Tips For The Best Burgers You'll Ever Grill At Home

Categories: Food News

Flare ups.JPG
If your grill looks like this, you're doing it wrong.
Summer is gone, and standing beside a hot grill no longer feels like an act of torture. That means it's time to fire up the charcoal, and one of the easiest way to coax the most flavor out of your kettle grill is by cooking top-notch burgers. Skip the preformed pucks the grocery stores try and sell you and take the time to hand-form your own patties. It's the best way to get the right texture and best flavor out of your burger.

If you've delved deep into burger mechanics or spent time reading a food writer's prose about seared, ground meat served on a pillowy bun, you've probably heard the term "loose pack." The phrase refers to the lack of compression used to form the patties which end up a little irregular, and if you're doing it properly, seem like they'll almost fall apart. It's basically exactly the opposite of what you would do when forming a meatball, meatloaf, pate or any other densely molded meat recipe.

If you're really interested in why loose packing makes for juicier, more evenly cooked, and delicious burgers you're more than welcome to spend some time on this blog post where an MIT graduate turned recipe developer talks fat ratio, surface area, and fractals of all things, or you can just trust me and pretty much every burger pro on the planet: Loose packed burgers are the way to go.

Here's how I get the loosest pack I can at home in addition to some other tips and tricks for making the best burger possible.

Central market Brioche.JPG
Secure the best bun you can.
Most buns you pick up in the prepackaged bread section of the grocery store are terrible. The buns get squished from being stuffed into plastic bags before they're shipped around and they're always dry. Hit the bakery section of your grocer and ask for freshly baked buns. Central Market has brioche buns you can call ahead and order that are as good as the buns you'll see in Dallas' better restaurants.

Ground Beef for burgers.JPG
Use a sheet pan as a work surface and break up the meat to keep it light and fluffy
Back that bun up with the best beef available.
It's really simple: The better ground beef you use, the better results you'll have. Make sure the blend is at least 20 percent fat if you want the most flavor possible and buy the best possible quality you can afford. Skip your standard grocery and go to a butcher like Rudolph's.

You're looking for a light, airy grind that's been handled gently, not a dense pasty mass that's been stuffed into Styrofoam and shrink wrapped. Make sure the package doesn't get squished by other ingredients on your way home, and get it into the fridge as soon as you walk through the door until you're ready to work with it.

Want the best burgers possible? Grind the meat at home right before you cook it.

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Divide the meat into equal sections for evenly portioned patties.
Keep things light.
Carefully break up the meat to uniformly cover the pan. Do your best to preserve the individual strands of ground beef and not overwork the mixture. Now you're ready to season.

Salt and Pepper.
Many dishes you make at home can be tasted and adjusted, but you pretty much have one shot to season a burger properly. Burgers can take a ton of salt, so be aggressive with your seasoning. With the meat broken up you have a chance to season your burgers inside and out, so don't skimp. Use freshly ground pepper at your own discretion.

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Get those patties right back in the fridge until your grill is ready.
Loosely form the patties.
Gingerly divide the sheet pan into portions and then carefully bring the patties together. Don't pick them up and work them, just gather the meat and gently press it together. Again, you're trying to preserve the original structure of the ground meat without working it into a pulp. That's the key to a tender and juicy burger. As soon as your patties are formed cover the pan with plastic wrap and get it back into the fridge until your grill is fired up and ready.



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34 comments
Daniel Hopkins
Daniel Hopkins

I was just thinking about this post earlier today.

todd
todd

Serious Eats seems to think it's okay to smash your burger.  I don't necessarily agree, I'm just posting this to be contrarian. 

http://tinyurl.com/8fxxar9

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

grinding the meat fresh makes a much better burger.

 

trying different cuts of meat until you get the ratio you really, really like is also a good way to justify eating more burgers, too. my favorite burgers are 1/3 sirloin, 1/3 chuck and 1/3 short rib.

 

Also Scott, 3 minutes/side on my Weber gets me medium rare, perfect burgers. 4 minutes gets them medium and no pink left in the center....

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

Season right before you're placing it in the pan/on the griddle/on the grill. It's not a steak, you'll just draw out juices salting too early.

 

Cheese can be melted easily just by using an inverted bowl over the burger to capture steam.

 

Mayo on the bottom bun can be an effective (and tasty) way to keep it from getting soggy--it acts as a water-resistant barrier.

 

And it's been said but bears repeating over and over until people get a clue--don't press the damn burger while it's cooking!

Joshstruckoutagain
Joshstruckoutagain

Cheese and Veggies are on the wrong side Scott..other than that doesn't look bad.

kergo1spaceship
kergo1spaceship

I fell into a deep crater reading this.........bring back that Daniel guy that watches you cook BBQ. 

 

Blah blah blah dont squish the meat blah blah blah cook the bun.......Christ, did you people have parents growing up?  When common sense becomes neat tricks, we are f+cking ruined as a society!  What's next, tips on breathing?  

 

ps-I'd rather you would have mailed it in Scottie with:

 

-An Eddie Campbell story

-A Matt M Story

-A food truck story

...........and the beating of all beatings; THE TOP 100 FOODS OF DALLAS. You know, that story that all Village Voice Media are REQUIRED to write. 

________

 

 

Tomorrow we are going to have a story about eggs-and the many ways we can cook them....we have fried, poached, boiled...........

joe_x71
joe_x71

Don't squish the burger with the spatula as it cooks. Great suggestions offered here, but that one is vital...

Willie
Willie

Don't forget about grilling the buns, with butter, of course.  Nothing like a little crunch that soaks up the juices.  

primi_timpano
primi_timpano topcommenter

Excellent article. Somewhere I recall reading that using forks or other kitchen tools to form the patty, as opposed to hands, makes it less likely to over compress the patty. I also follow the one flip rule. For the perfectionist, an instant read thermometer will help manage the center, but won't help one from burning the exterior. Last, but the cheeseburger under the broiler for a few seconds to melt the cheese.

ChrisYu
ChrisYu

seriously one of the best looking burgers i've seen on this blog. five stars.

J_A_
J_A_

It's so hard to not overwork the meat. TWSS.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

Gotta love the good ole weber kettle grilled burger

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

Scott, it looks like you need a good grill brush.

 

Burgers look tasty, though.

scott.reitz
scott.reitz moderator

 @mavdog Know thy grill. Gas, charcoal, in the sun, in the shade, winter, summer, wind: there are so many variables. The only way to figure this out for YOUR grill is lots of practice. Glad you've figured it out. I'll be over this weekend with beer.

primi_timpano
primi_timpano topcommenter

@Scruffygeist The inverted bowl is genius. No more rushing from the grill to the broiler.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

nope, putting them on the bottom keeps the bun from getting soggy.

 

typically tho I prefer the lettuce on the bottom and the tomato/onions on the top....

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

 @kergo1spaceship In a town where I have seen many 5-star kitchens that are a decade old but have still to see a single scorch mark in their $3,000.00 ovens, I really don't think a primer on proper burger preparation is too rudimentary.

primi_timpano
primi_timpano topcommenter

@JaniceA Try using secret sauce.

scott.reitz
scott.reitz moderator

 @TheCredibleHulk was at a friend's. Convinced her to get a chimney, but had to resort to spatula scraping to clean that grill.

Colin1
Colin1

 @mavdog Which also happens when you put them on the bottom, absent a barrier on either the top or bottom bun, and I don't feel like dressing works well enough as a moisture barrier.

 

Personally I prefer no dressing anyway with sufficiently moist meat, flip the burger over when I go for cheese, so - bottom bun, cheese (acts as a meat moisture barrier), meat, tomatoes, onions, lettuce (moisture barrier again), top bun.

scott.reitz
scott.reitz moderator

 @mavdog Maybe, but I hardly did it on purpose. I dressed the wrong side of the bun. I ate it standing on my head though, so it was still delicious.

kergo1spaceship
kergo1spaceship

 @Joshsbrokendisqus 

 

Oh yeah....are you really a man when someone has to TELL you how to cook a burger?   You just gotta love em Metrosexuals!  Iff'n someone is teaching you how to drink scotch, or proper fishing technique.....you may be a "left handed hitter".  

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

 @scott.reitz Chimney is fantastic.

 

Finally got one this summer and I don't know what I ever did without one.

 

Bonus: Finally got something to do with those old paper DO back issues.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

 @kergo1spaceship  @Joshsbrokendisqus Not all of us had the good fortune of being at the knee of a dad with a Blatz in one hand and spatula in the other as he stood watch over that old  Weber kettle.

 

*sigh*

 

Seems there's and entire generation of folks that think that grilling is something that can be accomplished with *gasp* propane!

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