Sunday 15 June 2014

The Perfect Burger

Burgers are such a quintessential symbol of American food that have been adored for decades. The burger business alone is a worldwide, multibillion dollar industry. You can easily get one, if not a variety of options, anywhere you are. None of those options even come close to a flame grilled beef patty that you put together at home. Nowadays you can make a burger out of just about anything: pork, chicken, turkey, bison, legumes, soy, et cetera, and they can all be made very, very well. There is just something about the classic beef burger that hits a certain spot in your satisfaction. Since it's grilling season I thought it would be good to put together a simple, yet perfect burger recipe for the blog.

The last time we used the barbecue on the blog was recently when we made jerk chicken. I mentioned that our gas grill has been around for a few years and that it was in dire need of a new heat plate. A heat plate on a gas grill is a metal plate with holes in it that sits above the burners that produce the flames. It has two functions, it evens out the heat distribution and prevents fire from scorching whatever you're grilling. Over years of usage the heat plate had basically burnt and disintegrated into nothing. So I'm very pleased to announce that I got a brand new heat plate and those days are behind us. See!

Ta dah!

Since we're using beef today, you're going to want to get your hands on some ground beef. Not just any beef though. The best cut of beef for burgers is beef chuck, located near the shoulder of the cow. It's a slightly fattier cut of beef that produces a lot of juices and a lot of flavour. If beef chuck is not an option for you then aim for a grind with an 80:20 meat to fat ratio. Lean beef does not make for a great, juicy burger. Your butcher will be able to help you put something together. They might even write your name on it when they give it to you. hehe.

If you're no stranger to my blog then you know that I am a fan of exotic flavours, aromatics and spices. You might be wondering what the secret flavour profile is to make a great beef burger. Well, here it is: salt and pepper. That's it. Like a good steak, most of the flavour will come from the fat and the meat itself. Good beef chuck doesn't need much help. Seasoning with salt and pepper on the outside is all you need. Okay, you got me. I added some cayenne pepper to mine because I like a little heat in my food, but that's totally optional. Another reason why we're not adding a bunch of spices is because to really penetrate each patty with those flavours we would have to mix those spices into the meat with our hands. The more you handle ground meat the more dense, chewy and drier your product will be. You would likely have to use egg and/or breadcrumbs as a binder to gloop it all together. But hey, that's a meat loaf. We're making burgers here! For juicy, flavourful, perfect burgers, all you need to do is take some ground chuck in your hand and form into patties.  

I'm not going to give you a list of ingredients with exact proportions because all a perfect burger is is ground beef chuck with salt and pepper to taste. The size of your burgers depends entirely on how big you want them. All you need to do aside from that is add buns and your choice of cheese, toppings and condiments. For a big, juicy burger (like the ones pictured in this post) I used 1/2 pound of ground chuck per burger. So I got two pounds from my butcher and made four equal patties. You could make them bigger or smaller if you wish. 

Start out with the desired amount of ground beef chuck or a ground beef with an 80:20 fat ratio. 


Using clean hands, form your beef into round patties. Do not mash or squeeze the meat. Just firmly form into uniform shapes. 

Use your thumb to make an indent in the middle of each patty. The reason why we do this is because when on the grill, the patties will puff up a bit as they cook. The indent is oddly enough to ensure that the burger is flat when it's cooked.

Then season the burgers on both sides to taste with salt and pepper. Cayenne pepper for a little heat is optional. Since there is no seasoning on the inside of the burger, I recommend being a little more generous with the seasoning than you might normally be.

Then place your patties in the fridge for 45 minutes to an hour (preferably the bottom of the fridge where it's coldest). Remember, we haven't added anything to bind the meat together. By refrigerating them they will firm up slightly and hold together better on the grill.


When your burgers are nearly ready to come out of the fridge, preheat your barbecue. Brush the bars of the grill when it's hot and then use a pair of tongs and a paper towel soaked in a little neutral oil to grease the grill. This will help to prevent sticking. Take your beef patties out of the fridge and rub them lightly with olive oil.


Then place your burgers on your preheated grill. Space them apart and then leave them alone. Don't poke or prod them. Just close the lid of the barbecue and let them do what they do. This really is like cooking a steak.

After about four minutes, lift the lid of the grill and flip the burgers. Just like a steak, you only want to flip burgers once. Give them about another four minutes on the other side with the lid down.

TIP: A very common mistake that people make when they barbecue burgers is they press down on the burgers with a spatula. Doing this only releases flavourful juices that you want to keep in the meat. That release of juices will also cause flare ups that will scorch, burn and dry out your burgers. So resist the urge and leave the burgers alone!

If you make your burgers smaller they may only need three minutes a side. It all depends on size and desired doneness. I like my burgers a little towards medium rare so 4-5 minutes a side for 1/2 lb patties was perfect for me. If you don't get your meat at a butcher and are not sure how fresh it is you're better off cooking it through just to be safe.

In English we refer to a hamburger as a beef patty on a bun. A cheeseburger is a hamburger with cheese on it. In my eyes, that single slice of cheese makes all the difference. So we're going to turn these puppies into cheeseburgers. It's not enough to just add a piece of cheese to your burger. You've got to place a slice of cheese on the burger during its last minute on the grill so that it just melts. Place your cheese on the patties for their last minute of cooking and keep the lid down during that final minute.

Afterward, remove the burgers from the grill and set them aside for a minute or two before assembling.

Before turning your grill off, I recommend toasting your hamburgers buns for just a minute at the end. It adds another level of texture and smokiness to your final product.


The final step is to assemble and dress your burgers however you like. Here I used red onion, dill pickle, tomato, a fried egg and arugula. Have you ever tried a fried egg on a burger before? It's amazing. It gives you a texture that no other burger topping does and the runny yolk is like an extra sauce in the middle. You should really try it out if you're looking to treat yourself. As for condiments, you can use any sauces you like. I used some fresh mayonnaise that I made up. You can scroll down to the next post for that recipe. Other popular condiments for burgers are ketchup, mustard, hot sauce, barbecue sauce and relish. There is a mean red onion preserve on the blog that is perfect for burgers.  

This burger was such a treat and my friends enjoyed them too. The burgers have so much flavour and juices when prepared this way. Who knew keeping things so simple could turn out such a good quality product. The photo of the completed cheeseburger makes it look enormous. Granted, it's a big burger but please bear in mind that I could hold it comfortably with one hand.

Now THAT is one tasty, juicy, satisfying burger. Find out for yourselves!

Let me know how your burgers turn out or if there is something special you add to make your burgers uniquely your own. I'd love to hear your feedback.

Stay tuned. I have a few upcoming projects for dishes that are just as delicious but healthier as well. It's all about balance here on the blog! lol.

Until next time. Take care,


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