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what is a really good hamburger??

Some say that a burger should taste like beef only? Some say that the toppings make the burger.....and i say that all apply as long as it is cheap because that is all about, homemade home food

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  1. You're going to get all kinds of definitions of a really good burger - everybody has an opinion. I agree that "all apply" - but I don't agree that it has to be cheap. Most burgers are indeed cheap enough - but a Wagyu burger, done right, can really show you what a great burger can be. I think I'd rather make a list of what a great burger can't be:

    Well done or anything above medium rare.
    Dry (which would include the above).
    Lean. (Best is a mixture of chuck and sirloin at 70/30 lean)
    Too small - although slyders are fine for what they are, a full sized burger needs to be 1/3 to 1/2 lb.
    Have too much filler. I use no breading or other filler at all, but will allow for other folks to enjoy theirs that way. But too much breading makes it a meat loaf or a meatball, not a hamburger.

    4 Replies
    1. re: applehome

      no filler are almost a givin,but what about ground bacon in the beef??or onions

      1. re: pikiliz

        Did that this weekend. Crumbled some bacon into 70/30 mixture, didn't have any cheese around so I topped with a little Bleu Cheese dressing when done. I'm a bacon freak, and usually top my burgers with a few slices, but adding it into the meat worked out really good.

      2. re: applehome

        I don't get the whole Kobe or Wagyu burger trend. I do think Kobe beef, in certain applications, is fantastic. But the whole point of it is the marbling. It's famous for the high levels of muscular fat. None of the breeds lumped together as Wagyu are especially known for fuller flavored, beefier meat, and this is exacerbated by production methods that aim to increase fat content. High fat content in a burger is essential - and I agree completely with you that 70% is the only way to fly - but once it is ground, there's no marbling. If you take two batches of ground meat with identical fat content, one from a Wagyu breed and one from a beefier breed - say a North Devon or a Randall - what quality is it that makes the Wagyu preferable to you?

        1. re: danieljdwyer

          Actually, I agree with you. But I have had a couple of excellent "wagyu" burgers in my time, and of course they were expensive. So in response to the OP's comment about cheapness, I wouldn't throw out consideration of a wagyu burger as a good burger, just because it's somewhat more expensive.

          The lesser cuts from a US Wagyu cattle are not necessarily that expensive. Snake River Farms sells briskets, for example, quite reasonably. So why do these restaurants charge $10 for a Wagyu chuck/rump ground meat patty? Obviously, because they can!

      3. no fillers
        juicy, flavorful, medium-rare beef
        toppings that accentuate but do not overwhelm the beef
        a bun that does the burger justice
        either really interesting or extremely classical (at odds, i know)
        contrasting textures/ flavors (salty/sweet, crunchy/juicy/soft, etc)

        and i know i'm prob missing a lot

        1. Boy am I going to catch hell for saying this, but I like my hamburgers to be cooked all the way through- no pink at all! They can still be juicy- just not bloody, and tenderness isn't really an issue with hamburgers, so why not cook 'em?

          When I make burgers, I think that what makes 'em wonderful is that I never compact them too much, never press down on them while cooking, and pretty much always cook them on the grill- though a cast iron skillet does a damn good job.

          8 Replies
          1. re: Clarkafella

            I agree with not packing the patty,but well done ? well i was going to say no way but I have had a burger from Jacks Old fashioned Hamburger here in S. Florida and it is well done squared and is still pretty good but i do thinl med-rare is a little better

            1. re: Clarkafella

              why is it that all my southern friends like their meat (burgers, steaks, etc...) well done! maybe it's a survival instinct in warm weather... bacteria grows faster in the heat? :)

              1. re: Clarkafella

                I'm with you, no pink for me either. I now only use ground chuck, all I add is salt and I a pureed onion. That's it and even with no pink it is juicy and flavorful.

                1. re: hummingbird

                  20% fat and flame broiled with just a slice of American cheese...

                2. re: Clarkafella

                  I'm with you-I hate my burgers anything under med-well.

                  1. re: Clarkafella

                    You won't catch any hell from me clarkafella. Rare ground beef has too much uncooked fat in it to be good. Anyway, for me there are two really good hamburgers:

                    Diner-style. Two very thin patties - just chuck, salt, and pepper - squashed onto a skillet or griddle and fried crispy/well-done. Served on cheap white bun with a slice of American cheese melting between the patties, onion, pickle, ketchup, and yellow mustard.

                    Cookout style. One patty about 3/4 inch thick, mixed with diced onions, worchestershire, various spices. Grilled until firm and light pink in the middle Served on a kaiser roll with pepper jack or sharp cheddar, tomato, pickle, lettuce, and brown mustard.

                    1. re: RealMenJulienne

                      "Rare ground beef has too much uncooked fat in it to be good."

                      Kobe beef sashimi - mmmm


                      (upper left

                      Or a delicious fatty Yu Kwe - Korean style beef tartare with a raw egg, sliced pare, nori - served ice cold.

                      yeah... too much uncooked fat in it to be good...

                      1. re: applehome

                        A rare, marbled, whole-muscle steak is one thing and pasty, ground-up beef fat is quite another. I'll reserve judgment on Yu Kwe because I haven't tried it yet, but it doesn't seem like something I'd enjoy.

                  2. My preference: good meat with enough fat, chuck or chuck/sirloin, patted just tightly enough to hold together, then seasoned and left at room temperature for at least half an hour. Cooked on a flat grill, skillet or grill pan quickly at a high temperature; flame-grilled OK but not preferred, to medium-rare. Cheese? I prefer sharp cheddar. Focaccia bun from Trader Joe's, lightly toasted. Good tomato or none, very thin slices of onion, leaf lettuce, maybe pickle, mustard and mayo. I do not like the meat either underdone or overdone, though given the choice I'll go for over, and don't understand why anyone would serve a burger on a bun that goes to mush instantly.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Will Owen

                      Will, it sounds perfect, except for the

                      --- MUSTARD ! ! ???

                      (I belong to the No-Ketchup-On-Hotdogs and No-Mustard-on-Burgers religion.)

                      1. re: Sharuf

                        Seems Will has southern roots. Down here in Texas, Burger King did a mustard whopper special.

                        1. re: James Cristinian

                          Midwestern, ackcherly. Every sandwich originating from the Owen household (except peanut butter, of course) was spread with butter and mustard on one slice, mayonnaise on the other. Burgers were not typically buttered, and hot dogs didn't count. And the hot dog was the only item on which ketchup was used!

                          Mom even made a hamburger casserole dish that was two big patties in a round casserole, spread with mustard, and with onions and carrots sandwiched between. We had this with baked potatoes, and I loved it... but I think that's one I've outgrown!

                          1. re: James Cristinian

                            I should also add that most burgers I get here in SoCal come with mustard already on them, so I can't be TOO weird!

                      2. IMO, the beef patty should be able to stand on it's own, cooked MR, juicy, fresh bun that adds value and texture to the beef and fresh never frozen beef. I prefer ground chuck.

                        1. I say the bun is the most important thing, then the toppings, and the beef has to be good too. If I'm in it just for the beef, I can get a steak, a chopsteak, steak tartare, or any of the other many dishes that are purely beef based.
                          And I think it's silly to be a purist about the toppings. Ultimate purists seem to want to limit the toppings to bacon, cheese, and ketchup. I agree with those that think the toppings should complement the beef, the bun, and each other. That just doesn't sync well with excluding anything but bacon, which can easily dominate the flavor of nearly any dish, cheese, ditto, and ketchup, which dulls other flavors far more than it complements them. Unless I was just going to eat a burger once in a blue moon, it would get pretty boring to eat one with the same set of toppings ever time. If you are drowning out the taste of the meat or the bun - the only two essential ingredients - then you're using the wrong toppings, pairing them poorly, or putting on too many. Three or four toppings, including any cheese or sauce, is enough.
                          And it doesn't have to be beef. It can definitely be any red meat, and I'm willing to consider pork. But fillers make it not a burger. And mixing stuff in to the meat - with some exceptions - is a bit of a waste. You'll get more out of the bacon on top of the burger than you will out of the bacon mixed in to the burger, and you'll have muddled the flavors far less.
                          But the bun is what makes a good burger. Everything else can be perfect, but it's going to suck without a decent bun. A great bun can't transform a bad burger into a good one, but I'm hard pressed to even go to a burger place if they don't have fresh baked buns.

                          1. Two of the more memorable burgers I have had were the Kobe Burger at The Old Homestead and the '21' Burger at '21' Club, both in NYC.

                            However, my first choice for burgers is anything cooked over coals or an open pit flame in the backyard works best for me. I know there are others that say for a burger to cooked properly it must be done on a flat top to achieve the Maillard Reaction, but the backyard bbq is still best for me.


                            When I was younger I liked a nice thick medium rare burger best, but now I prefer a thinner more uniform thickness burger, still medium-rare temperature.....not too lean 80/20 meat to fat ratio. The bread or bun size is also very important too for the proper meat to bun ratio and never any bread that is gummy, like a Five Guys burger.


                            1. If it's medium rare, thick and juicy - I can eat it plain or with ketchup and I'll have the time of my life! :)

                              1. 1/3 to 1/2 lb of ground chuck, flame grilled medium rare (although I must confess that I haven’t cooked one that way in several years – being well past 3 score years and ten).
                                Lots of mayo on the bottom bun.
                                3/16“ slice of yellow onion
                                Sharp cheddar
                                Several shakes of Cajun seasoning
                                2 tbs of sambal oelek on the top bun

                                1. 70/30 grass fed beef. I prefer old school skillet fried, but grilled is ok. I also prefer toasted wheat bread instead of bun. dijon, roasted garlic mayo, guac, pickled jalapeno, onion,tomato,lettuce. Cheese is optional.

                                  1. Kobe beef served medium rare with blue cheese crumbles, lettuce and tomato on a toasted bun. Heaven in a burger.

                                    1. The one thing I have noticed is that if you want a really good burger, there is nothing that is going to replace the flavor of FRESHLY ground meat, no more than a couple of hours. I don't know why, maybe it is oxidation, I just know that the few burgers I have had that were fresh ground were awesome.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: KaimukiMan

                                        I agree with KaimukiMan fresh ground is a real bonus!! I have recently discovered that i really do like the conveyance that transport the burger to my mouth and it does impact the flavor and the whole experience of a burger. i still think well done is over done

                                      2. After years of being low carb trained; I have learned to prefer burgers without much bread or no bread. If there is enough lettuce I usually can throw away both halves of the bun, unless the cheese and/or preferred condiment adhere to the bun, then I HAVE to eat it.

                                        I love Tommy's Chiliburger ~~ which of course requires eating the bun

                                        I love Bob's Big Boy, that may be my favorite; or In n Out protein style w/grilled onions

                                        If I make it myself; which I hardly ever do; it would be ketchup; burger, cheese side down; crisp cool lettuce and mayo. Never raw onion. Never pickle.

                                        I also love a burger w/swiss and mushrooms

                                        My other most favorite (?????) is a patty melt on rye

                                        1. Rather than Kobe or Waygu or even beef, I'll take a half-pound buffalo burger, medium rare, with lettuce, mayo and tomato.

                                          Quality of meat is most important to me
                                          Freshness and flavor of bun is #2
                                          Freshness and flavor of condiments and other ingredients is 3rd

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: KiltedCook

                                            Okay, here is the answer:
                                            1/3 pound of ground chuck, heavily seasoned with Kosher salt and coarsely ground pepper; cooked on a charcoal grill until a little past medium. No pink. Good bun, toasted. Current favorite is Publix's French (I think) buns with the swirled top; mustard, by all means, Duke's mayo, lettuce, tomato, and mild onion. Bacon is wasted and for a cheeseburger, you have to add so much that it adds too many calories. Nice crust. No arguments allowed.

                                            1. re: KiltedCook

                                              You know what's really good? A freshly ground venison burger. So lean you have to add a little fat. You can cook it nice and rare. I'd take it over a beef burger any day.

                                            2. Who has had a pretzel bun?? just read about them hamburger worthy??

                                              1. A good burger is what I’ve been craving so no wonder I gravitated to this thread...

                                                My perfect burger is a thickish, hand-formed patty of about a third of a pound of lean ground beef, plain with no seasoning or filler, grilled and placed on a locally made, lightly-toasted Kaiser roll, topped with lettuce, onion, tomato, cheese (cheddar or pepper-jack), bacon, pickles (sweet or dill) and MUSTARD on the top half, mayo on the bottom half, crowned with a generous, generous sprinkling of ground pepper.

                                                1. Question regarding the meat - friend of mine suggested using ground brisket in place of chuck or sirloin - any opinions?

                                                  8 Replies
                                                  1. re: mitchell25418

                                                    Not a great idea. Brisket is very stringy. Even if put through a grinder you will have long strings that are both tough and can get stuck in your teeth. It also is extremely fatty, especially the piece that is the breast flap.
                                                    I like to use no more than 15% fat content if I'm cooking on the BBQ grill, max of 12% in a frying pan or broiler. Anything leaner makes a tasteless hamburger.

                                                    I grind my own about 1 hour before cooking. Even if I am going to marinate, 1 hour is more than enough time for ground meat.

                                                    My favorite cuts to grind are a mix of 60% neck and 40% skirt. The neck is sweet, the skirt adds just enough fat and chewiness. I don't like my burgers to have the consistency of mush.
                                                    I cook on the Weber grill to rare, medium rare for the wife..............

                                                    1. re: bagelman01

                                                      Wow - Great post - very informative - I've been dying to grind my own meat - where / what type of grinder to you suggest?

                                                      1. re: mitchell25418

                                                        I have an electric grinder that's about 35 years old..............
                                                        But for home use the Rival 2275 for about $70 is fine.
                                                        I do not recommend attachments for things such as a cuisinart or kitchenaid as they tend to be unstable when you are pusing the meat through.

                                                        I also hav an old cast metal hand crank grinder that clamps onto the side of the table. I use this for grinding cooked liver, but not beef.

                                                      2. re: bagelman01

                                                        I love places that say "we grind our own!" but doesn't it matter when they grind and what they are grinding? Just because they grind themselves, doesn't in and of itself mean that much, correct?

                                                        1. re: bagelman01

                                                          always grinding fresh is best, I have read the in N. Carolina they cannot serve a burger med rare unless it has been ground that day??? wonder how the enforce that, But there is a deference in freshly ground burger meat i have tasted this for myself but steak and meking burger just two days apart and the fresh ground was better because of moisture loss i would bet

                                                          1. re: pikiliz

                                                            im guessing oxidation has something to do with it too, but the moisture makes a difference

                                                            1. re: pikiliz

                                                              In SC it's a state law that burgers must be well done unless the restaurant grinds its own beef.

                                                            2. re: bagelman01

                                                              I recently ground brisket mixed with chuck for burgers and while there was some stringiness, it remained in the grinder, and did not show up at all in the burgers I made. I later used skirt, and I preferred it. I can't recall which chef recommended a mix of brisket with short rib, but I plan to try it next.

                                                              I always order burgers out cooked well done to avoid the risk of infection, but prefer medium at home, since I buy only grass fed meat, and can control preparation in a way that minimizes the risk of food borne disease. I also low carb, so the flavor of the meat without a bun is really key for us.

                                                          2. IMO, the perfect burger has to have a good beef-to-bun ratio, with the beef accompanied by, but certainly not dwarfed by, the bread. Meat should be at least 1/2 pound, IMO, more wide than high. Less bread is more, since bread has a heavy texture compared to the relative lightness of the beef. The bread should be somewhat flat so as not to make the burger too high so you can still bite into it, and there should be a slight chew to the bread, and maybe even a small crust, but still soft and pliable so you can tear it with your teeth. Paramount is the pronounced freshness of the beef that should sing on its own, and clearly. It should have a very minor crust and char flavor, be juicy and naturally flavorful, but not so juicy to ruin the bread, and with a cohesive, smooth consistency that is neither dense nor crumbly, slightly pink in the middle, and with toppings that are very fresh and flavorful and a distinct complement, not lost in it, including small but present amounts of thin leaf lettuce, thinly sliced, wide, tomato, onion (prefer yellow, but red is OK in extremely small bit) and avocado, occasionally just a slice or two of crisp bacon (since it is strong-tasting.) I don't think caramelized onions are necessary as they are too mild and sweet and rather stringy. Cheese should be properly proportioned as well, and on the *slightly* gooey end, not lost in the sandwich. I am partial to Cheddar, as I think a slightly sharp or mildly creamy cheese is necessary to make itself stand out. American doesn't seem to really cut it unless there is a hell of a lot of it. Seasoning (salt *and* pepper) should be present but not overwhelming (more pepper than salt) and I am quite open to a little herbage and perhaps a hint of garlic. I am also open to alternative toppings so long as they are complements and not dwarfed by the beef and/or bread, but with good beef, I think less is probably more when it comes to accompaniments. I can probably do without condiments if the beef is good, but poor beef usually can use a slight kick of ketchup and/or mayo (not really a fan of mustard on burger).

                                                            1. A $15 "kobe" hamburger that comes with *American* cheese is not good because you already know they are taking you for a ride if they can't even offer you cheeses from the beginning.

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: observor

                                                                number one a 15 dollar hamburger is outrageous Kobe. my ass 80/20 stop the madness if i want a steak i will ask for a steak my favorite line from the crow (scotch and a glass ......if i asked for ice i would have asked for a mixed drink) and not even good cheese......got it how about a dead dog served with a side of tarmac ,oh with mizengloo sauce from a lead foundry
                                                                when you get a chance no rush mind you can everybody that thinks 15 is a great price meet me an blow my face of with a bazooka

                                                                1. re: pikiliz

                                                                  I agree. half the point in eating kobe (or wagyu) beef is the texture. Ummm.... hello, unless you are talking fast food burger quality meat, the texture of the beef really isn't a prime consideration in ground beef.

                                                              2. There is a dive bar near where I live that makes the PERFECT hamburger. Guy throws it on the grill when you get there, cooks it low and slow until it's the temperature you want it at. The burger is probably around an inch thick and the meat is always perfectly cooked. (My food buddy likes it well, I like it medium). You can get it with or without cheese (I always get a slice of cheddar) and with lettuce/onion/tomato/mayo/ketchup. I get it with lettuce onion and ketchup. And oooooooweeee. That burger is a piece of art (especially because the bun is perfectly toasted). I dream about that burger. *drools*

                                                                1. Holy smokes, you're really opening up a can of worms here.

                                                                  My 2c.

                                                                  First and foremost, a burger is a way to use trimmings and inexpensive harder to cook pieces of meat. At least, that's how it started. It has to stay true to that. Fat is important and so is a good beef flavour.

                                                                  So, we come up with a beef (Chuck or sirloin) and fat ratio of about 70/30 or maybe slightly less.

                                                                  Next, what to do with this ground meat. Anything that you add to it is only there to beef up the beef flavour. It's a burger, not meatloaf or a meatball. It should taste excellent on it's own. It needs to be at least 1/4 lb and needn't be anymore than 1/2" thick.

                                                                  My personal opinion is that on a flat top or similar griddling device provides the best burger. However I have had plenty of first rate grilled burgers. I would never eat a burger at George Foreman's house.

                                                                  Toppings: All toppings and condiments should add to the patty, not overwhelm it. For this reason I don't much go for blue cheese or any other strong cheese. My preference is actually American. Bacon of course but not too much. The condiments are to your personal taste but don't go too heavy on them. There needs to be a balance.

                                                                  The bun: It requires three very important properties. 1) It should be strong enough to maintain it's structural integrity. 2) It should be yeilding enough so as not to squish the burger out the back side when you bite into it. 3) It has to be basically the same diameter as the patty. Not too big, not too small.
                                                                  As for flavour it should not over whelm but I don't have a problem with a bun that serves more or less as just a delivery vehicle.

                                                                  I don't have a problem with burgers topped with chili, burgers topped with Roquefort, burgers topped with foie gras or any other incarnation. They should just be labeled as such. Chili burger, etc.

                                                                  As I said, that's just my opinion.


                                                                  1. For me a really good hamburger is fresh made and gently formed with a bit of fresh ground black pepper and salt mixed in. It is chewy brown on the outside and nicely medium and juicy on the inside. It is served with cheese melted on top and laid gently on lightly toasted white bread spread with mayo and served with a slice of really ripe summer tomato. Believe it or not, I prefer my burgers panfried. Nothing makes the house smell home-ier than a cooking hamburger.