How to make the perfect burger
The best burgers aren’t about fancy homemade ketchups or overpriced brioche buns. They’re about mastering the basics and achieving perfect proportions of ingredients so that each one brings its best qualities without overpowering others. It’s the melted yellow American cheese now inseparable from the juicy beef. It the crunchy lettuce and sharp red onion contrasted again a softly toasted bun. It’s a well-placed smattering of special sauce that brings some spice.
It’s a classic, and it can’t be out done.
But what you can do is improve your own cooking skills, so that you’re mastering the best burger every time. Here are 10 tips:
Start with the ground meat
The best burgers start with an 80/20 mix of ground beef — that’s 80% lean and 20% fat. The only way to get that truly beefy flavor and crispy edges is with a good amount of fat.
Use 4 to 6 ounces of beef per patty. The amount is important because beef burgers shrink up naturally when you cook them. Less than 4 ounces will leave you wanting more. More than 6 ounces could leave your bun soggy with juices. Use a burger press to keep your burgers the same size and help them cook evenly.
Portion out your ground meat and form your patty. Create a depression in the middle of each so it doesn’t balloon up when cooked. Sprinkle each side generously with salt just before you start to grill. Salting too early can draw out the juices and dry out your burgers. Never mix salt directly in with your ground meat.
If you’re cooking in a skillet, drizzle just a few drops of olive oil to get the sizzle started. The patty will eventually release enough fat to fry itself.
Don’t fuss with the burger once you move it to the pan to cook. You only get a really nice brown and those crispy edges if you leave the meat uninterrupted.
If you’re cooking on a grill, preheat to medium or medium high and use direct heat. Oil the grate and put the burgers directly on the grill. Cover the grill.
You can get creative here, but let’s be honest, American is the only choice. It melts perfectly and melds to the meat like no other cheese can. If you insist on other cheeses, go for it, just avoid hard or aged cheese since those aren’t great for melting.
Add cheese during the last minute-or-so of cooking. On a grill, move patties to indirect heat to let the cheese melt.
Remember that the true spirit of a burger is about the meat — not the bread. A soft, squishy potato roll is perfect as-is or lightly toasted. If toasting is your thing, give the cut sides a a light spread of mayo beforehand. The oil and eggs in the mixture will help give the bread a golden-hued crust.
Let us talk lettuce
Dark, leafy greens are no-doubt a better for your health, and should be chosen whenever possible... but this article is about burgers, so let’s drop what we know we should eat and get back to what we came for. It’s iceberg all-the-way. You want that crunchy, pale green lettuce to contrast the other softer ingredients.
Opinions of onions
It you absolutely hate onions, go ahead and skip this step. But a thinly sliced red onion will give you just the right about of bite.
The secret sauce
Secret sauce isn’t so secret now-a-days. Mix equal parts mayo and ketchup. Add a little pickle relish, celery salt, and dried minced onion if you have them on hand. Smear a dollop on the bottom of the bun, then another at the top if you're a big fan.
If you're not so much on the secret sauce bandwagon, go ahead with a squirt of simple ketchup and top with pickles.
Where does the tomato go?
Nowhere! Not knocking tomatoes (sprinkled with some salt and pepper or chopped basil, they're a delicious side dish), but they can seriously ruin a burger. They can make the meat slimy, dilute the overall flavor, and destroy the texture of nearly every ingredient in your burger creation.
Skip the mustard
Also a no-go — mustard. The spiciness of the condiment can throw off the delicate balance of all the ingredients you’ve worked so hard to balance. Save the mustard for the less sophisticated hot dog.
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