Ah, burgers! One of our favorite subjects. In honor of our favorite summer meal, we thought we’d give you some of our favorite burger tips, tricks and recipes. Today we’re starting with the basics – perfecting the patty.
No matter which type of meat you start with or how you dare to dress it up, at the heart of every hamburger lies the patty. The best burgers have a fully caramelized crust over the entire patty surface area but are juicy, moist and gently cooked at the center.
When choosing the blend for your burgers, balance of fat is the key. Too lean and your burger will be dry and bland, while the more fat it contains, the more the patty will shrink when cooking. A patty containing 30% fat can shrink by as much as 25%, leaving you with a diminutive dinner. We prefer an 80/20 blend of ground beef for burgers, like in our Kobe-Style Wagyu Ground Beef. 80/20 burgers stay moist and juicy without losing too much volume.
Overworking your ground beef will put you on the fast track to dry, dense burgers. When forming patties, it’s a good idea to wet or oil your hands slightly to keep the meat from sticking to your fingers and ensure you’re handling it as little as possible. Separate the beef into portions sizes then gently but quickly form into patty shapes about ½ – ¾ inch uniform thickness, and about ½ inch larger than the diameter of your bun to allow for some shrinkage. Intense, direct heat cooking like grilling or broiling will cause patties to seize up and bulge in the center. To prevent this, gently make dimple (about 1½ inches in dia.) in the middle of each patty before cooking.
We think the quality and flavor of the meat should be the star so we like to keep the seasoning simple. A generous sprinkling of coarse kosher salt and a few turns of cracked black pepper are all you need but if you want to spice it up, a generous pinch of Porcini Powder or piment d’Espelette will give an extra layer of flavor without overpowering. Always season after the patties are formed, right before cooking to prevent the salt from drying the meat out.
There are many ways to cook a burger, but no matter which method you choose, there are a few simple rules to ensure the best results. The first rule is: don’t touch it! Once you’ve gently placed your patty on the cooking surface leave it alone so the meat has time to develop the crust. If you try to turn it too early the burger will stick or fall apart. The secret is to flip the burger the second it releases from the surface. Next, turn the patty only once and never press on the patty with the spatula. Pressing will force juices out, resulting in a dry burger. Finally, don’t poke or cut into the patty to check for doneness. Piercing the crust before the meat has rested will result in all of the delicious juices running out. And there will be residual cooking even after you’ve removed it from the heat.
As with all meats, when using direct heat cooking methods, your hamburger patties will need to rest after cooking for the juices to redistribute evenly. Gently remove them from the heat source and allow them to rest for a few minutes on a clean cutting board or platter. Remember to never use the same surface that came into contact with the raw meat to avoid cross-contamination.