The burger is a quintessential part of most meat-eating diets, and while not the healthiest option, it is the perfect treat for cheat days, barbecues and parties. If you save your burgers for this kind of special occasion, then you want it to be the best burger you have ever tasted. Our 10 tips will guarantee perfect results every time, ensuring that your burgers are well worth waiting for.
1. Make your Own
Burgers have largely dropped out of the everyday rotation of family meals, and so there is no real need to keep frozen ones in the freezer. Far better for the results that we have in mind is to make your burgers fresh on the day. Your ground meat can be frozen beforehand if you prefer, but fresh always wins out. In making your burgers from scratch, you can control size, texture, juiciness and fat content of the burger and avoid any added extras and preservatives.
2. Season your Meat
A common issue with homemade burgers is that they taste just like the meatballs, tacos and other products made from the same ingredient, just in a different shape. You probably have an idea of what the perfect burger tastes like, and you can season to your heart’s content to find the ideal flavour. Be generous with it too – it is hard to overdo seasoning because the inside of the burger is bigger and balances out flavour while cooking.
3. Aim for Patties an Inch Wider than the Bun
A good burger needs a good bun, but the patty should be the wider of the two when made. As the juices do their work and leave the meat, the burger will get smaller, and a good inch around the edge of the bun should compensate enough for the perfect fit.
4. Keep the Grill Closed
Grilling beats the oven for burgers in our experience, but that does not necessarily mean you should avoid the oven effect. By keeping the lid closed, no heat can escape, and your burger will be cooked evenly on the top, bottom and inside too.
5. Only Touch the Burger to Flip
For some reason, amateur grill cooks often seem to prefer looking busy. When grilling burgers, there are not that many options other than interfering with the burger itself. Poking, prodding and sliding the patty around the grill might sound like fun, but the more you touch it, the more likely you are to disturb those all-important meat juices. They are crucial for flavour, and you want them evenly spread throughout the burger for the best results. Busy your hands elsewhere and let the heat do the work.
6. You Only Flip Once
Unlike when grilling a steak, where turning multiple times can be beneficial, burgers are best left untouched other than for a single flip halfway through. Their smaller size and lack of marbling or bones mean that even cooking is not reliant on frequently exposing different areas to the heat. The time it takes to grill a burger varies on your equipment, but you’ll have a good idea after the first one. Once that is established, cut that time in half and turn the burger over – then leave it well alone!
7. Leave Glazes and Sauces to the End
It might be tempting to smother your burger in your choice of condiments prior to placing it on the grill. This is never a good idea. At ideal temperatures, your burger is getting hot – so hot that most sauces and glazes will either melt or char. Either way, they will do more harm than good to the overall taste of your burger and should be left to the end. The residual heat when the burger comes off the grill will be enough to warm the glaze. Alternatively, give the sauce a minute on the grill at the end of cooking and never before.
8. Cheese Only Needs a Minute
Everything we said about sauces and glazes above also applies to cheese. In this case, we do want to make use of the heat as melted cheese is far better than a solid slice and the burger itself may not be warm enough to achieve this when it comes off the grill. When there is a minute to go in the cooking process, apply the cheese slice to your patty and close the lid on the grill. The heat already contained under the lid will warm the cheese while the surface of the burger finishes cooking for an excellent finish.
9. Know When the Burger is Done
You can bend the rules a little if your burger is just for personal consumption. On social occasions, however, there is a certain burger etiquette that should be observed at all times, and while guests will have varying tastes, they will all know what a good burger looks and tastes like. Above everything else, the meat needs to be cooked. You can take the more professional approach and use a meat thermometer, or just base your cooking process around time. If you are looking to impress, you can ask your guests how they like their burger cooked and apply the same doneness scale as on steaks. Otherwise, a medium grill is the most flexible, and that involves around 6 minutes of cooking on each side.
10. Don’t Neglect the Bun
We are trying to put together the world’s greatest burger here, and once you have put all that effort into the meat, it would be unfortunate to let it all unravel with the bun. Personal taste matters here too – you can use any pair of bread slices for the purpose technically. A toasted bun is the perfect crunchy complement to a tender, juicy burger, and you can make your own call on seeds and other factors. Remember the ‘wow’ factor, as the person eating the burger will see more of the bun than the meat and get creative accordingly.