If a warm bun, a juicy patty, and great fillings are your thing, then surely you want to learn how to make better burgers. Experimenting is always good, of course, and a learning opportunity. But there are some secrets of the trade you need to know about.
It doesn’t matter if you’re having a cookout on a sunny day or an intimate dinner with just your significant other. Burgers are a great main course idea for all seasons, all-weather, all tastes, ever since they were invented around 1880. But even among the variety of options, there are some steps to take that ensure you will make better burgers. None of that tough, flavorless, crumbly dish you might get when the burger isn’t properly cooked.
I’ve always been a picky eater and I wasn’t that much into beef, so I had avoided burgers for a long time. Once I tried my first exquisite, dripping-with-flavor burger, I was suddenly in love! And the next step, after trying the best restaurants had to offer, was making my own.
I found out that things are not that simple though, like with everything you do in a kitchen. I did need some pointers. And here’s what I found out.
6 tips to make better burgers at home
1. Choose the best meat
I picked some lean meat to make some of my first burgers, but the patty did not turn out as juicy as I wanted or expected. Also, the meat started to fall apart when I started eating. That’s how I learned that you need a bit of fat in your patty in order to get that juicy bite, with texture and flavor to go for every last bite. That’s why you should pick a mixture of beef with 80 percent lean meat and 20 percent fat.
2. Don’t handle the meat
I never knew that you should be… gentle with ground meat, beef included. If you try to shape the patty in order to make it perfect, odds are you are ruining the texture of your burger and take it into dry, tough territory. Take some fist-sized chunks of the ground beef and form them into rough patties. Don’t overwork the patties, your taste buds will be thankful after.
3. Season when it’s right
Which is to say, before you cook the meat. So salt it and also add whatever herbs and spices you prefer before the patty goes on the grill. It doesn’t only help with the flavor, but also with the texture. You can thank the magic of chemistry for that!
So, you need something more? Like spicy suggestions? Try paprika, garlic powder, some crushed red pepper and a little bit of dried basil. Add a sprinkle of brown sugar and you’ll be amazed how a bland burger turns into something bursting with flavor.
4. Give the patty a dimple
Yes, the shape of the patty matters (you still shouldn’t overwork it) somewhat. Use your fingers to press a shallow dimple into the center of the patty. This tends to guide the hot air around the ground meat so that your patty will not shrink too much during cooking. Because thanks to this dimple, the meat is exposed to direct heat from below, above, and the sides.
5. Don’t flatten the burgers
I guess this is something I had seen in the movies and seemed reasonable to do at the time, somehow etched in my memory. But you shouldn’t flatten your patty with a spatula. It doesn’t help it cook better or even faster because it makes all the wonderful meat juices leave the patty. This also represents extra handling of the meat, and like we learned on #2, it’s good to handle the ground beef as little as possible.
6. Don’t flip the burger too much
It might be tempting to constantly flip the burger and I have to confess that I have had a compulsive need to flip meats and other grilled items frequently. I think it makes me feel like I am helping it cook faster. But the fact is that you should leave the burger to cook on one side for a few minutes, then flip it once, for it to cook on the other side. This is how you get the best results.
The rest of the burger is all up to you because as we know, the meat is the star. You can go in so many different directions by using different toppings, fillings, sauces. We have a lot of ideas for you.