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Hey Chowhounds, Let's Build a Better Burger!

Wowie wow! I just built a dee - lish - iss burger! Sometimes everything just works right. You always say a prayer when you buy supermarket hamburger meat, but purely by chance I found this Harris Ranch beef here in SF that I had heard good things about. I think they treat the animals humanely too, which means a lot to me. But I just bought the fattiest Harris' ground beef they had and went home with hope in my heart. Well, I have done that soooo many times before and been profoundly disappointed. But, I guess today was just my lucky day.

Because, not only was that meat the tops in rich beefy wonderfulness but I did indeed figure out a new trick (for me anyway, probably you all know it already) that I want to pass on to anybody who wants to make a truly great burger, and thus open up the topic at hand for discussion, brainstorming and general shmoozing...


What I did differently, that I had never done before was to transfer something from an entirely different recipe because...well, why? Intuition? I dunno. Maybe it was Grandma Gertrude watching out for my cooking from that great kitchen in the sky, because the recipe I borrowed the new trick from was her dearly beloved stuffed cabbage which I've posted here before, and which is absolutely fabulous.

I guess I've been wondering why the only thing she put into the meat besides raw rice was minced onion, salt, freshly ground black pepper and water. Why the water? Well, because rice needs moisture to swell and cook, right? But, could adding water to ground beef, in general, make it more moist, I asked myself...on some unconsious level, because I'd been mulling this subject for weeks since the last time I made the stuffed cabbage. And yes, it really did. The burger had a tenderness and juiciness I have never produced in any burger of my own making before. I also added quite a bit of very finely minced red onion, a bit of kosher salt and enough fresh ground black pepper that I was getting hits of it as I ate that delicious burger.

How much water? I should have measured, but I didn't. Maybe a quarter cup for half a pound of meat. I just put everything into a plastic bag and squoze it (yeah, NOT a real word) maybe a dozen times trying not to over-mix, which is supposed to toughen the meat.

I made 4 very small little patties, only 2 1/2 inches across, but a good inch thick, from 1/2 pound of meat - like amuse bouches - really large flatish meatballs (I was hungry - faster that way), put on a very high flame, and only turned once. Once turned over, sharp cheddar went on top and after a few moments I covered them just to melt the cheese. Served on and under quarters of buttered Oroweat whole wheat toast and topped with Heinz Ketchup. So moist and juicy, so beefy, so absolutely perfect!

Ok, all you burger loving chowhounds: what's YOUR favorite trick for building a better burger?

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  1. Follow the recipe for the pork burger in Sunday Suppers at Lucques. Seriously, that was the most unbelievable burger I've ever had.

    6 Replies
    1. re: MMRuth

      Sorry that I don't own that Lucques cookbook. Should I? Or is that recipe online somewhere? Or is it simple enough for you to offer a synopsis here?

      1. re: niki rothman

        I'll try to find a link - and didn't mean to be short in my reply. The book is unbelievable. Here's the link to the Summer Menus thread - lots of photos of the burger.


        Several of us made them and posted photos. The post under the one I linked to above has a link to the recipe.

        And congrats on making a great burger - you've got us talking about going out for one for dinner!

        1. re: MMRuth

          MM, I have always had a lot of respect for your wise counsel. If you think this is a top o' the line, not worth going on living without cookbook, I'll be heading for alibris.com pronto to see how much a second hand copy in very good condition will cost me.

          1. re: niki rothman

            Thanks - really it is. The recipes are often a lot of work, but well worth it. I'd frankly say it is the best cookbook I've cooked from in years (putting aside the classics). The flavors are wonderful and interesting. My husband said "This is an epiphany" after one of the meals I made, and another time said I was trying to kill him by cooking so much from it. I've never been to LA and, to be honest, was never really inclined to (forgive my biases), but this book makes me want to go to there just so that I can go Lucques.

            1. re: niki rothman

              BTW - here's a link to the "mother thread" for the Lucques cookbook of the month threads - as you will see, some of us have become a bit obsessed with the book!

              1. re: niki rothman

                It's a great burger. Between this thread and others I was persuaded to try the recipe last Sunday night. I didn't have a whole lot of time to follow the Cookbook of the Month thread for Sunday Supper Lucuques but this recipe has piqued my interest in trying more recipes from the book.

        2. The meat quality and fat content is most important for me. I always like the way my burgers come out when I use 75/25 prather ranch meat. I'm a purist, form the patties and sprinkle with salt and pepper while grilling.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Fussy Foodie

            This Harris Ranch ground beef (from very generic cuts, I guess, because it did not say chuck even - which I thought meant generic beef) that I used to make my exemplary burgers today, was 22 percent fat. I agree - less fat means less flavor, as long as the meat is very high quality. And by that I guess I mean a very clean beefy flavor, without a hint of liveriness, which sadly, I have noticed more often in meat recently, and makes me fearful about the level of health inspections going on. But now that I know that this Harris Ranch meat is soooo good, actually much better flavor than the Niman Ranch, a national brand I had been searching out for humaneness issues, I feel just so wonderful it's almost silly. I will be spending some time tomorrow online finding out where to purchase Harris meats nearer to my home.

          2. I belong to the school of less done to a burger, the better. That's the whole point of having burgers for me and the only trick is in the quality of the meat you get. Tonight I made a fabulous burger on the grill using freshly ground beef that I bought this afternoon from a small butcher in Philly's Italian market where I also get my veal (he's about 80 and still slices the veal cutlets individually for each customer). It was one of the best I've had and I did nothing but melt some good cheddar cheese to top, season with salt and pepper, and serve medium rare on a toasted kaiser roll with Heintz ketchup and Hientz sweet relish. MMM. I also love a slice of sweet onion, but I didn't get around to it tonight.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Ellen

              Hi, Ellen.
              Would you humor me some time when it's convenient to experiment and just try the water trick and see if it does indeed make a better burger? I am a little worried this was some sort of fluke. Like maybe you are entirely correct and the perfection I achieved was because it WAS indeed just the perfect meat.

            2. Ever since the first e coli scare I have ground my own beef. I buy high quality steaks at Costco and run it through the meat grinder attachment on my Kitchenaid. I use the Williams-Sonoma perfect hamburger recipe with a few of my own improvements:

              1 lb ground chuck
              1 lb ground sirloin
              2 Tbsp finely chopped yellow onion
              1 tsp minced garlic
              1 tsp kosher salt
              1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
              a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce

              1 Reply
              1. re: lisaf

                Thanks for reminding me I keep meaning to purchase the meat grinder attachment for my Kitchenaid. Like adding the water to the meat, ideas like purchasing the meat grinder can sometimes sit too long on the back burner of my mind.

              2. Mine's pretty simple - kosher salt, fresh ground pepper and a few healthy shakes of Worcester. BBQ sauce instead of ketchup is great too.

                1. You know, I think it was jfood who posted some time ago about adding water to meatballs. It sounded odd to me but I tried it and they were great. Who'd have thought? Never did think of doing it with burgers, though. Must try that next.

                  Sure do love a good burger.

                  1. Adding stuff makes it a mini-meatloaf or a salisbury steak, which is fine - but a hamburger is ground beef. Period. I use ground beef and pork, breading (matzoh meal), eggs, pre-cooked onions and green peppers - whatever else I've got kicking around when making meatloaf (mini ones cook faster on the grill). I serve them with mushroom gravy and mashed potatoes.

                    If I went to a restaurant and they used fillers in their hamburger, I'd think that they would feel real lucky not to be in Texas, where people are armed against such degradations to the American social norm.

                    For my burgers, I buy the chuck roasts at Costco, grind in my Kitchen-Aid, and mix 2-1 with their 80% lean burger - mix gently to avoid overhandling. You could also grind a fairly lean sirloin cut instead of the pre-ground stuff. The chuck by itself tends to be a little too fatty. Patty about 1/2 lb each - 1" thick and 4" diameter. Cook medium rare over real wood charcoal and serve on toasted buns with condiments. This is a beard-drenching, super beef tasting, feel good burger. I mean... my God, woman! Why would you want to mess with that?!!!

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: applehome

                      Very loosely patted 75/25...lotsa sea salt and freshly GBP...high heat on the grill...
                      grill toasted Acme rolls with half the inside of the top pulled out...medium thick red onion...fat salted tomato slice...Pt. Reyes blue cheese...close top...finish at MR with cheese melted...mayo and dijon...

                      1. re: applehome

                        Adding water and a bit of minced onion does not a salisbury steak or meatloaf make. Please humor me and try it. I just did it again for lunch and added even more water than yesterday - what a fine GREAT juicy burger it made! Or, forget the onion - just add some water and tell me you don't like the heavenly moist tenderness.

                        1. re: applehome

                          The only filler I like to use is some uncooked Chorizo sausage mixed in with the beef

                        2. I think this was from Food and Wine. Roast either anaheim or poblanos and make a sauce out of 3/4 of the chilis and some cilantro, etc. Awesome!

                          1. Add a cube of butter inside of your burger...Makes it moist and flavorful

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: jinet12

                              I do that when making beef burgers - that cube of butter, salt and pepper is all I use.

                              1. re: MMRuth

                                I too like the pat of butter in it. I freeze the butter with basil on it-probably just gives me the illusion the butters stays in longer. Lose some of the butter melting out-but I still think it's better each and every time. And then just salt & pepper. Has just been a couple days since that was dinner-maybe again real soon.

                              2. re: jinet12

                                Adding a knob of cold butter (the culinary term for a lump of butter) into the center of a hamburger was originally featured, perhaps for the first time, by James Beard and Craig Claiborn in the 1960's.

                                1. re: niki rothman

                                  speaking of james - here is his favorite which is mighty good and moist.


                              3. For the ground beef, chuck, or sirloin mixture, I use the staples of garlic powder, salt & pepper. If I am looking for some more "zing" I mix in some L & P Worstershire, tobasco, or terryaki sauce. Cooked medium rare of course...

                                Recently I started topping all my burgers with a fried egg with a runny yolk. That is in addition to the always present red onion, romaine lettuce, tomato, bacon, and guacomole, or avocado slices. Depending on mood, I also like mayo, and ketchup sometimes. Always served on a kaiser roll, onion roll, or plain old burger bun.

                                I also enjoy a good patty melt on dark rye with melted swiss cheese, grilled onions, and 1000 Island dressing..

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: swsidejim

                                  Add water and tell me what you think. I really do need to find out if this is a miracle or a serious law of the universe that I just activated. I won't say discovered, that would be Grandma's honor. But I really should have just written a very simple original post with an "add water to your hamburger meat and report back, please" challenge.

                                  1. re: niki rothman

                                    I think using fresh chopped onion achieves the moistness while adding texture and flavor too. It releases water when heated.

                                    I also don't think it's meatloaf unless you add bread crumbs and raw egg. As Emeril says, "I don't know where you get your beef, but mine doesn't come seasoned."

                                    1. re: lisaf

                                      My own burger du jour was with minced red onion yesterday and minced scallions today. Both half pounds of burger meat got about a quarter cup water each, plenty of fresh ground black pep., a bit of kosher salt, and all pushed together briefly until homogeneous in a plastic bag. So, while the onion DOES add, no doubt, a BIT of moisture, that quarter cup water to a half pound of hamburger meat is my radical departure from the land of the normal burger. My hypothesis is that this addition of the water improves the burger by a quantum leap, and is so revolutionary that it is front page chowhound news.

                                      I'm no egomaniac, but in the last 6 months here I personally, have made 2 supremely great discoveries. The first was the perfect omelet - very thin, very tender - ETHERIAL, very moist, with lots of melted cheese and scallions (that version is just my own personal fave combo - yours may be different fillings but the technique is the same), achieved by pouring 2 beaten eggs with a couple teaspoons of water and fresh black pepper into a 12 inch nonstick pan heated to medium. Immediately covering with a flat, tight lid and turning the heat down very, very low. Leave for a few minutes only. Add plenty of grated cheese and minced scallions. Recover and leave only until cheese melts and the eggs are set. With a nonmetal spatula cover one half with the other half to achieve a semi circle with the cheese in the middle. If the egg is at all browned your heat was too high. This is the absolutley perfect omelet we all wish we would be served in restaurants but never get. Now you too can easily achieve perfection. Pure heaven. Vary the fillings to suit yourself, but keep the heat as low as you can and cover tightly.

                                      Omelets. Hamburgers. Are there many others foods we Americans eat more often and with more deeply held sincere hope that they will be wonderful? We need hamburgers and omelets to be wonderful because of how important they are to us. But our hopes are usually deeply disappointed by tough meat and eggs. That's over forever if you follow my technique.

                                      My hamburger discovery is of equal importance to my revolutionary omelet breakthrough. I humbly submit that adding a quarter cup water to a half pound of excellent quality ground beef will give you a much more divine burger than could be achieved any other way.

                                      1. re: niki rothman

                                        I agree with the omelet technique. I've been doing it like that for a couple years and am always baffled that professionals cannot come close to the perfection I serve on Sunday mornings. It's really not even hard at all which is what I don't understand. I almost never order omelets at restaurants anymore. Poached only or I'll go with a waffle.

                                  2. re: swsidejim

                                    To sw side Jim,
                                    I love your enthusiasm for the dressing-up aspect of the burger. And a fried runny-yolk egg is classic. Today in addition to the melted sharp cheddar, Heinz ketchup, onions that were IN the burger, I also added thin sliced garlic half-sour kosher dill pickles, and served on well buttered whole wheat toast. To me that's pretty perfect. Bacon is tempting, but I think the smoky bacon could easily mask the delicate beefy flavor of the burger meat.

                                  3. Hey niki

                                    I promise I'll add water to my next round of burgers. 1/4 cup for a 1/2 pound of meat though?? That seem like a whole bunch.

                                    When I make turkey sausages I always add water. Turkey is so dense it makes it faster to cook. Of course, I'm adding a tablespoon per pound though.

                                    As for my burgers, salt, pepper, garlic, worch, and my own ground beef seasoning. Then add steak seasoning on top. None of this is done in great amounts. It's only to accentuate the beef flavour. Not change it.


                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: Davwud

                                      Hi DT,
                                      Yeah, it DOES seem like a lot of water. I thought about that. Why don't we experiment a little? You could vary the amount of water and see what happens as long as you are using meat from the same package. I use a very hot pan and I think that is a factor in not allowing the meat to possibly steam and toughen as it might at a lower temp.
                                      Also I do try to work the water in well until I have a uniform consistency, still trying not to overwork it. My theory completely goes against the received wisdom that well aged beef tastes the best. Because all that dry aging really does is lessen the amount of moisture in the meat. What can I say? Sometimes a genius breaks all the rules, and my Grandma Gertrude definitely was a genius in the kitchen - this was her idea. But adding a quarter cup water to a half pound meat feels like I just won the lottery.

                                      1. re: niki rothman

                                        I do have to retract one thing. I won't be doing it next time I make burgers. I'm on burger detail for fathers day and don't plan on using my family as Guinnie Pigs. Especially my "I don't like this" dad. It is his day after all.
                                        I am tossing around the idea of setting aside some of the meat to do a comparison.

                                        I do plan on making burgers using 1/4 cup to 1 pound of meat and seeing how that goes. I may start at 2 tablespoons first to see how wet it gets.

                                        I've found with my sausage that I mix the seasonings in with the water before mixing into the meat. It seems to get the flavour better incorporated.


                                      2. re: Davwud

                                        Adding seasoning on the outside of the patty can be very good. We often do cajun burgers by dusting the seasoning onto the premade patties. Also do pepper burgers with cracked black pepper, similar to pepper steak.

                                        Not sure about the water thing, but may have to try it.

                                      3. I've started adding duxelles (is that right? mushrooms minced in the food processor)and S&P to my Harris Ranch 96% lean. Flavored water! That and a few breadcrumbs to catch it.

                                        I use the CH rec'd method of pressing down the middle of the patty so it cooks more evenly and it works well.

                                        Good burgers.

                                        1. call me ignorant, but why do you put rice into a burger?

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: eberhard49

                                            If it is me you are addressing, and not another chowhound who is somehow adding rice to their own burger, then you are not ignorant, but you probably misread my O.P> I got the idea for adding water to my burger from my Grandma Gertrude's stuffed cabbage recipe (which is not a burger) because she adds both rice and water to the meat. I assumed the rice absorbed all the water because it needs water to cook, but then for soome unknown reason I just had a leap of consciousness and thought why not put water in other things I do with ground meat - such as in a hamburger, maybe it would make it more moist and tender. And it did!

                                          2. I'm gonna go out on a limb here, and admit I love bison burgers. We get locally processed bison (I live in KS.) I cook them briefly over an ashed over hardwood fire and we love the sweet, minerally flavor of the meat on a whole wheat bun with the usual accompaniments. Please don't overcook bison, 2-3 minutes per side is what I do.

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: amyzan

                                              I second bison. We get great fresh, free range buffalo in Arizona and we haven't gone back to cow as a result. Favorite burger, don't have to mince onion because bison is plenty moist. Salt and pepper, maybe a dash of soy sauce. Grill a few minutes per side on hardwood coals with a sprinkling of mesquite for smoke. Get Kaiser rolls if possible or use cut French baguette. Melt some mozzarella cheese on top of burgers just before done (med rare). Add cooked bacon strips, sauteed, sliced baby bellas in butter and Scotch (or grilled), fresh farm tomatoes, ditto red leaf or romaine lettuce. Ketchup, mayo and a little mustard mixed together, thin slices of sour pickles. I like to add capers. Sometimes I like a little wasabi mustard mixed in the mayo too. I like drinking Boodles gin martinis with fat pimento olives and a tiny dash of vermouth in super chilled glass with this burger. It's a frikken awesome experience and makes you glad to be alive. Bison rules.

                                              1. re: jillita

                                                I have a burger cookout for about 25 family members coming up next weekend. I love bison too, but since I have a lot of ground venison in the freezer I was planning on using that for the burgers. I'll try the water technique (subject to my husband's appoval, since he's the grill master -- always over charcoal. Any tips besides the water for making the best venison burger will be greatly appreciated.

                                                1. re: TNExplorer

                                                  I've never grilled venison, but it sounds delicious. I've only had venison prepared by someone else! Maybe if you do a general search on venison burgers using google, some recipes might come up, or likely someone here has done it to perfection!

                                                  One of the most wonderful appetizers I ever had were called Game Lollipops at Ko'Sin Restaurant, Wild Horse Pass Resort, in Chandler, AZ. These were savory game meatballs (buffalo, venison, lamb) served on sticks. The venison was served with curry and ancho chilies and it seems to me mixing curry and ancho chili with ketchup might do well with venison burgers too? Just a thought. See the menus here: http://www.wildhorsepassresort.com/di...

                                                  1. re: TNExplorer

                                                    I love venison! But venison burger has always left me cold-too dry, icky texture-bleh. Then I tried the butter pat in the middle, better. Then I tried mixing bits of frozen butter through the meat and shaping patties-BINGO! Gotta be fast from the time you mix the butter in to the time you hit the grill! So, okay a lot of people I know have beef fat mixed into their venison when they have it ground but if I wanted venison to taste like beef I'd eat beef. The butter didn't affect the venison taste. Next time I'll try Niki's idea of adding a bit of water too. Currently we're out of venison but have a freezer full of caribou. Same problem with the burger-it's an extremely lean meat.

                                              2. I had a lot of pepper, salt, some Dijon mustard and Worcestershire sauce to the beef (or turkey). I got this from Martha Stewart a few years back.

                                                5 Replies
                                                1. re: brooklynmasala

                                                  Actually, in the past, I've also added dijon mustard (and finely minced onion) to the meat for a burger and I liked the result.

                                                    1. re: Davwud

                                                      Hey Davwud,

                                                      I just read the post you linked above for the first time. Thanks for doing a test drive on my revolutionary juicilicious "water-burger"! This is one of those recipes where you don't tell your guests until AFTER you get the compliments what it is that made those hamburgers so darn wonderful.

                                                      Next time try a half cup of water to a pound of ground meat. I made my own mix with that ratio again last night and again they were the best burgers I can remember ever making.

                                                      I took a pound of that excellent quality Harris Ranch ground beef (75:25% fat) and placed it in a plastic bag with maybe a half teaspoon kosher salt, lotsa fresh ground black pepper, one small red onion finely minced, and a half cup tap water. I tied up the bag and gave it a good smooshing around - working from the outside of the bag keeps the bacteria off your hands and saves time on washing up too. This time I didn't try not to overmix, I just wanted to make sure all the water was very well incorporated. Then I put a very high flame on the stove and made a total of 6 small but thickish burgers (2 batches of 4), just turning once. Then allowed them to fry for maybe 2 minutes and added thick sliced sharp cheddar and covered very briefly just to melt. Burgers were cooked through but still medium rare.

                                                      Served on buttered whole wheat toast on which I placed plenty of thin sliced half sour kosher dill pickle, and topped with Heinz ketchup.

                                                      This is THE perfect burger that I want to make sure I will always be able to have whenever I want. It's almost impossible to convey how much satisfaction this discovery gives me. A truly perfect, juicy hamburger is one of the great joys of being alive. I think getting great meat is key, but NOW I KNOW 1/2 cup of water per pound is THE SECRET to the BEST BURGER EVER.

                                                      1. re: niki rothman


                                                        Jfood thinks the 1/2 Cup of water per pound feels right. you do not want them the consistency of the meatball recipe of 1Cup per pound and 1/2 sounds like a good starting point for the experiment.

                                                        Another trick of Jfoods is the cheese. Jfood splits the buns and place the cheese on both sides of the bun, not the burger. Then he places the buns on the warming rack over the grill until they are melted. Once the burgers come off the grill jfood also places them onto a plate, not the bun. let's them rest for a frw minutes. The between the bun with all the other stuff. This method solves the soggy bun conundrum.

                                                  1. re: brooklynmasala

                                                    OK, Niki,
                                                    You are right. I added a little water to my burgers on Saturday night and as we were eating my husband said " these are really juicy!" and they were. Glad I tried it that way.

                                                  2. Both Herve This and Harold McGee write about research done on the nature of juiciness. It is a subjective sensation, but it seems that there are two stages – the initial impression of moisture with the first bite, and the continued release of moisture as you chew. The juiciness at the first bite comes from the meat’s own free water, while continued juiciness comes from the meat’s fat and flavor, both of which stimulate the flow of our own saliva. I would speculate that adding water to the hamburger can increase the amount of free water in the ground meat, but it probably does nothing for the actual flavor. Perhaps Niki’s adding of onions helps in that regard.

                                                    When I first read Niki’s post, I thought about White Castle sliders. They are actually steamed on onions, although it may seem that they are grilled. The finely chopped onions are put on the griddle, then the small patty, formed with large holes to allow the steam to cook it through, is laid on top. The steam from the cooking onions is what is cooking the meat (so they say). There are other places that serve steamed burgers – the entire area around Middletown, CT is famous for steamed burgers. They are good – but not the same as a real roadhouse, drip in your beard (and that ain’t water) burger and beer, burger.

                                                    The basic problem is that 20-25% fat is too lean for a good burger. It probably severely retards the secondary juiciness reaction. Since that’s what is available for most of us these days, doing something to increase the juiciness is probably a good idea. But while the process of adding water is increasing the initial juiciness, doesn’t it seem like a better idea to increase the fat, the subsequent flavor, and thus the secondary juiciness?

                                                    The reason I haven’t thought about water or any other process to enhance the initial juiciness of the burger, is probably that when I went looking for the best burger, I ended up with grinding my own chuck – creating something that was probably closer to 35-40% fat. I now cut it with the 20% stuff, but I bet it’s still over 30%.

                                                    So here’s the deal with all you water sayers… I’ll try the water deal. I’ll try it with both 20% and my standard closer to 30% meat. You guys try grinding your own chuck – see if you really need that water.

                                                    By the way – here’s another consideration for grinding your own. There is less chance of bacterial contamination since only the outside of the piece of meat was exposed to the cutting and packing equipment. McGee describes a way you can almost completely eliminate the risk of e coli, by blanching the whole meat in boiling water for 30-60 seconds. The small amount of meat on the outside that will become cooked will affect the overall ground meat very little, but it kills all the bacteria. Now – you can have that rare burger, which in itself will most definitely increase the salivation factor! (Good idea for yu kwe or beef tartare,as well.) It’s all about the beef.

                                                    6 Replies
                                                    1. re: applehome

                                                      If you see my post above, I recommend grinding your own meat in a half chuck half sirloin ratio and adding chopped onion for flavor and moisture. A little bit of kosher salt, black pepper, and worcestershire sauce also provide nice flavoring. We make 2 lbs at a time and food saver and freeze them for an easy burger in a pinch.

                                                      1. re: applehome

                                                        Thanks for the great idea of blanching the piece of solid meat to kill all the bacteria on the outside. Then, as you note, there are no aerobic bacteria on the inside of a solid piece of meat anyway. Are there any anaerobic bacteria or internal viruses associated with meat? But I will start grinding my own meat soon. Will finally get the Kitchenaid attachment.

                                                        Thanks for offering to try my "water-burger" - don't you just love how awful that sounds?
                                                        But, I'm worried that if you are starting with meat that is almost half fat, that if you add my half cup water to a pound - that is like adding another 25 percent liquid, making significantly more liquid than solids - because fat IS a liquid when it melts. So, then are you winding up with a bizarrely imbalanced solid (meat) to liquid (water and fat, and maybe even moisture from onions) ratio? "Sliders" indeed! More like swimmers! Another issue that I feared was that adding water and minced onions would, like the White Castle burgers, make them steam. But I only add a small amount of very finely minced onion, or shallots, perhaps 2 tablespoons per pound, and I keep the flame very high and use a pan with high heat retention and do not crowd the pan - so at no point did my "water burgers" steam or leak liquid as they fried.

                                                        I'd be the last person to urge anybody to cut down on fat unless they are morbidly obese with heart desease and actually asked my advice. I am all about celebrating all things unctuous. BUT I DO like the idea of mixing in water as opposed to butter because I like the neutral quality of the water - it doesn't add anything but moisture. Beefyness is what I want to taste, greasiness is not what I'm after. I'd rather add water to the beef and bring in the butter when I butter the toast that will lovingly surround the cooked burger, not to mention the melted sharp cheddar. So, that's PLENTY of fat. ALL HAIL THE JUICY WATERBURGER!

                                                        1. re: niki rothman

                                                          Well Nik, you got me all excited about making burgers again. I may have to do some on Saturday for dinner.
                                                          I have some top sirloin in the freezer. I may try just that as I could use to skip a lot of fat. I cooked one a steak last Saturday and it was excellent. Tons of flavour. So it should be nice and juicy, tender and flavourful. I shall do the 1/2 cup of water.


                                                          1. re: Davwud

                                                            Any time I get anybody excited about anything good is a great day by me! And thanks for calling me Nik. It was what someone most special, long ago, used to call me. Sigh...

                                                            1. re: niki rothman

                                                              Niki, do you have Judy Rodgers' (must-have) 'The Zuni Cafe Cookbook'? I consider her burgers divine. Even if you don't want to go the twice-through-the-grinder route, her emphasis on not compacting the meat is pivotal to a juicy burger. It might be interesting to try half a batch of hers and compare with half a batch of yours.

                                                              1. re: bcc

                                                                Hi bcc!
                                                                Yes, I DO have the Zuni cookbook. And we actually live only a very few blocks from the restaurant itself. I'll go pull the book down off the shelf right now and see what I can learn from it.

                                                      2. for me the trick to building a better burger IMHO, is all about the other stuff.. the dodgiest supermarket mince can be made into something sublime buy the addition of:

                                                        toast the cut surface of the bun.
                                                        Add cheese (tasty, or blue if you're feeling a bit poncy) to both sides of the toasted bun and grill till bubbly
                                                        Then the slices of tomato, the lettuce, the overeasy fried egg, the crispy bacon and the piece de resistance.... a slice of canned beetroot

                                                        So you got bun/cheese/tomato/lettuce/egg/beetroot/bacon/CONDIMENTS/burger/tomato/cheese/bun.

                                                        This order is important. because when you bit in, you NEED the egg and the lettuce to be together above the bacon and the beetroot, and the burger sitting cheekily on the tomato.

                                                        My fave condiments are grainne mustard AND mayo.

                                                        And regardless of what people tell you.. NEVER grilled pineapple, Grilled pineapple can be consumed after the meal with ice cream or flamed with rum, but it is scientifically proven that grilled (or indeed raw) pineapple on a burger will make you sterile... and impotent.... and cause birth defects.... and give you colon cancer.... It sends you blind, too....

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: purple goddess

                                                          I heard that it causes spontaneous human combustion.

                                                          I do grill pineapple and put it on a jerk chicken burger. But that's a different deal all together.


                                                          1. re: Davwud

                                                            Grilled pineapple is a must on a chicken teriyaki burger.

                                                          2. re: purple goddess

                                                            Oh PG, I'm howling with laughter, the windows are open and I think the neighbors heard.

                                                          3. Niki/Davwud

                                                            Fondest thanks from Jfood on the water in the burger trick. Jfood just finished two of the greatest hamburgers. Blended 1.25 pounds of 90% meat with 5 Tablespoons of water, a little S&P and garlic powder. Onto the grill, quick flip, onto a couple of whole wheat buns with cheese and ketchup. Then the treat. First bite jfood knew you guys had hit a grand slam. Two nice cheeseburgers later, jfood was a Cheeseburger in Paradise.

                                                            Great idea, thanks sooooooo much. :-)))))))))

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: jfood

                                                              You are very welcome! If I wasn't so modest and humble, I'd feel I deserved a Nobel Prize. After all, what's more important in creating world peace than the greatest hamburger trick ever?
                                                              Oh, jfood, the formula for the WATERBURGER is 1/2 cup water per pound of excellent (75:25 fat) ground beef.

                                                              1. re: niki rothman

                                                                new data

                                                                little jfood decided to ask 12 of her closest friends to stay after swimming for a BBQ. jfood thought this would be a good time to try the water-burger recipe. up to the grocer but only 80% chuck left. No biggie. This 80/20 meat was having trouble holding 1/3 cup for 1.2 pounds. Added some S&P, and Pennzey chicago steak seasoning. The kids devoured them. jfood finally got one after an hour of grilling. Great taste and great moisture. Round 2 goes to the Niki-burger.

                                                            2. i thought i had seen this someplace before -- now i remember, it was on a paula deen segment.


                                                              i'm going to add some water to my burgers tonight - i'm still gonna add some balsamic vinegar though.

                                                              cool tip, thanks!

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: hitachino

                                                                Here's a trick I saw no one else mention. First, I use ground chuck and season simply with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Sometimes patties draw up on the grill and lose their flatter shape. Here is the trick to prevent that: before grilling the patty, press your knuckles into the middle of the patty...strange to say, but it will prevent drawing up

                                                                1. re: steakman55

                                                                  It's been mentioned before.

                                                                  It is a good trick though.


                                                              2. man, the water trick didn't work out for me at all.

                                                                maybe i used too much water or maybe it's the meat (1/2 cup for a bit over a lb of meat, and i'm not sure what cut of beef it was - i get it from my podunk grocer and it's usually really good - it just says 'ground beef' on the package, but the burger meat from there is usually quite good, and i've lived here for over 10 years)

                                                                and yes, i do cook them to well done - but i've not had them this dry in a long while.

                                                                they were a really weird consistency - jello-ish - the meat was drooping thru the grill grates on the edges of a couple of the thinner patties.

                                                                plus, i put the water and seasonings with the meat in the bag and let it sit for about an hour, maybe i should've cooked the burgers right away. (i'm used to letting my mixture blend for an hour or so in the fridge)

                                                                i'm gonna go back to just a dash of liquid (worcestire, bbq, hot sauce etc)

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: hitachino

                                                                  I'm convinced this was one of those weird trifecta events where I tried the revolutionary 1/2 cup water to a pound of ground beef, and worked it in well. BUT if I had used average, to poor (read supermarket) mystery burger meat I believe the result would have been icky. It was the fact that I finally got my hands on superlative meat, and I urge you to go to whatever lenghts you havre to go to to find meat from producers who really care about the animals, what they are fed and treated -> great ground beef plus 1/2 cup water and a couple of finely minced shallots, or 2 T finely minced red onion, kosher or sea salt and fresh ground pepper. And you will have the best burger you ever put in your mouth.

                                                                  1. re: hitachino


                                                                    Couple of questions to ask yourself. Like Niki jfood just started this method and went with 1/4C (4T) for a pound the other night. The meat, itself, was 90% sirloin and very good quality. So as Niki mentioned it could be the quality if the meat, if it's too fatty plus 1/2C could be too much for the meat to handle. The other curious question is the number of burgers you made with a pound of meat. You mentioned that "a couple" of the patties drooped. Jfood would only make 3 burgers per pound. The burger needs to have some girth in cooking. Save the quarter-pounders to McD's.

                                                                    So jfood would suggest increase the meat quality, decrease the water a little and increase the size of the burgers themselves.

                                                                    good luck

                                                                  2. Niki-Thanks for the suggestion. Last night I use 80/20 beef, 1.25lbs and 1/2 cup water, added pepper and some chicago grill seasoning, 2 Burgers added finely chopped onions, 2 were plain. They were a huge hit. Didn't tell hubby till we were done and he said "I don't care what you put in them, they were great".

                                                                    1. The waterburgers were a complete disaster. I initially could not comprehend how this could work for anybody – but then I put in some thought, and have drawn some conclusions.

                                                                      First, let me state that I believe in fat when it comes to meat and savory dishes. I’m not going to get into health issues, but sticking with flavor and texture as the primary drivers for being a chowhound or foodie, fat is king. That drives not only my choice of ingredients, but the way I cook. And that may have made all the difference.

                                                                      I like my grilled or roasted beef rare to medium rare, medium is edible, but anything beyond that is simply intolerable. This applies to burgers as well as steak or roast. I believe in an extremely hot grill or pan/griddle, and I believe in creating a crisply done outer crust (a good amount of fat is a must for that). To get that combination, (crusty but rare inside), you want something very, very hot, and a very short cooking time. The burger gets flipped once – and it’s never, ever squished.

                                                                      So I use a Weber kettle with hard wood charcoal. No gas grill gets hot enough, not even my Weber, and charcoal briquets also do not get hot enough (plus they leave tons of ash).

                                                                      The waterburgers were very difficult to handle. They formed patties but only after a great deal of handling – which goes against my grain. Normally, I press the ground meat together once, flatten and form the edge gently, and that’s it. But I did manage to get my standard 1” thick x 4” diameter patties out to the grill – which was cleaned and oiled, as always, and I managed to get the patties onto the grill. They held form (I thought they would just kind of ooze through the grill, but they held). But I could not get them to release. The ones I scraped off were just coming apart. I left some on longer, but they were obviously burning. I managed to get one patty off that held form and a bunch of others that were in pieces. By the time I was able to get all the pieces, they were all well done.

                                                                      I found the burger to be tasteless. It was indeed juicy, if the criteria you’re using is a well done burger. Compared to my standard ground chuck cooked rare, this was a tasteless lump of wet meat.

                                                                      I can only conclude that if you like your burger lean and well done, you may enjoy this method. You would probably use a lower temperature to cook with, and as a result, the meat would cook longer and stay together better. But if you like your burger medium rare, and the flavor and juiciness coming from the fat, you will not like this method. Stick with grinding your own chuck and cooking over a hot fire.

                                                                      5 Replies
                                                                      1. re: applehome


                                                                        Try cutting the water in half. jfood uses 1/4C (4T) per pound of meat. This has been used with sirloin (90%) and chuck(80%) and jfood used a weber on high for both. the meat released, was crispy with grill lines on the oustisde and beautifully pinky and juicy on the inside.The seasoning used was S&P and Pennzey's Chicago steak. Both tries produced a 10 on the jfood scale. Jfood thinks the water to meat ration is better at 1/4C per pound versus 1/2C per pound. Personal preference for jfood and if it ain;t broke he ain't gonna try to fix it.

                                                                        1. re: jfood

                                                                          "weber on high" I take this to mean gas. It's simply not hot enough for my tastes. I relegate the Genesis to corn, grilled veggies, chicken, and backup for thick meats that need some roasting after the hot grilling over wood to finish, and only when I have no room on the kettle.

                                                                          The question, in my mind, is whether or not this is really worth another shot, with half the water and ok, using the weber gas so I have a lower temp. The result could be a leaner burger (made from 20% fat or leaner), which, of course, has health advantages - but not necessarilly taste and texture ones. As you say, if it ain't broke...

                                                                          My hamburger odyssey, which took many years, brought me to the slightly leaned out home-ground chuck over a hot flame, and it is NOT broke any more, I assure you. It isn't a burger for the kiddies - it doesn't replicate McD's - it replicates Lewis's (in Newton upper falls, MA) - which is a biker joint that has black velvet wall hangings as ambience and a hot, hot grill up front made out of stone, and where they burn wood - not gas or electrons. Guys in T shirts and black leather vests sit there with their beards full of dripping grease, with a bud in one hand and a messy piece of seared but ground almost raw meat with bread, in the other. Yeah - the Yuppy puppies moved in a while ago - especially at lunch - but the meat never changed (and neither did the black velvet paintings).

                                                                          So if I go the water route again, am I going to get anything closer to Lewis's than I already have? I doubt it.

                                                                          1. re: applehome


                                                                            just to be clear. jfood was referring to jfood's method of half the water that others have recommended, not other people's recipes.

                                                                            if you have a method that works we would all love to hear about the not for kiddie recipe.

                                                                            thanks for the visual, can;t wait to visit.

                                                                        2. re: applehome

                                                                          My experience was the same as yours. I bought some 80/20 ground meat from Acme grocery. Made a large burger, slightly more than a 1/3 lb. Put meat in a zip lock bag, added 1 T water, small amount minced onion, some seasonings and smushed it up. Made it into a patty shape before removing from bag. Placed it on a very hot gas grill outside. Meat was very loose and soft. I had a very difficult time turning it; some of the meat was stuck to the grill. I found it difficult to get to the temperature I like, Med. I usually do my meats by touch, with great success. I could not tell when this burger was done, it was so soft. So, I ended up with a well done burger. It was very tender, I agree. Even though it was well done, it was still juicy. But it was really too soft and mushy. Not sure if it was the meat or what. I would never grind my own meat at home (no equipment to do so). But I do love a great burger. Would not say this was one of the best I have ever had.

                                                                          1. re: mschow

                                                                            Perhaps it's a bit late to make this caveat - but the raw burger does seem wetter than usual because it IS wetter than usual, and I can see where that causes a looseness that might cause a problem on a BBQ grill where no problem exists in a frying pan. Personally, I, the OP, have no BBQ grill and all my raves are based on my experience with my gas stove turned up as high as it will go, using a well oiled pan, and flipping only once without pressing on the meat. Do BBQ grill owners ever cook in a frying pan set on the wire grill rack? Seems this might work for you if you let the pan sit over hot coals to make sure it's super hot and oil it well.

                                                                        3. I do something similar to niki, with an added bonus for those who like their burgers med-rare. I put an ice cube into the middle of my burgers, kind of wrap the burger meat around the ice cube and press together. While the burger is cooking, the meat becomes more moist and also, the ice inside the burger keeps the meat in the middle of the burger cooler for a longer time and it remains red. You have to work a little bit to get the timing right, but the result is deeelicious!

                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                          1. re: tartetatin

                                                                            This may be a silly question, but don't you end up with a sort-of hollow burger this way?

                                                                            1. re: ajs228

                                                                              No...I fill up the ice cube tray to half full, so they are flatter. As you are cooking, the ice cubes will start to melt and the burger meat will move together I guess as the burger is cooking. I have never noticed a hollow burger.
                                                                              Normally, I just grill my burgers without the cubes, and they are fine too, but I have used this method - saw it on a show on Food Network (can't remember who - long time ago).

                                                                          2. Okay, so I did the Niki Rothman method at dinner today.

                                                                            Still needs some tweaking but we did get a very moist flavourful burger. The biggest issue I had was I over ground the beef. It was very much a fine almost mealy texture. Not bad enough to not be enjoyable mind you. Just not the right texture.
                                                                            I used 3/4lb ground sirloin and 1/4 cup of water.

                                                                            More to come


                                                                            1. I add grated zucchini to turkey burgers. I suppose zucchini has such high water content it probably has the same effect as adding water but with the added benefit of vegetables. I also use tons of worcestershire. I've also heard to enclose a pat of butter in the patty and it melts and permeates the meat as it cooks. Another great trick if you're cooking them inside on a griddle is to sear very quickly so they brown, then cover the pan. They cook faster and the steam stays in, keeping the burgers moist.

                                                                              1. After reading all these burger posts, just had to add my fav. We've been bison only for a couple of years now, so that's all we use for any recipe calling for ground meat. I make my own bbq rub, so I add about 2T rub, 2 squirts L&P worchestershire, 2 caps liquid smoke, mix by hand, then make bun size, 1/2 -3/4 " patties. Dust both sides of ea. patty lightly w/ rub, pat into meat, then grill. Spray grill w/ non stick, cook approx. 3 min. ea. side for rare. (the ONLY way to cook a burger, beef or bison).

                                                                                1. This is a simple tip and may go without saying for some of you Chowhounders but simply don't flatten the burger while grilling. I cringe while at someone else's house for dinner and I see them at the grill totally squashing the burger with the spatula. Not sure if it's an effort to get the burger to cook faster or what, but I hate it. In the summer, we like to have a bunless burger on a weeknight and in an attempt to cut the fat we buy a lower fat ground beef. I'm all for the higher fat juicy burger but alas we cannot indulge all the time. The burgers are not dry at all as long as they are plenty plump, not overcooked, and not flattened by the spatula.

                                                                                  I enjoy a sprinkle of Montreal Steak Seasoning on my burger every now and then.

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: upstate girl

                                                                                    You're absolutely right! I am amazed when I see someone do that to any piece of meat on the grill. Don't they know they're squeezing out all the juices?

                                                                                  2. All credit and praise for the WATERBURGER (horrible, horrible, nauseating almost - name but that IS what it IS) goes to my Grandma Gertrude. It was while I using Grandma gertrude's hand written recipe - adding the cup of water to the ground meat while whipping up a batch of her righteously fabulous stuffed cabbage that it hit me. Why WOULD Grandma Gertrude add so much water to this ground chuck? It seems almost a bizarrely large amount - and she was a perfectionist. The most meticulous perfectionist I have ever encountered - she would have gotten along well with Rose Kennedy, but ego-wise she would probably have looked down on Rose too much for them to be friends.

                                                                                    As usual, Niki digresses. Grandma NEVER did ANYTHING that wasn't perfect. Therefore, adding A LOT of water to ground meat is going to make a PERFECT hamburger. And heck, it really, really, does make the most perfect juicy, tender, flavorful hamburger this chowhound has ever put in her mouth!

                                                                                    Thank you Grandma!

                                                                                    I Love You and miss you so much, Grandma Gertrude!

                                                                                    1. Adding water to beef is nothing revolutionary. My old father used to cook in restaurants and this has been a known ingredient to beef. This works for all beef.

                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                      1. re: DarthEater

                                                                                        darth, there are very few revolutionary things in the food world.
                                                                                        'nothing new under the sun' etc..
                                                                                        a)for many CHs this was a new and helpful idea, and
                                                                                        b) you could have presented your info in a less 'attack-like' tone.
                                                                                        Remember to play nice.

                                                                                        BTW, I assume you meant to say 'meat' instead of 'beef' for your last word?

                                                                                      2. Here is my favorite burger. I made this recipe one sleepless night while trying to doze off. I woke up the very next morning and wrote everything down so I wouldn't forget. Everyone at my house loves it. I don't think you will find something like it anywhere else.

                                                                                        Enjoy, and please leave feedback on the recipe.