Few foods are as widely beloved as the humble hamburger. It’s a dish for all ages, enjoyed everywhere from backyard barbeques to bustling restaurants. Not all burgers are created equal, of course. However, the steps to making your perfect burger at home are simpler than you might think.
For beginners and burger enthusiasts alike, here are a few tips to help you hone your craft.
Plan Your Toppings
A burger without toppings is only half-dressed. Before preparing your patties, give some thought to what goes on top. Classic compliments include lettuce, tomato, pickles, and onions. Cheese and bacon make for mouthwatering additions as well. That said, don’t limit yourself to the tried and true; unorthodox toppings like fried eggs or pineapple rings can be surprisingly delicious. Just make sure to plan your add-ons in advance, so you’re not choosing cheese and caramelizing onions on the fly.
Know Your Meat
The best burgers are made from scratch. That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to grind your own meat, though. If you’re using ground beef, consider the balance of lean and fat. Typical ground beef is about 70% lean / 30% fat, making it juicy, but prone to shrinkage. While the 90% lean / 10% fat of ground sirloin can result in drier meat, it delivers a bold, beefy flavor. Ground chuck, which boasts a ratio of 80% lean / 20% fat, brings the best of both worlds. They all have their merits, so find the beef that works best for you.
Crank The Heat
Burgers love high heat. Whether you’re preparing them on the grill, a flat top, or a cast iron pan, make sure your surface is nice and hot. With the latter two options, adding a little oil not only keeps the burgers from sticking, but promotes the formation of a rich brown crust. Ideally, you’ll want a neutral oil with a high smoke point, such as vegetable or canola.
Let It Sit
Once your patties are sizzling away, it’s best to leave them be. Flip them too early and they’ll fall apart. Flipping them too many times can dry out the meat, and prevent the development of that coveted brown crust. And don’t even think of pressing the burgers down for a better sear; all it’ll do is push out the juices. Simply wait until the bottom is nicely browned, then flip to color the other side. If you want to keep your hands busy in the meantime, this is an excellent window to prepare your toppings.
Toast Those Buns
It might not seem necessary, but toasting your buns makes a world of difference. As one would expect, it enhances the flavor, and imparts a slight crispy texture. Better yet, a toasted bun won’t get soggy when those burger juices come gushing out. So go ahead and slap those buns—be they brioche, potato, or sesame seed—on your cooking surface. Tossing them under the broiler or popping them in the toaster works just fine, too.
Sauce It Up
Nothing rounds out a beautiful burger like a layer of sauce. And there’s plenty of options to choose from. Want to keep things simple? Opt for the standard array of condiments: ketchup, mustard, mayo, and relish. If you’re after some extra kick, try mixing some sriracha or chipotle with your mayo. A tangy barbeque sauce pairs well with some smoky bacon. Don’t be afraid to get creative, and mix and match flavors until you’ve found the perfect compliment for your burger. Now, you’re ready to make the perfect burger!