I will admit that I have walked on the wild side when it comes to making burgers.
But this July 4th, I think it is time to get back to burger basics with a classic all-American burger. You know, the burger that started it all. The same burger I had as a kid when my Dad was grilling on the 4th. Come to think of it, I am sure my Dad would have been lost if I gave him mushroom dust or burger juice, but he sure new how to make a great burger with charcoal, lighter fluid and a little dab of Kraft BBQ sauce.
So here are some tips for making a classic burger.
1. Hamburger meat, it all starts with the beef. Use 80/20 hamburger, thats 80% meat to 20% fat, the ideal ratio for burgers. Skip the trendy new lean ratios of 90/10 or 95/5, they make dry burgers. If you really want to go retro (and are not worried about the fat,) try the 70/30.
2. Get fresh ground if you can. It is a lot harder to find nowadays, but check the meat counter at your grocery store to see if they have a fresh daily grind behind the glass.
3. When working with hamburger meat, make sure everything is cold including your hands. You do not want any of the fat melting or your burger will lose its texture and dry out when cooked. So run your hands through some cold water before touching the meat.
4. One way to help make juicy burgers is to add cold water to your meat. The cold water binds with the cold hamburger meat to give you extra moisture and a juicy burger. Usually it is a quarter to half cup of water per pound. If you want to get fancy, you can add what I call burger juice instead of water from my mushroom burger recipe.
5. Make patties a little larger than the buns you are using. When they cook they will shrink a little. Also try to push the burger in a little in the middle so the outside is higher than the inside. Burgers tend to expand in the middle when cooking, this will help keep the burger flat when cooked.
6. Once you make your patties put them in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes (got to keep that fat from melting).
7. Grill hamburgers on a hot grill over direct heat, brush grill rack with oil to keep burgers from sticking to the rack when flipping.
8. Use an instant-read thermometer to make sure your burger is done. I like mine cooked to medium, which is 145ºF. The USDA recommends cooking burger to 160ºF, which is well done.
9. If making a cheeseburger, add cheese 1 to 2 minutes before pull the patties off the grill.
Classic all-American burger
- 1 to 1 ½ lb. ground beef (80/20)
- ½ cup cold water
- 4 slices American cheese
- 4 sandwich buns
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Burger fixings - Lettuce, tomatoes, onions, mustard or mayonnaise.
Following the tips above, mix a ½ cup cold of water with your 80/20 hamburger meat in a small, cold bowl. Divided meat into 4 balls and press down into patties. Refrigerate patties for at least 30 minutes before grilling.
Prep grill for hot, direct heat. Be sure to brush the rack with oil to keep burgers from sticking.
Salt and pepper patties, then grill on a hot grill over direct heat for 5 to 7 minutes per side (depending on how done you like your burgers.) If you are using an instant-read thermometer, 145ºF is medium and 160ºF is well done.
Add cheese 1 to 2 minutes before pulling the patties off the grill.
If you like toasted buns, place buns bread side down on the grill for 1 to 2 minutes.
Assemble burgers with your favorite fixings. The classic all-American burger normally has lettuce, tomatoes, onions and mayonnaise. Of course, here in Texas we use mustard instead of mayonnaise.
Be sure to check the slideshow above the story for step-by-step pictures.