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.
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.
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
- Misleading and deceptive labeling to hide MSG on TruthInLabeling.org
- Salt and Our Health on WestonAPrice.org
- Finger Test for Doneness on Exploratorium.edu