How to Make the Best Burgers
A burger might seem quite simple to prepare, but not all burger recipes are created equal. Whether it’s for a pan-seared burger made on a stovetop, or a classic backyard burger served at a Fourth of July barbecue, the perfect burger recipe starts with the right cooking techniques.
Three common mistakes to avoid in the quest for the perfect burger.
Many of us depend on thermometers when we’re grilling expensive steaks, but when we grill (cheap) burgers, we think we needn’t bother. Wrong. For consistently delicious burgers cooked to just the right degree of doneness, don’t guess. Take the temperature in the center of each burger with an instant-read thermometer.
MEDIUM-RARE BURGER: 125 to 130 degrees, 2 to 3 minutes per side
MEDIUM BURGER: 135 to 140 degrees, 3 to 4 minutes per side
MEDIUM-WELL BURGER: 145 to 160 degrees, 4 to 5 minutes per side
WELL-DONE BURGER: 160 degrees and up, 5 minutes and up per side
Making a shallow indentation in the center of the patty is the first step toward a great burger.
The collagen, or connective tissue, in ground meat shrinks when heated. This causes the bottom and sides of the meat to tighten like a belt, which forces the surface of the burger to expand. To prevent a bubble burger, press a 1/4-inch divot, or indentation, in the center of each patty. The collagen will still tighten, but the indented meat won't bulge.
Most recipes simply call for "ground beef," but, as any supermarket shopper knows, the choices are much more varied. What are the differences between ground round, ground chuck, and ground sirloin? And what about fat content, which can range as low as 7 percent?
To find out, we prepared burgers using each type of ground beef and held a blind tasting, asking tasters to comment on the taste and texture of each burgers The results were clear; differences between the cuts were obvious and noted across the board. Types of ground beef are listed below in order of preference.
Cut from the shoulder, ground chuck ranges from 15 to 20 percent fat and was favored by our tasters for its "rich" flavor and "tender," "moist" texture. The best choice for burgers.
Tasters found ground sirloin a bit "dry" in burgers, though it did have "good beef flavor." Cut from the midsection of the animal near the hip, ground sirloin usually ranges in fat content from 7 to 10 percent.
Lean and tough, ground round comes from the rear upper leg and rump of the cow. Tasters rejected the round as "gristly" and "lacking beef flavor." The fat content ranges from 10 to 20 percent.
Any cut or combination of cuts can be labeled "ground beef," so consistency is a problem. Because ground beef may have as much as 30 percent fat, greasiness can also be an issue. Our tasters dismissed the ground beef as "mushy," with an "old boiled beef taste."