The Perfect Homemade Hamburger

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My quest to perfect the homemade burger ended several weeks ago, and I’m revealing my discoveries to save you the same trouble.

There are different tastes and endless styles of burger; what we’re after here is a recipe for a traditional burger in all its simple glory.

Homemade Hamburgers

1. Start with the right meat

If you want a good burger you have to use good, healthy meat. I never use anything but pasture raised (grass-fed) beef.

Here’s a big part of the secret for great burgers – add some pork! (Also pasture raised and as local as possible.) Four parts hamburger to one part ground pork breakfast sausage works great.

I like to mix two pounds of hamburger with eight ounces (½ pound) of pork and form eight, five ounce patties.

2. Keep the spices simple

Through much experimentation I found too much flavor takes away from the flavor of the meat. Feel free to experiment with your spices but never forget, for great burgers simple can be best.

A little salt, pepper, and worcestershire is all you need.

Fresh cracked pepper only please. Tough to measure so just do it to taste.

As always, great ingredients are the key so use real sea salt, and use to taste. (Find real sea salt and other spices here.)

Tip: The best way to tell if your salt is real and healthy is to look for color. If it’s pure white, the essential minerals have been stripped out (similar to white sugar and flour).

Homemade worcestershire sauce is best but if you must buy always purchase a good brand, one without MSG, HFCS, and preservatives. (A good rule of thumb is to stay away from anything you’re unfamiliar with or can’t pronounce.) Also use this to taste, I recommend around two teaspoons per pound of meat.

Tip: Many times MSG is hidden in the ingredients with terms like “natural flavoring,” so be careful and remember, nothing beats homemade.

3. Use a cast iron skillet

Sorry grillmasters, nothing makes a juicy burger like cast iron. Don’t get me wrong, I love the flavor a grill can impart, but if you’re looking for the juiciest burger, use cast iron. (See our tips for cooking on cast iron here.)

Get the pan good and hot before putting the burger on the pan. This will sear the outside of the meat and lock in the juices.

4. Flip once and never press

Once the first side has been seared and cooked for a good 5 minutes over medium to medium-high heat, flip, searing the other side, and leave alone.

Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, press down on the burger with the back of the spatula. Ever! It does nothing but squeeze out the precious juice and flavor.

Leave to cook on this side for 3 minutes before adding your favorite cheese. Cook for an additional 2 minutes until cheese is melted and burger reaches desired doneness (I recommend medium). To test for doneness never cut into the burger. Instead, get to know what the different levels feel like, and go by feel.

Tip: flattening the patty out and depressing it a bit in the middle before cooking will keep the burger from turning into a ball.

5. Toppings

C’mon, you didn’t really think I would dare tell you how to top your own burger did you?

Finish with your favorite toppings.

If you must know, I like cheddar cheese, iceberg lettuce, homemade pickle slices, a slice of raw red onion, with just a smidgen of mustard and even less ketchup, on a fresh deli bun/roll. (Sometimes I add things like caramelized onions, mushrooms, spinach, fried eggs, etc., but not often.)

I always like to accompany my burgers with a potato side dish and a veggie side dish.

What is your perfect burger?

We know everyone has different tastes so don’t be stingy, share your experience with the community below!


Resources and References

About Matt Jabs

Matt loves to inspire others to save money and live more sustainably. He is passionate about eating local, living simply, and doing more things himself. Connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.

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  1. Jill says

    Lately, we’ve been on a blue cheese-bacon-onion-mushroom burger kick. Here’s my ultimate burger (awesome even without the bun): Before making the burgers, fry some chopped bacon (about 4-6 slices worth, or more if you’re in a serious bacon mood) in a large cast iron skillet. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon, leaving delicious bacon grease behind. Saute sliced onions (one large onion for 4 people) in bacon grease till starting to carmelize. Remove from pan with slotted spoon. Saute sliced mushrooms in reserved bacon grease, remove from pan and add to the dish/bowl of bacon and sauteed onions. Finally, cook burgers (seasoned with salt and pepper) on bacon-y pan and melt blue cheese on burger patties after flipping. Top with bacon, onion, and mushrooms. Try not to pass out over the deliciousness!

  2. Debora Cadene says

    Thanks guys. The place we have our deer processed only used the deer meat when they are making the burger. If they are making sausage, they do add the pork and water and what ever else is needed to make it not taste like dirty socks!!
    Thanks for the ratio’s for both types of burger…
    I do have a grinder, so if I was to make my own ground pork…what cut would I buy so I could grind it myself ?

    • Nate Duffield says

      You should be able to get pork fat from any local butcher. I used a butcher in town at a small grocery store but it just closed. If you use straight pork fat I might go a little lighter on the mixture since it is pure fat but in my opinion it is better this way than if mixed with burger but thats a matter of opinion.

  3. Nate Duffield says

    Debora, most venison when it is processed or packaged is ground with another form of meat. Venison itself does not have enough fat in it generally to even patty well. I process my own venison and I either grind pork fat or a less lean angus to make the meat a little more “pattyable”. When I process my venison I determine by how much fat the deer has on it. Matts mixture for 1/2 pound to every pound is a good reference.

  4. Debora Cadene says

    When you make your you use lean or extra lean ground beef? I’m not sure of what the ratio of beef vs fat is for either should be, but I am thinking it must make a difference to a great burger…which I am sad to say….have never been so good at making. Would you do the same for venison burger? I think in general the meat is pretty lean, so how much pork would you use for that?

    looking forward to finally making a good burger!!

    • Matt Jabs says

      We use hamburger, which is 80/20, you need the fat for flavor and juice. If you use venison you can probably keep the same ratio, just be sure not to overcook!