Whether you’re cooking on a gas or charcoal grill or in a fry pan on the stovetop, here are tips on making the perfect burger that is meaty and satisfying, yet never dense and bricklike. To make the best burgers, use a light touch with the meat.
DON’T FEAR THE FAT For the juiciest beef burgers, use ground chuck (80% lean/20% fat) or sirloin (85% lean/15% fat). Leaner cuts and grass-fed beef will yield a drier burger. When buying chicken or turkey, opt for dark meat. It’s still lower in fat than beef and will result in a much tastier burger than white meat.
FRESH IS BEST Keep in mind that you don’t need to buy ground meat. You can choose any boneless cut and then ask your butcher to grind it for you or grind it yourself. Use a coarser grind to avoid a mushy texture. For a special treat add some freshly ground short ribs, dry-aged steak, brisket or a combination.
MAKE AN IMPRESSION The edges of a burger cook faster than the center, which can cause the burger to puff up into a sphere. To avoid this, when shaping the patty, press your thumb into the center to make a dimple about the size of a quarter.
HOLD THE SALT Wait to add salt until after the patties are formed and just before cooking, and then season generously. Salt inside a patty will start to dissolve the protein strands, which will adversely affect the texture of the burger.
GRILL OR GRIDDLE Burger lovers are divided about the best cooking method. Grilling adds terrific smoky flavor, but some insist that a griddle or fry pan allows the flavorful fat to stay with the burger during cooking. Whichever method you choose, DO NOT press down on the meat with the spatula because it will release the juices and fat. Resist that urge!
DON’T FLIP OUT Flip the burgers only once, and only after they have formed a nice brown seal. Don’t flip too soon, and don’t move the burgers around. When the burgers are ready to be flipped, they should dislodge from the cooking surface easily. If they stick, let them cook for a few moments more.
COOKED TO PERFECTION The surest way to measure a burger’s doneness is to check the internal temperature with an instant-read thermometer. The thickest part of a beef burger should register 130 degrees for medium-rare, 140 degrees for medium, and 150 degrees for well done. Let your burgers rest for a couple of minutes before serving to allow the internal juices to redistribute evenly through the meat.
“Work With What You Got!”
© Victoria Hart Glavin Tiny New York Kitchen © 2015 All Rights Reserved