Burger Basics – 7 Tips To Make Burgers Better

Jun 6, 2018 | Cooking Tips, meat

It’s almost officially summer and we all know what that means. It’s burger time! Burgers are obviously classic summertime fare, and one of those unique foods that pretty much everyone has their own secret recipe for. Now, despite the fact that everyone thinks they make the best burgers, they don’t. Yes, some of you out there can make a really good burger but all too often people fall into the same burger traps. Avoid the common burger mistakes and become a burger pro with my 7 tips for making your burgers better.

Number 1. The Meat.

Choosing the right meat is the key to burger success. I would like to tell you to get some beef chuck and brisket and grind it yourself making a perfect 50/50 blend. Undoubtedly, that will make an incredible burger. But, you’re not going to do that and generally neither am I. So what should you use? Buy good quality lean ground beef. Fat is good in a burger but too much fat leads to a lot more shrinkage and flare-ups on the grill that’s why lean ground beef is better.

Number 2. Seasoning The Burger.

People are often given bad advice when it comes to what they should put in their burgers. There are a lot of “experts” out there that recommend adding all kinds of things to your burger meat before cooking it. Things like bread crumbs, onion, garlic, Worcestershire Sauce, steak spice and all kinds of other weird things. To be completely honest I was brought up on burgers like this but have since gained a new perspective. Let the burger taste like beef. All I put in and all I recommend putting in your burger meat is a little salt and pepper.

Having said that, I generally do season the outside of my burger with a mixture of garlic powder, onion powder, and Old Bay Seasoning. I use this blend on steaks as well. This way you still get a lot of flavour from your burger but it also still tastes like beef.

Number 3. Making Your Patties.

I am of the school thought that thinner is better. I make my patties as thin as I can by flattening them first in my hand than on a flat surface covered in parchment paper or plastic wrap. I use enough meat so that once they are fully flattened they are about one and a half times the diameter of the bun. I do this because the burger cooks quicker. They end up cooking into the perfect thickness and diameter for the burn. They cook more evenly. And they’re easier to eat.

If you do like a really thick burger there is a way to mitigate some of the shrinkage. After your patty is formed, stick your thumb in the centre making a thumb-sized hole pretty much all the way through the centre of the patty. This will not only help prevent the patty from shrinking too much, it will also help it cook more evenly.

Number 4. Cooking Your Burgers.

How you cook your burger depends on how thick you’ve made it. If you followed my advice and made your patty thin, you want to cook your burger on a medium-high to high heat. For thick burgers, you want to cook on a medium heat. The reason being that if you cook a thick burger on high heat it will burn on the outside long before it ever cooks through.

If you are cooking your burger in a pan, let’s say cast iron, get the pan nice and hot and don’t add any oil. Enough fat will come out of the burger that you don’t need to add any extra.

If you are cooking on a barbecue, heat your grill up for at least twenty minutes before you start cooking. Also, make sure your grill is really clean. As long as the grill is hot and clean, you shouldn’t need to oil it. If you have cleaned your grill and heated it up and your burger is sticking it’s likely because you are trying to flip it too soon. Give it a minute and let it release from the grill naturally.

Don’t push your burger down. All you’re doing is squeezing the juice out of it and making your burger dry. The only time this is acceptable is at the very end of cooking. If you give the centre of the patty a little push with your tongs or spatula and the juices run clear the burger is done, if they are still red cook it some more.

Number 5. Say Cheese.

The cheese that you use is fully up to you. I do have to say that for a long time I snubbed processed cheese slices but have recently fallen back in love with them on burgers. They add something that nothing else can. I think it’s probably just nostalgia but either way, it’s delicious.

Now, what type of cheese you use is your call completely, but when you add the cheese is really important. If you add it too early it will be melted and gone before your burger is fully cooked. If you add it too late, your burger will be overcooked and dry before the cheese melts. This isn’t really that big a problem with processed cheese slices as they melt if you blow on them.

Add the cheese once you flip your burger for the last time. You know it’s the last time because you checked the doneness of your burger by gently pushing down the centre of the patty and the juices are almost clear but not perfectly. This gives you the perfect amount of time to melt your cheese and finish cooking your burger. Flip the burger before adding the cheese as this gives the cheese the hottest possible surface of the patty and helps to speed up the melting process.

Number 6. Choosing the right bun. 

When it comes to the bun there are really only two things that you need to worry about. The first being the size of the bun in relation to your burger. If you made your patty nice and thin and one and a half times the diameter of the bun this shouldn’t be that much of an issue. But keep it in mind. There are few things more annoying when eating a burger than having too much or too little bun.

The second thing you need to think about when choosing your bun is its structure. If the bun is too soft it will absorb fat from the burger and go mushy. If it’s too firm, it may fall when you try to eat it. You want a bun somewhere in the middle. Now, some of these issues can be dealt with by toasting the bun, but you want to be careful with this as well. A light toasting is delicious and helps to protect the structural integrity of the bun by creating a bit of a protective barrier between the surface of the burger and the inside of the bun. However, a bun that is over toasted and crispy falls apart and takes away from the enjoyment of eating the burger.

Number 7. Condiments.

What you put on your burger is your own business. I’m not going to tell you how to live your life. However, I will say don’t put too much stuff on your burger. There is a trend these days to pile unnecessary shit on a burger just for the sake of doing it. But ask yourself if it’s actually enjoyable to eat that or does it just look cool? The other thing is, the more stuff you put on your burger the harder it’s going to be to eat and the messier it is going to be. Just think it through.

If you are going more of a classic route with lettuce, tomato, and pickles cut them as thin as possible. This is especially true of the tomatoes and pickles. The are few things worse than biting into a burger and having its contents shoot out the backend because the tomatoes created a slick surface. By cutting the tomatoes as thin as you can you hopefully prevent this. Same going for pickles.


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