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Want to cook the perfect burger? There are a lot of people eager to tell you how. A Google search for “the best hamburger recipe” yields a staggering 6.9 million results. When all you want is tips on how to create a tender and juicy pancake on the inside with a crispy outer crust, it can all feel a little overwhelming. It’s just a bunch of minced meat on a bun with toppings, after all. How hard can it be to find the ultimate burger recipe?
Well, it turns out that making the best burger ever is a lot easier than you might imagine. While some burger lovers like to make it seem like cooking a good burger is an art comparable to mastering a perfect soufflé or paella, the basics of making a good burger aren’t too complicated. All you need is a handful of ingredients (meat, buns, toppings) and a few basic tools, and you’ve got the makings of a sandwich to die for.
In fact, the problem people face when making burgers is overdoing it. You should resist the temptation to mix a bunch of extras, like raw onions, eggs, or breadcrumbs into the meat. Instead, simply season with freshly ground pepper and a little salt after forming the patties. It is also forbidden to handle the beef too much before cooking.
“Think about the sweetness when preparing your burgers; this is certainly not the time to be clumsy. Wrapping them up really will make a dense, heavy hockey puck out of a burger, ”Rochelle Bilow of Enjoy your meal informed.
Then there’s the grill versus pan debate. Fans of outdoor cooking will tell you that grilling is the only solution, but cooking in a cast iron skillet has many supporters. Personally, I am a fan of the latter. On the one hand, it produces a more uniform brown crust on the patty. Also, as an apartment dweller, I don’t have easy access to a grill, and the stovetop burgers can be enjoyed all year round, regardless of the weather. The best size for a burger can also be a controversial issue. While big pub-style burgers have their place, thinner patties are easier to manage and less messy. Those are all the reasons I think this dinner style burger recipe from the Sam Sifton of the New York Times – which looks more like a burger you’ll get at Shake Shack or In-n-Out than your neighborhood bar – might just be the best burger recipe ever.
Dinner Style Burger Recipe
If you love massive half pound burgers stop reading now. This recipe produces thin, perfectly browned patties like those you would find in a classic American restaurant. The cooking technique is simple: handle the beef as little as possible, season in a pan, cook quickly, then serve.
- ½ teaspoon of neutral oil, such as canola, or a knob of unsalted butter
- 2 pounds of chopped chuck, at least 20% fat
- Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
- 8 cheese slices (optional)
- 8 soft hamburger buns, lightly toasted
- Lettuce leaves, sliced tomatoes and condiments, to taste
instructions: Add oil or butter to a large cast iron or stainless steel skillet and heat over medium heat. Carefully divide the ground beef into 8 small piles of about 4 ounces each and even more gently gather them into orbs about 2 inches high. Do not form pancakes.
Increase the heat under the pan to high heat. Put half of the orbs in the pan with plenty of distance between them and using a stiff metal spatula, press each one down to form a burger about 4 inches in diameter and about ½ inch thick . Season with salt and pepper.
Cook without moving until the patties have reached a deep, browned crust, just under 2 minutes. Use the spatula to scrape and carefully flip the burgers. If using cheese, place the slices on the meat.
Continue to cook until the meat is cooked through, about a minute more. Remove the burgers from the pan, place them on the buns and garnish them as desired. Repeat the process with the remaining burgers.
Tips for the hamburger recipe
To make the best burger, you need to start with the right meat. However, don’t feel like you have to buy the most expensive beef you can buy. Instead, focus on the fat content. No more than 80% lean is ideal. The minced chuck, rather than the sirloin, is a good bet.
Many people will say that it is better chop your own beef if possible. I admit being too lazy to take this extra step. Instead, I used Trader Joe’s ground beef. But the meat was well packed, which made a pancake a little too dense. I would have done better with looser meat that I ground myself or got from a butcher. (There are health and food safety reasons also choose fresh ground beef.)
I followed Sifton’s instructions for handling the meat as little as possible and seasoning once the burgers landed in the pan. Pushing down with the spatula created a flat, even patty and avoided the dreaded “burger bulge,” where your burger ends up looking like a giant meatball and is eclipsed by the bun.
Cooking the burgers in a cast iron skillet with a little butter resulted in a pancake with a nice crust. Sifton’s recommended cooking time is for a rare burger. I prefer my burgers that are closer to average, so I cooked the patties for a few more minutes; if you prefer a well-done patty, you will need to cook even longer.
As for the toppings, I kept it simple to better replicate the dinner experience: cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, mustard and a little ketchup. The best bun is a matter of personal preference, but you have to be careful about the size. These burgers are about 4 inches in diameter and the buns I bought were just a little too big for the patties. Plan accordingly.
Finally, if you try this recipe at home, be prepared for a lot of splashing. My stove was covered in a thin layer of grease by the time I finished, but the end result was well worth the extra cleaning required.