You finish thinly slicing the red onion for dinner and wipe away a single tear. You’re not crying because of the onion, but because you created the perfect hamburger mise en place. Lettuce, tomato, onions, special sauce, cheese, pickles, sesame buns, and perfectly formed beef patties await their collective culinary perfection. Hamburgers are the quintessential dish for summertime cooking. While the best methods for cooking a burger might be obvious for most cooks, we have a few simple tips and techniques for reaching hamburger patty perfection.
Step One: Selecting the Meat
Look for ground beef chuck or sirloin with a fat percentage of 20%-30%. This meat-to-fat ratio tends to be the sweet spot for making burgers. Too much fat and your burger will shrink in size as it cooks and cause flare ups on the grill. If there is too little fat in your burger, it will be dry and bland. For the best results visit your local butcher and request freshly ground chuck for burger meat.
Step Two: Portioning and Shaping the Meat
Make sure your meat is chilled. This prevents it from sticking to your hands as you work them into patties. Divide the meat into 6-8 oz portions, using a scale if you can. Roll and pat the beef into a ball, creating a uniform shape without creases.
Step Three: Forming the Patty
Press your palms together, gently squashing the beef into the shape of a puck. Rotate the meat as you go to create an even shape. Use your thumb to form a flat edge on the sides of the burger. You can also roll the edges along a flat surface. Thick hamburgers have a tendency to ball up and lose their shape while cooking. You can avoid this by making the center of the burger thinner than the edge, or by making an indentation with your finger before cooking.
Step Four: Seasoning the Burger Patty
The staple seasonings for a hamburger are always kosher salt, ground black pepper, and a generous pinch of garlic powder. However, a hamburger is the perfect canvas for exploring global flavors. Start by browsing our spice blends for beef, before moving onto something more adventurous like hot & spicy blends or barbecue seasonings.
You can add spices directly to the meat before shaping, but it is best to add salt to the outside of the burger shortly before cooking. Salt draws out moisture and tends to make the patty less tender when it’s worked into the ground meat.
Bonus Tips: Preparing Your Hamburger Toppings
The traditional burger is adorned with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, cheese, and special sauce. Tomatoes, onion, and pickles should be sliced thin, no larger than a quarter inch. When these ingredients are sliced thin, they don’t slide around or interfere with taking one big, perfect bite.
Like anything food related, there is heated debate to the proper order of burger toppings. Some advocate for all cold toppings to go above the burger so they don’t wilt. Some prefer these ingredients to sit below the patty, allowing juices to get sopped up by the lettuce. Whatever the order you assemble your toppings, apply a dab of special sauce between the major layers. This helps to keep everything from sliding around.
If you have questions about cooking hamburgers, or have some recipes or tips to share, email us at email@example.com or comment below.
Article by Geoff Marshall, Staff Writer