You want to make the best burgers for your summer holiday BBQ but there are endless recipes, tricks, tips, and methods, each one claiming to be vital to achieving burger nirvana. While the basic burger is made of only a few ingredients, it can mean either one of the best meals ever or, one of the worst. What are the best ways to make them? How can we all avoid a terrible burger experience?
Here at the Sub-Zero | Wolf Culinary Events Center by Riggs Distributing, Inc., our chefs recently created a number of delicious burger variations as part of a Riggs team lunch which we share in our post: Burgers for Summer BBQs. I also made a thorough review of the vast burger advice available online and found that there are some clear areas where experts agree, and a few where they don’t. Here is a summary of “The Great Burger Debate” which will help even the most novice chef create the best burger.
Where Experts Agree
These techniques have reached a consensus among burger “experts.” Consider these all “must dos” for your perfect burger experience:
Grind Your Meat
This rule is your basic building block to burger perfection. I will admit, though, that the idea of pulling out the grinder attachment on my mixer is the last thing I want to do before the big BBQ (if you want to try, look at this tutorial). The solution: have your butcher do it. At the supermarket or butcher try any combination of beef (or try mixing in beef and lamb for even greater umami) and ask them to grind it for you once (no more than that). Ask for them to add fatty pieces. Ideally, your meat should be 15 to 30% fat. Have them grind it once which will come out looking like thick noodles. That’s fine and will make for a better texture.
Fat Content is Good
As suggested above, a higher fat content helps make the burger better in flavor, texture, and how well it will holds up on the grill. If you are going for a leaner or different flavored meat, like turkey, or want an even more flavorful (and healthier) alternative to beef, like bison or elk, add some oil or butter to the mix.
In order to keep this great flavor in your meat:
Keep the Fat in the Meat: Don’t Overwork and Keep it Chilled
Usually before cooking meat we let it come to room temperature. Not with burgers. Keep them cold. After you mix and form the patties, put them back in the fridge. Your hands are warm and will melt the fat leaving more of that flavor on your hands than in the patty. While you are forming them, work quickly and delicately. The more you mix the more you affect the texture leaving a less than desirable bite. For those who want to do your own grinding, try putting your meat in the freezer for 30-40 minutes before grinding. This will also keep more fat in the meat than in the grinder.
Put a Dimple in the Center to Create a Flat Burger
Forming your patties with a dimple in the center keeps them from rising into a difficult-to- eat globe and leaving room for condiments without the burger stacking too high. Cooks Illustrated offers a nice explanation of this.
High Heat and Check Your Temperature
We get high searing temperatures quickly and easily with the Wolf outdoor grills which is a necessary step in making the best burgers. High heat will help give a nice crusty sear and as long as you don’t flip it too quickly, it will also help keep your burger from sticking. In addition, invest in a good meat thermometer and don’t be afraid to use it. Checking your temperature will help you get the right doneness on your patty.
Where Experts Disagree
The very best burger, despite the consistent techniques above, is still a very subjective experience, and is the subject of much debate between burger lovers. There don’t seem to be any definitive answers yet on these topics and you may need to do your own experimenting to find your preferred methods.
Seasoning and Salt
Most experts agree on this point: season liberally. When forming your patties, it’s the best time to add and enhance the flavor of your burger. When mixing your burgers this is the time to add your herbs, ground pepper, etc. Burger purists will argue only for ground pepper but let your own preferences be your guide. The more impassioned debate begins on the topic of when to add salt to your burger mix.
Salting: Adding salt to your ground meat and the amount of time it is in contact with it can make a big difference on the texture and chewiness of the meat. Usually, the more time they are in contact the less desirable the end result. Because of this, some warn to only add salt to the patty just before it hits the grill, while others argue 40 minutes before as they would do with a steak. Others ignore this rule completely arguing that if only the outside of the patty is salted then you don’t get to properly flavor the inside of the burger and the taste will be bland. The Kitchn sums this up and more in their post about this topic.
For most of us, as long as you are mixing and forming your burgers the day you grill them (the closer to grill time the better), you likely won’t notice a difference, but experiment and decide your own best method.
To Flip or Not to Flip
There are advocates that argue to leave the burger on the grill for a certain period of time before flipping (6 minutes or so). Others, like “The Burger Lab” blog post, say it doesn’t matter and might even be beneficial. Again, you can use your best judgement. Keep in mind that the earlier you flip the more chance that it might stick to the grill. Also, where experts also seem to agree: don’t press down on your patty with your spatula!
Special Sauce, Condiments, Etc.
The debate is simple, should a burger be kept classic with traditional accompaniments or is any addition welcome? Of course, you are the only one to decide. A perfect burger can be as memorable using a classic recipe or incredibly interesting with different sauces and even the addition of other meats into the patty like our Elk burger with Chorizo.
With a little careful planning and technique as well as your own flavor preferences, the creation of the perfect burger experience can be yours. Do you have any burger additions, techniques, or flavors we haven’t discussed? Please share in the comments! Want our recent burger recipes? Get them here!