There is more to know about how to make burger patties than simply forming meat into a patty shape. To make the best burger like your favorite restaurant you need to pay attention to these simple details.
I take my burger patty recipe very seriously. I have made burgers every different way imaginable on my quest to make the best homemade burgers. I've bought meat, ground my own, used chuck, brisket, butcher's choice, 80/20, 70/30, 90/10, and the list goes on. Suffice it to say, I tried it all. Oh, and did I mention I once owned a gourmet burger food truck? Well, technically it was a truck, but if it never really ran can you still call it a truck?
Basically, what I am trying to say is, I think I have some credibility when it comes to teaching others how to make burger patties like a restaurant.
How to Make Burger Patties
First things first, I'm talking about how to make burger patties like a GOOD made-from-scratch restaurant. I'm not talking about restaurants that ship in their patties already made, or worse, pre-frozen.
The most important aspect to making the perfect burger is selecting the right meat. This isn't just talking about the right cut, or the right grind, or the right fat ratio. It is all of that, and more.
Let's start with the packaging and work our way backward. To make exceptionally tender burgers you need to grind your own meat or buy it from your grocery store freshly ground. If your hamburger was stuffed into meat tubes it was already compacted too much and will never make a great burger. Use that for taco meat. Instead, you want to still be able to see the individual strands of meat still loosely intact after coming out of the grinder, as shown below.
Fresh ground meat creates a more tender burger because it was never compacted tightly together.
Next, you want to make sure it is the right cut. You want fresh ground chuck. Ground chuck will typically have the perfect ratio of fat to meat, which is 80/20. Plus, the fat isn't as stringy as brisket can be. I know brisket burgers sound cool because they make you think of BBQ, but they are second tier.
As mentioned, you want 80/20 beef. 90/10 may sound like a good idea because it is healthier, but it will be too dry to make a good burger. Burgers need fat to be juicy. You also don't want anything fattier than 80/20, if there is too much fat the burger will shrink excessively during cooking and you will end up with meatballs swimming in grease. This is the same ground beef used for a good classic meatloaf as well.
Forming the Burger Patties
Now that we have the right meat, we need to make the perfect patty. The best tip I can give you is to never overwork the meat! You only want to press and form the meat as much as needed to form your patty. Any more than that and your burger will start getting dense.
Separate your freshly ground beef into chunks sized for the burgers you are making. I like to make ⅓ - ½ lb burgers typically unless I'm making a fast food style burger, which is a whole different story. I gently form them into a rough ball shape, just pressing enough to ensure the meat holds together, then I place them on a flat surface and press them down. Using a burger press, or just a flat plate, works great for this! However, I love having wax papers to place between the burgers and the surfaces because it ensures they won't stick and they can be more easily transferred to the cooking surface.
Now simply, and firmly, press straight down to form the patties into shape. As you can see in my picture you can still identify the strands of meat from the meat grinder. This is a sign that you succeeded in not overworking the meat. The strands will separate more easily from each other when you take a bite than if you squished and squeezed the meat together. This is what makes your patty so tender. My personal preference is to keep the strands of meat running vertically when pressing the meat.
Make sure you press the patty to be larger than the bun you will serve it on. The patty will shrink a bit during cooking. If you like your burgers thicker, press your thumb into the center of the burger. This will help the center cook more evenly.
How to Cook a Burger
I think most people agree grilling your burger patty will taste the best. (check out How to Grill Burgers for detailed tips and instructions) However, you can still make exceptional burgers on your stovetop. Regardless of which heat-source you use, you will want to keep these considerations in mind:
Don't press the patty while cooking!!! Just don't do it! You are not making it cook faster, you are squeezing all the juice out, guaranteeing you will have a dry burger. Yum.
Only flip the patty once. Don't play with the patty, let it do its thing. By flipping it once you will allow it time to build up a charred crust which adds flavor, and it is easier to time doneness, in my opinion. I typically let it cook till the top appears to be turning purple and juice is starting to puddle on top, then I flip, top with cheese and cook a few minutes longer.
Best Burger Bun
You can top your burger with whatever you want. However, the bun you choose makes a BIG difference in how great you burger tastes. My favorite by far is a Brioche bun. However, these can be hard to find. You simply want a bun that feels light and squishy. A heavy, dense bun will steal the show from the tender burger patty. I always toast my buns too, the heat lightens up the texture of the bun, once again allowing the texture of the tender patty to be the star of the show.
Pro tip: Do you know which lettuce is best for the perfect burger? Green leaf lettuce. It has better flavor, better texture, and a more pleasing appearance than romaine or iceberg lettuce.
Homemade Burger Recipes
Now that you know how to make great burger patties, use any of the recipes below to craft your own custom homemade burger:
How to Make Burger Patties Like a Restaurant
- 1 lb Fresh ground chuck (80/20)
- Salt and Pepper
- 3 Brioche hamburger buns
- 2 tbsp Butter
- 3 slices mild cheddar cheese
- toppings of choice
- Select a pound of freshly ground chuck from your butcher. You should still be able to see the individual strands of meat from the grinder.
- Divide the meat into three equal chunks, compressing the meat only as need to hold it together in a loose ball.
- With strands of meat standing vertically, firmly press down on each chunk of meat to form into patties. Season liberally with salt and pepper.
- Place on medium-high grill or skillet (if using a skillet I like to add 1 tbsp of oil to help the patty cook) and cook till the top of the patty starts to darken in color. Flip once, top with cheese, and cook a few minutes longer.
- Butter inside of the hamburger buns and lightly toast them in a separate pan, cut side down.
- Assemble your burger with desired toppings and enjoy.
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