.
Why? Because burgers are divine. And because they're divine, they should be treated correctly and made to be the best version of themselves. Here are my seven favorite tips for creating the best burgers you've ever made.
I'm not talking about the cooking temperature here, though obviously that's important (but you probably didn't need me to tell you that). No, I'm talking about the temperature for handling the raw meat.
Two notes on temperature: first, if you're craving a burger but all your ground beef is frozen, don't give up (and don't cook a frozen patty). Just thaw the meat between a pot filled with water and a sheet pan; the beef will be room temperature in minutes.
And second: return your patties to the fridge before cooking them. While you want to make sure a steak is room temperature when you cook it, your burgers should be fridge temperature so the fat is nice and firm. After shaping your patties, the room temperature fat is the consistency of soft butter; if you cook the burgers then, that fat will melt and get lost.
Think of buttering bread: bread tastes magnificent with butter spread over it. Add that butter to the dough, and the flavor gets lost. Toast the bread in the melted butter and you'll have yummy toast, but it will lack the pockets of flavor that come from spreading the butter on top. Beef fat is the same way: you want pockets of fat in your burger for maximum flavor. Cooking the patties while they're cold also allows you to get a nice sear on the outside without overcooking the inside.
There are a million variations on burger meat, but there are a few things you should look for. First, you want a either an 80/20 or 85/15 lean/fat mix. Low-fat burger meat (5–10% fat) may sound healthy, but with little amount of fat, you have no flavor. If you're worried about health, just make a slightly smaller patty instead of compromising taste. And second, get grass-fed, organic, and humanely raised beef whenever possible. Not only do these traits make your burgers more ethical, but they greatly improve the flavor of the meat as well.
Most people season the inside of their burgers or the outside of their burgers, but very few season both. For the best burger, season the raw meat, mix it up, shape your patties, and then season again. Why? Well, unless you're making paper-thin patties, your burgers will be thick enough that they need seasoning inside, or else they'll be incredibly bland. And the outside seasoning helps the burgers sear, and also provides the flavor that hits your taste buds as soon as you take a bite.
All you need for seasoning is kosher salt and black pepper. But if you want to make a European-style burger, you can also add mustard, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, and onions (furthermore, you can add mayo to the mix if you want to help keep your patties juicy).
Ever wonder how restaurants get perfectly shaped patties? Wonder no more: just use the lid from a peanut butter jar, which is the perfect size and shape for a burger (you can use a lid from any jar, but peanut butter jar lids are the perfect size) .
That said, be careful when pressing the meat into its shape. Too much force will hurt the meat, and can also make the burger too dense.
This trick is simple, but incredibly useful. When you shape your burgers, use your thumb to make an indent in the top. That way, as the burger cooks and the juices try and escape, they'll pool in the burger and get reabsorbed, instead of running down the side and getting lost in the pan. Indenting the burger always makes the patty a better shape; as the meat contracts it will even out into a flat patty.
Patience is the hardest trait to exhibit when cooking a burger. You see that beautiful patty heating up in front of you, and you just want to touch it, poke it, and flip it. Don't! When you flip your burger, you halt the searing process. In order to have the maximum amount of flavor, you want your burger to caramelize along the outside, which will only happen if it is left in direct contact with the heat source. Flipping the patty constantly also forces the juices out, which is never a good thing.
A quick note for the cheeseburger lovers: flip your burger halfway through the cooking process, and immediately add your cheese. Conversely, you can add your cheese three-quarters of the way through and put a lid over the burgers. Whatever you do, don't wait until your burger is fully cooked to add the cheese, or your meat will get overcooked while the dairy melts.
Remember how I said that patience was hard to exercise while cooking burgers? It's even harder to do so when they're already cooked. Having spent ten minutes salivating while your burgers cook, you're likely to have a very rumbly stomach by the time the meat is done cooking. But don't eat it yet.
Just like steak, burgers need to rest so that the juices can redistribute before you bite into that beefy goodness.
These tricks are bound to take your burgers to the next level. What are your favorite tips for cooking burgers?
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