The search for the “World’s Best Burger” has been a difficult one. There are so many different variations of this classic, how can one ever determine what is the “best?” Sometimes I think the fried-on-a-flat-top burgers are best but when I BBQ burgers at home I think those are the best. Who knows? What I do know is that there are certain things that one needs to do when cooking burgers that will ensure that yours are in the running for the “World’s Best Burger!”
Select the Best Meat
The best, juiciest burgers are made from ground chuck (beef), which is about 20 percent fat. Less fat makes a drier burger. Meat labeled “ground beef” or “hamburger” can be up to 30 percent fat and authorities agree that it is also best to know what part of the animal your burger is coming from.
Don’t Handle the Meat Too Much
The heat from your hands begins to melt the fat and makes the patty too dense. Move it lightly from hand to hand and loosely make a patty ¾ to one inch thick (no thicker, or you will have to cook it too long).
Don’t Squash the Burgers When Cooking
I know how tempting this is. Resist temptation! Squashing with a spatula compresses the meat, making it denser, and also squeezes the juices out of the meat leaving you a dry burger.
Make an Indentation in the Top
To keep a burger from getting that “dome” shaped top, make a ¼ inch depression in the center of the meat. The burger will then come out flat keeping your condiments in place.
Try Different Types of Meats or a Combo
Almost any kind of ground meat can be used to make burgers, or mix together different ones. You can mix pork with beef, chicken with lamb, or even buffalo with beef. For flavor, try mixing some fresh sausage or ground bacon in with another type of meat.
Adding Flavors to the Meat
Many people just want great beef, straight up with salt and pepper. You can try adding spices and other flavors to make an interesting burger. A lot of people will add soy sauce or Worcestershire to the meat. Some name brand spice mixes, like Montreal Seasoning or Cavenders, work very well. I, however, am a purist. I use Kosher salt and a little coarse ground pepper when seasoning my burger. I want to taste the meat, not a bunch of spices!
Tip: When adding other ingredients to ground meat, use a spoon or spatula to avoid heating the meat with your hands – see above.
Cooking the Burgers
A BBQ grill or specialty grill like a Big Green Egg or Webers works very well for hamburgers. You want your grill to be at least º400. Spray the grill with vegetable spray like Pam and place the burgers on. Close the lid or you will have flare ups. If your burgers are an inch or less, cook for about 5 minutes (a little less if you want it less done) on the first side. Do not turn until you have cooked on the first side for at least 3 minutes! Turn and cook on the other side for another 3 to 4 minutes until the desired temperature is reached.
It is generally recommended to cook until º160 to be safe.
Nothing ruins a good burger faster than a lousy or stale bun. Buy good quality buns. I like to wrap them in damp paper towels and then microwave for 30 seconds. This “steams” them and makes them incredibly soft. Lastly, add your favorite condiments but remember, YOU WANT TO TASTE THE MEAT! Have fun!