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Help me make a perfect hamburger

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I am quite an accomplished cook, but I must admit I'd never made hamburgers/cheeseburgers. Tonight I am going to make them. I have 85% ground chuck. I am pretty sure most burger afficionados would say that the minimalist approach is best, but I do like a little flavor to my burgers (just a slab of ground beef seems so wrong to me.) Unfortunately, I'm in the city, so I don't have an outdoor grill. I must resort to frying/broiling/George Foreman grill. Tell me what you've got -- how can I make a terrific hamburger?

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  1. I don't know about hamburger rules but I make mine almost like I make meatballs just flat. I add sauteed onions and garlic, bread crumbs, cheese and egg and they come out very moist.

    1. 1 lb 85% ground beef. Sometimes I like to mix pork and beef, either works good
      1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
      1 egg
      1 small onion grated with the juice, grate over the bowl. This is key for me
      1 teaspoon dijon
      1 teaspoon garlic minced
      s/p to taste
      I like 1/2 teaspoon all purpose seasoning

      Make into nice size pattys and then like to chill for just 15 to 20 minutes. Makes them easier to grill inside or out for me. A good cast iron skillet works great inside or a grill pan. Put some butter in the pan and then add the patties. Don't move until you get a nice crust on one side. People tend to try to flatten them (bad mistake) or move them I don't.

      One thread a while bad said to press a small indentation or well in the center. This prevented the burger from shrinking. Never have but I'm sure you will get some suggestions for that. Maybe it works, but I never needed it.

      You can add several flavors to your basic mix, but this is my basic with a few changes now and then. I change it all the time depending on what I have at hand.

      Also a good roll is key, I also like to use a good aioli, seems to make it even better. Some arugula and a good thick tomato slice. I love onions too of course and then your fave cheese if you are a cheese person. Cook Medium. I like juicy but not rare.

      No breadcrumbs, Sorry Den, too heavy for me. I like like and flavorful.

      24 Replies
      1. re: kchurchill5

        I agree with k - that recipe makes a perfect burger.

        1. re: kchurchill5

          K-- I thought you said you used 70% beef.....no?

          1. re: janetms383

            I do if that is what I buy but I was trying to answer vvv03 who said she had 85%.

            I have used 85 but I prefer less if it is up to me. But I also use what I have at hand. I was just giving her a recipe I use a lot 85 is standard, but I like a lower percentage when I have time to get it. Many times I am left with a quick run to the store open after 9pm so I take what they have. But absolutely, I do like 70%

          2. re: kchurchill5

            Excellent recipe. My twist is to brown finely minced onions and shallots in bacon fat, then add to your recipe. And VVV03, please don't go with the George Foreman, It will not generate enough heat to give your burgers that char,but a seasoned cast iron skillet smoking hot will.
            And don't forger the cheese.........

            1. re: currymouth

              This is a very nice meatloaf recipe but it's too much stuff for a hamburger.

                1. re: HaagenDazs

                  Everyone grew up with something else. I've tried others, I still go back to mine, sorry, but we all have certain tastes.

                  1. re: kchurchill5

                    What does the egg do for the hamburger?

                    1. re: KTinNYC

                      I can't give you a scientific description. It adds a moistness and texture and it just works. Many years ago my friend added a egg. So most times when I make burgers I like to add an egg. I just like the texture after it is cooked. I do make burgers without it but I prefer using one.

                      1. re: KTinNYC

                        I think the egg yolk adds a little moisture but primarily it's a binder.

                        1. re: HaagenDazs

                          I've really never had any problem with my burgers falling apart without egg.

                          1. re: KTinNYC

                            Me either. ;-) Which is why I stick to my ground beef and onion mix.

                  2. re: KTinNYC

                    For your standard burger, I will have to agree with your opinion. But in my circle a standard burger is , And please forgive me......... Boring. i was just offering the OP an alternative to any number of burgers that can ,quite frankly. be purchased at a decent restaurant. I did not even get into some fine points and ingredients that has shown up in my burgers, ie Rendered Spanish chorizo,Smoked mozz,Thai basil,grilled peppers,Kimchi.I realize that I will scandalize purist, but again I was only offering an alternative recipe. You think that is a meatloaf recipe? Don't get me started.............

                    1. re: currymouth

                      Once you start adding egg or bread to hamburger it becomes meatloaf in my opinion.

                      1. re: KTinNYC

                        To you perhaps, I on the other hand don't add bread crumbs to either, but an egg to both. Different strokes.

                        1. re: currymouth

                          What does the egg add to the "burger"?

                          1. re: KTinNYC

                            The egg acts as a bonding agent when making a non traditional "burger".I do hope that answers your repetitive question.

                            1. re: currymouth

                              It does but like I said to HaagenDazs, I've never had any issues with my burgers falling apart without the egg. Egg and ground meat does go together at times, steak tartare for one, yum.

                              1. re: KTinNYC

                                Now we can agree on something, I too love Steak Tartare but also chop a habanero pepper and add that in............. Oh shoot ,here we go again.

                  1. re: jfood

                    Sorry, I use just a generic garlic powder, salt pepper celery seed, oregano. Many brands or even a grill seasoning. I don't use much, but I like a little. I should of said grill seasoning, but there are a few brands we get here labeled all purpose (basically similar) with not as much spice. You can use your own blend if you want. Personal taste.

                    1. re: kchurchill5

                      Kind of like a Lowry's Salt, I assume?

                      1. re: HaagenDazs

                        That is more of just a salt based. The ones we use our more lots of herbs just not salt, pepper and garlic. But a good grill seasoning, many top brands would be available and work well too.

                2. To my mind, once you add eggs, onion, and binder you're in fricadellen territory - that's a meatloaf mixture sauteed slowly in patties. Great as a quicker-cooking route to meatloaf and ideal for eating on a roll, but it's not a burger. The inclusion of egg means it needs to be well-cooked and I like a rare burger.

                  Some of the hints from Cooks Illustrated are to press a deep depression in the center of the patty and start cooking it with the flat side down. As the meat contracts and is flipped the depression will fill in but this method keeps the burger flat-sided. They also use a panade (fresh bred crumbs moistened in milk, then squeezed out) to keep the burger moist. A little minced onion worked into the meat is good for flavor and moistness.Some people put a small ice cube at the center of the ball of meat before forming the patty shape, in order to keep the interior from overcooking. A heavy-bottomed pan that retains heat well gives a nice sear to the entire surface; I prefer pan-searing to grilling for both burgers and steaks. Preheat well at medium to medium-high heat, don't oil the pan, and don't move the patty around - it will release when the bottom is seared. Flip just once. Don't press on it to make the juices run - you want them to stay inside.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: greygarious

                    A bread slice soaked in milk and squeezed is also good. I have many different recipes. I guess it depends on the season. Grilling inside vs out I sometimes I alter my recipe.

                    I don't use the depression but I did mention to vvv03 that would probably be a suggestion. Never have. But not saying it doesn't work.

                    1. re: greygarious

                      i agree. minimally handled (so it's not tough) thick pattie from ground chuck, copious salt and pepper, cast iron skillet if you have no grill. Rare is best, medium rare OK, anything else a sin. Toasted bun, slice of sweet onion, cheese if you must. That's a burger. If you eat it rare enough and salty enough, there's plenty of flavor.

                    2. no such thing as a perfect hamburger, you are missing the cheese :-)

                      1. First things first, don't bother taking out the Foreman. Makes terrible burgers. Use a cast iron skillet. Preheat for a few minutes to get really hot. Don't put oil in the pan or it'll smoke and burn. Lightly form loose patties. If you want, you can lightly oil (or coat lightly in clarified butter) the burger, then lots of kosher salt and pepper. Put your patties in the hot pan and push down lightly to ensure good contact (this should be the only time you push down on the meat and def. don't squeeze hard!!) and only flip once. A 3/4 inch thick burger will take about 3-4 min per side for med. rare.

                        I'd stay away from bread, egg, etc although can make a fine sandwich, it more resembles meat loaf than a burger. Occasionally, i'll add finely diced onion or jalapenos to the ground beef before forming them into patties.