The hamburger has been a staple of the American diet for so many years, it’s easy to think of them as boring. But with a little know-how, you can make a restaurant quality burger that’s less expensive and better tasting than any value menu offering.
A few tips before you get started:
- Buy ground meat in bulk, when it is on sale. Make more burgers than you will eat, and freeze the rest after they are cooked. Wrap each patty in foil and then put them in a zip freezer bag. Grab a patty out of your freezer and heat it up any time you want a quick meal.
- Meat matters. Lean beef will yield a dry burger, so you want some fat (fat = flavor and juiciness). Aim to use 80% lean ground beef whenever possible, and if you must lower that percentage, plan on draining the pan half-way through. If you have your own meat grinder, that’s even better!
- Avoid over-working your ground beef. Be gentle when shaping your burgers. Ground beef is forgiving, but over-handling, excessive stirring, or pressing too much will leave you with a dud of a hamburger (or meatloaf, or meatballs, for that matter!)
- Season your burgers. Salt and pepper your patties to taste – after they’ve been formed. A lot of recipes will tell you to mix ingredients into the meat – and you certainly can, but be careful. A good burger, really, needs only salt and pepper; your toppings can add flavor.
- Make it sizzle. Make sure your pan is hot when you add the patties. You want medium-high/medium heat. We recommend cooking burgers in a non-Teflon pan (non-stick pans shouldn’t even be preheated “dry.” If that’s all you have, add a half teaspoon of butter first, and heat until butter melts and is foamy). An aluminum or cast iron skillet (if you have one) will work just fine for a burger, though – and mimics the restaurant grill taste that sets burgers apart.
- Avoid flipping your burger too much! Aim to flip it twice, and figure you’ll cook each side for 7-9 minutes (for a well-done patty; you don’t want to eat undercooked ground meat). Don’t press down with your spatula, either – you’ll only make your burger dry and tasteless.
Just about anything goes on a burger. Below, Doc has assembled some mild – and wild – ideas for delicious burgers.
Add one fried egg, a slice of your favorite cheese and two slices of cooked bacon, along with lettuce, tomato, and onion for a super-filling meal.
It sounds crazy, but add a smear of peanut butter on the top bun and two slices of cooked bacon to your burger for a savory-sweet treat.
Grilled Onions + Any Cheese = Heaven
Onions get amazingly sweet when cooked down, and when paired with your favorite cheese on a burger? OMG! Delicious. (And no one would blame you if you added mushrooms and garlic, too!)
Use mozzarella or provolone cheese, and 1 tablespoon warmed pizza (or spaghetti) sauce. You can include your favorite pizza toppings, too. Doc knows a guy who lays a slice of sandwich-sized pepperoni on top of his burger and then adds the cheese (and it’s pretty delicious that way). If you’re a sausage fan, consider using a 2:1 ratio of ground beef to sausage (but be very certain to cook through until NO pink remains, or if it’s cooked to 160°F, regardless of color, it is safe). Serve pizza burgers on Focaccia or between two slices of crusty Italian bread – adding the sauce usually means a regular burger bun won’t hold up as well!
Forgo the salt and sprinkle your burgers with taco seasoning as they cook, and use pepper jack cheese. Add your favorite taco or nacho toppings and dig in!
Again, forgo the salt and liberally sprinkle chili seasoning blend (or taco seasoning) and choose your favorite yellow cheese (American will melt better, but a sharp cheddar is really tasty), top with leftover homemade chili (or canned chili, in a pinch), onions and mustard.
Skip the meat patty and use a seasoned and grilled Portobello mushroom cap instead! So tasty!