There is more to know about how to make burger patties than simply forming ground beef 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 in 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 know a thing or two about crafting the best burger recipes.
Choosing the Right Hamburger Meat
First things first, I'm talking about how to make homemade 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 of making the perfect burger is selecting the right meat. This isn't just talking about the right cut of fresh ground beef, 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 good quality ground beef 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 lean beef such as ground sirloin will be too dry to make a good burger. Burgers need a higher fat content 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.
How to From the Patties
Now that we have the right burger meat, we need to make the perfect homemade hamburger patties. The best tip I can give you to form your patties 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. This is the best way to ruin any hamburger recipe.
Separate your freshly ground beef into chunks sized for the burgers you are making (use a kitchen scale if you want to be exact). I like to make thick patties, typically around ⅓ - ½ pound burgers, unless I'm making a fast food style burger (like smash burgers), which is a whole different story. I gently form the raw burger 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 beef 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 patty. This will help the center cook more evenly.
How to Cook a Burger
First of all, regardless of whether you cook up juicy burger patties in a cast iron skillet or on a hot grill, for the juiciest burgers 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 dry burgers. 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. It typically will take 3-4 minutes per side before the burger is fully cooked.
Tip: Using a digital meat thermometer to monitor the internal temperature is an easy way to ensure you don't overcook your burger patties. However, with a little practice, they won't be needed for long.
How to grill them
The secret to grilling the best burgers is zone heating. Whether using a gas grill or charcoal, it is best to have a hot zone and a cool zone. This allows you to get a flavorful sear on the patties over the hot side of the grill, and then move them away from the heat source as needed to regulate the temperature and ensure they don't burn before the interior comes to temperature.
Admittedly, this is less important on gas grills where you can simply turn down the burner, but it still is nice to have an area set aside to move cooked patties before they are served. On a propane grill, I crank the heat up to high and grill them directly over the heat.
On a charcoal grill, I achieve this by piling up a chimney of hot charcoal on one side of the grill. This creates a searing hot zone where the coals are piled directly under the grate and a cooler zone on the opposite side of the grill. I cook the patties directly over the hottest part of the grill and move them away when they have finished cooking, or if they are starting to burn.
Tip: I recommend oiling your grill grates with olive oil prior to cooking your hamburger patties. This helps ensures they do not stick.
I encourage you to also check out my detailed write-up discussing How to Grill Burgers for those of you who crave a more in-depth look.
Cooking on the stovetop
When cooking a burger patty in a skillet on your stovetop, the process is similar. You want a higher heat to sear the exterior. However, I find the exact temperature setting varies depending on the stove and type of cookware used (personally, I prefer to use a cast-iron skillet). Typically, turning your burner on high will burn the exterior of your stovetop burgers long before the interior reaches temperature.
When you make burger patties on the stovetop I recommend using medium or medium-high heat on the stovetop. Thicker burgers need a lower heat because the interior will take longer to come to temperature, whereas, thin patties cook quickly and need high heat for searing.
Best Buns for Burgers
You can top your burger with whatever you want. However, the bun you choose makes a BIG difference in how great your burger tastes. My favorite by far are brioche buns. However, a pretzel bun is fantastic as well. You simply want a bun that feels light and squishy. A heavy, dense bun will steal the show from the tender burger patty.
A great hamburger patty needs equally great toppings to really hit its full flavor potential. Classic burger toppings include simple ingredients such as crisp lettuce, fresh onions, tomato, and pickles. However, if you are craving something new and flavorful, try these creative ideas:
- Pickled Red Onions - These add a bright and tangy crunch.
- Gourmet Burger Sauce - Sweet and tangy! It is a burger's best friend!
- Caramelized Onions - This would taste great with my chipotle mayo!
- Refrigerator dill pickles - These pack a better crunch than traditional pickles.
- Big Mac Sauce - This copycat recipe tastes just like the real thing!
Expert Tips and Suggestions
- Do you know which lettuce is best for the perfect hamburger? Green leaf lettuce. It has better flavor, better texture, and a more pleasing appearance than romaine or iceberg lettuce.
- I use wax burger paper, although parchment paper also works, to form my burgers on. They release easily off of it without sticking, the paper is cheap, and it a package will last for years.
- Always toast your buns. Toasting the interior of your bun improves the texture, and flavor significantly. It is best to toast face-down in a skillet on medium heat after painting with butter.
- When cooking the patties, do not press the burger with a spatula and only flip it once. Pressing creates a dry burger, and flipping excessively can prevent the meat from developing a proper sear. Check out how to brown ground beef to learn more about the importance of proper browning.
- Let your burger rest for a few minutes after cooking so the juices settle back into the meat. This will ensure you have the most flavorful burger possible.
You do not need breadcrumbs or eggs to hold a patty together. Just press firmly down on the meat with a flat object (like the bottom of a plate) when forming and it will hold its shape. Using wax paper also helps because you can transfer the patty to your cooking surface without overly disturbing the patty. Using the correct meat is also important. If the beef is too lean your burger will be dry and crumbly.
Juicy burgers start with using meat that contains enough fat. 80/20 beef is recommended, as the fat is what creates the juice, not additives like Worcestershire sauce. If you use exceptionally lean ground beef your patties will be dry because there won't be enough fat to render during cooking.
No, adding egg would create a meatloaf sandwich, not a burger. If you add an egg to your burgers you have to overwork the meat in order to mix it in, this creates a less flavorful, denser burger. With proper instruction, you can create exceptional burgers without egg or breadcrumbs.
More Delicious 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:
Can you do me a favor? If you enjoyed my post would you mind sharing it with your friends? You can see more of my recipes by liking me on Facebook and follow me on Pinterest too. Otherwise, stay up to date by getting each new post sent directly to your inbox by subscribing today.
How to Make Burger Patties
- 1 lb Fresh ground chuck (80/20)
- Salt and Black pepper
- 3 Brioche hamburger buns
- 2 tablespoon 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 tablespoon of oil to help the patty cook) and cook till the top of the patty starts to darken in color. Flip once, top with a slice of cheese, and cook a few minutes longer.
- Butter inside of the hamburger buns and lightly toast them in a separate pan, cut side down.
- Place your burger patty onto the toasted bun, add your favorite toppings and enjoy.
Awesome, I never tasted a burger so good! I made it by myself with your recipe...just left out the salt and pepper because I don't like the taste.
Kristofer Van Wagner
You made an interesting point that the key to a good burger is the choice of meat. My wife and I are looking to make burgers this weekend as a means for us to bond. I think I will look at some samples to determine the perfect blend for us.
You made a good point that freshness is an important thing to consider when it comes to finding the perfect burger. I'm interested in traveling around with my best friend to visit burger restaurants around the city. Being foodies, it would be nice to finally try to cover food that are just very enjoyable to eat while also being very filling.
This was easy way and really good. Thanks for sharing this one!
Best F***ing hamburger i ever F****** had..Made the prefect s*** not hard or to soft..
im glad you loved it Mr.Longman..Better than ******..
Wow. I’d been spending so much extra time and effort to make subpar hamburgers! This was super easy and really good. Thanks for sharing!
I really loved how thorough yet simple this recipe was!
Great tips and an even better burger! The only thing i would have to complain about is being stuck behind the stove all day making endless burgers for the family, haha! Thanks for the amazing recipe! I will now always make my own burgers!
What a complete success! I followed the method on how to shape the burger. I used a T-Fal opt grill and it came out perfect! No eggs no breadcrumbs….no meatloaf sandwich lol
Followed the recipe to the T, but the burger fell apart when I ate it - loadsa a little bits of cooked beef mince all over the plate 🙁 where did I go wrong?
Fox Valley Foodie
Press it together a bit harder next time and it shouldn't fall apart.
Hi Helen ... yes it’s a simple quick recipe, at the expense of practical quality. The recipe omitted binding agents like bread crumbs or egg...
Fox Valley Foodie
Binding agents are a handy crutch for home cooks, but restaurants serving gourmet burgers would never use breadcrumbs or egg. The best burgers are made without binders.
Amanda Maria Feliciano
Best Burger I've ever made. Best I've ever had at home. My friend even said "In & Out Burger" has nothing on this. Freaking amazing!!!
Thankyou out of all the recipes l googled l loved your directions best l was making defrosted fresh minced venison so l finely chopped bacon as my 20% fat -80% meat l followed your how to not handle it too much made balls then pressed between baking paper l seasoned one side once in the pan took them out and put them on a tray with slices of cheese on top was making 9 so popped in oven to melt cheese served with fried onions and salad veges loved by everyone
Glad to see you're using Venison. I use elk meat and for a 2 pound pkg. of it, I add just a small pkg. of Jimmy Dean Sausage for the fat. Tastes great & haven't had any complaints yet. 😀
Fox Valley Foodie
That sounds like it would be a great tasting combo!
My burgers are always dense and tasteless. My wife doesn't even want to eat them. I will use your recipe the next time. Meanwhile, back at the freezer, we have six patties done the old way. Can they be saved or should they be meat loaf? Thanks for your advice.
Fox Valley Foodie
I would use them for meatloaf. I have some great meatloaf recipes on this website if you are in need of a recipe.
When using burger press, should the meat be compressed or only lightly pressed?
Should I grind meat twice?
Fox Valley Foodie
Yes double grind the meat. I press firmly to ensure the burgers hold together.
My son wants the burger with diced jalapeno. How can i mix it in withou over-working tue meat?
Fox Valley Foodie
You would have to grind the meat yourself. Mix jalapeno pieces with the meat chunks and then run everything through the meat grinder.
I was planning to buy premise patties but I’m inspired by your tips. I’ve always thought my burgers were terrible and now I know why! But...I’m hosting a large party and really need things done in advance. I could buy meat, freeze, defrost; then form patties night before. Or form patties with fresh beef then freeze until day of party. The latter would be my preference. Any opinion? Or am I ruining the burgers either way. Also, I’m making sliders. And tips?
Fox Valley Foodie
I typically avoid freezing the patties if at all possible, but either scenario you listed would work. If you form the patties and then freeze until your party make sure you take them out with enough time for them to thaw out, that would probably be my vote between your two options.
really want to try this on Sunday! my concern is will the meat stick together? im afraid they will fall apart.
Fox Valley Foodie
Yes, the meat will stick together just fine if you follow the instructions.
Can these be made 1-2 days prior? Thank you. Rebecca
Fox Valley Foodie
Yes, as long as your meat is fresh.
Best burgers ever!! I have tried so many different techniques and ingredients that others claim to be the “best”! I will NEVER make a burger any other way, with any other meat, with any ingredients mixed in!!
Amazing recipe. Thank you. I never expected that burgers could make my wife so delighted!
I did not follow the fat ratio part, but my trusted butcher apparently gave me a good cut anyhow - strands of ground beef were coherent, and the burger was easy to chew and juicy. After cooking three patties, at least a tablespoon of beef fat remained on the pan. I'm hoping that's a good sign.
Thank you again!