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Jun 9, 2010 10:06 AM

The perfect medium rare hamburger.

Hi My quest this summer is to consistantly make perfect burgers at home on the range.
I've tried frying in cast iron, flipping once after 3 minutes. I've tried baking the burger in the oven than finishing on the range. Tonight I'm going to try flipping every minute for 6 minutes to see how this method works. Well any suggestions on how to make the perfect burger?

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  1. The length of time you expose the surface of your burger to the hot surface is relative. The thickness of the burger, level of heat, type of heat (oven, frying pan, grill) and the amount of fat in the meat will all affect when the burger is "done" according to the criteria you've set to classify it as such. There is no advantage to flipping every minute for "X" number of minutes, unless looking at the Maillard reaction develop with each flip helps in making the decision. The perfect burger will have red colored juices running from it when it needs more time on the grill, clear juices when it's done, and no juices when it's over cooked.

    1. Use 80/20 beef, very gently form the patties (don't need to add anything to the mix), slightly indent the center, season liberally all over with salt and pepper, and *immediately* sear in a lightly-oiled screamin' hot pan. Even better if it's a grill pan. 3 minutes a side sounds about right, but it depends on the size of your burger. I usually go by touch (http://simplyrecipes.com/recipes/the_... )

      Whatever you do, do NOT press down on the burgers with your spatula. That's just pressing out the juice and flavor! Also, don't move or fiddle with the burgers while they're searing. Let them develop a nice crust.

      3 Replies
      1. re: ChristinaMason

        The only thing I'd add to CM's most excellent advice is about timing. After the flip, wait until the now-browned top just begins to exude red meat juices, pull the burger, give it a few minutes rest. Perfect medium rare, every time. (This doesn't work if you have a sloppy edged patty: the juices exude from the sides.)

        1. re: Spot

          Word. I forgot to mention the rest! I am usually too greedy to wait ;)

          1. re: ChristinaMason

            As always, CM has great advice on the process especially, DO NOT MESS WITH THE BURGER. Leave it alone so it gets that nice sear. Here is a recipe that jfood needs to try in the near future.


      2. What exactly is the problem you are having? Can give lots of suggestions but unless we know where yours is going wrong, its hard to say if it will be useful.

        That being said, my suggestions are,
        - use good ground beef (freshly ground is preferrable) with enough fat and form your own patties
        - to use enough heat
        - loosely form the patties (no hockey pucks) with a small indent in the center so when it puffs up while cooking, it'll flatten out
        - make sure the burger isn't ice cold but not as warm as a you would let a steak get.
        - if you like thicker burgers, sear in a cast iron skillet for a few minutes per side and then finish in a hot 400ish oven.
        - if you can't accurately judge medium rare by touch or look, use a meat thermometer.
        - let the burger rest for a few minutes after cooking or the juice will fly out onto your chin and leave the patty dry.

        1. main problem for me has always been fat content. this year i've been doing alton brown's recipe. he goes half chuck half sirloin. he also suggests grinding it yourself. i didn't think grinding would make a difference but it does. not that it speaks to your problem, but man does it make a good burger. anyway, all the other suggestions i think are key especially ESNY's list. if you want specifics on size alton suggests 5oz patties, 3/4" thick, 4" wide. pretty specific. all i know is that it works. medium high, cast iron, 4 min a side. omg yum.