The Perfect Burger, demystified

I’ve made a grave mistake for years. I assumed on the grill was where hamburgers belonged. Like hamburger + grill = best friends like peas + carrots or milk + cereal. Now I see the years I squandered because of my false assumption. 

Do you want a hamburger with a juicy tender inside and a crispy flavor blasted outside? If so – don’t let your burger outside!

juicy, soft burger with crispy season blasted outside!

juicy, soft burger with crispy season blasted outside!

I am not a chef. I am just a mother/wife/lady trying to keep people fed in decently simple and tasty manner. So – if you want food science or an official test kitchen, I ain’t got it. But I do have a few suggestions.

There are 3 things that make or break a good burger:

  1. Good meat. Trust me on this because I am not the person who buys all organic, grassfed, farm raised etc. Though this year I purchased some grass fed ground beef from Whole Foods. They produced some of the tasty burgers I had ever eaten. I thought maybe the spices were responsible, so I made them again, the same technique, but this time with regular high quality ground beef (same fat ratio). There were subpar, not the same. I won’t lie, the meat isn’t cheap, but sometimes, even if it’s just a few times a year, spend a few more dollars and get the good meat. I have yet to be disappointed by this beef. The taste is superb. Also – for best results of cooking any meat, have your meat be room temperature. Yes, I know this can be a pain in the ass, but when you can, make it happen; it leads to optimal searing and sealing.
  2. Spices. Some folks (hi mom!) like plain meat, plain food. That’s not how my family rolls. Seasoning can ruin or enhance a dish. So, put a little thought into your burgers. Try something different and see if you aren’t delighted. Also – it’s my experience that burgers absorb much flavor, so I usually add more seasoning than I think necessary.
  3. Cooking technique. As I mentioned, the grill is to the go-to appliance for burgers. But I suggest you try cooking them in a pan – if only once in your life. Not all cooking techniques and surfaces are created equal. Buck the status quo! Also, burgers produce their own grease but that doesn’t mean they can’t use a little oil during cooking. I recommend coconut oil; this will help the patties brown up just right. And no, your burgers will not taste like coconut oil.

Ok, so with these 3 components in mind, here is my recipe, or guide for lack of specific measurements, on the perfect burger.

  • 1 pound grassfed (not overly lean) ground beef (If you use Laura’s Lean Beef, I will not be held responsible for your end product, which will most likely be tasteless and chewy.)
  • Jen’s “How Meat Should Taste” Spice Mix:
    • Salt (Use slightly more than other spices)
    • Fresh ground pepper mix
    • Garlic powder
    • Onion powder
    • Turmeric (trust me)
    • Chili Powder
    • Hungarian or Sweet Paprika (little less than other spices)
  1. Let meat sit to room temperature or at least till not chilled.
  2. Gently form 4 ½” tall patties.
  3. Heat a pan on medium low on your stove. (I do not recommend nonstick for this, but if that’s what you have, go with it.) Coat the pan with a thin layer of melted coconut oil.
  4. Coat the first side of each patty with a generous dusting of each spice, keeping the ground pepper and paprika at a smaller portion than the other spices.

    don't under-season your burgers and then tell me they aren't tasty

    don’t under-season your burgers and then tell me they aren’t tasty

  5. When the pan is heated, place the burgers, seasoned side down, on the pan. Immediately dust the other side with as equally a generous seasoning mix while the patties are cooking.
  6. Now for the cooking. Well-done burgers are not delicious burgers. I feel medium is best J There is some play in the cook time based on the thickness of your burgers and preferred doneness. I recommend a mean of about 3 minutes a side. Cook time is important because:After flipping and finishing, serve burger immediately. You may want to add a side of guacamole or avocado slice, but please people, don’t overdress this delicious burger in ketchup or A1. If your burger is cooked right, you won’t need either.
    • If you flip the burger too soon the exterior will not have ample time to form the perfect crispy brownness.
    • Most people overcook their burgers. If you do not trust your gut or sense of timing, make it simple and use a meat thermometer. Check the temp before you think they are done and you might find they are! There is no shame in using a thermometer. There is shame in overcooking your burgers however.


out of the frying pan and into your mouth!

out of the frying pan and into your mouth!


2 thoughts on “The Perfect Burger, demystified

  1. lol – so TOTALLY agree with comment on Laura’s Lean Beef. But there are some really good brands out there for grass-fed ground beef. Green BEAN delivery carries quite a few excellent local farms: This Old Farm, Fischer Farms, Moody Meats (which is our fave for taste, and always affordable), Sommers, 7 Sons (though we find this brand a bit too “grassy”). Also Peapod carries some really good grass-fed ground beef: Dakota Farms and Tallgrass (both super good). And often Whole Foods and Earth Fare have sales on their grass-fed ground beef. Trader Joe’s also sells some often decently-priced grass-fed meats.

    I don’t have much patience for being a bargain shopper, but the only place I do this is with meats and poultry (and eggs), and when I see a good sale, I buy extra, and freeze it. I’m convinced there is almost nothing more important that pasture-raised meats/poultry – even more important than organic (though it seems that many are also organic). To me, the main thing is that there are no hormones or antibiotics used in the raising of these animals. I’m allergic to just about every antibiotic on earth – why should I be consuming them in my proteins? Makes no sense to me! I know you don’t eat dairy – but, for those of us who do, same principles stand for me.

    There are so many dishes (besides your yummy-soundings patties) that one can make with ground beef – we often have it twice a week, and I don’t feel very guilty about it, as it’s almost always grass-fed. I’m lots older than you – but grass-fed meats remind me of the meat our family used to eat when I was a child (c. 1950s). For me, that just seems more “right” somehow.

    • Great ideas Suz! I keep hearing so much about Green Bean I may have to try it in the future…though my fear is it would be one more thing to manage perhaps. WF gives you 15% off the beef if you buy 3 lbs at a time, which I do now and freeze like you. I wonder if there is any other way to get some of these meats you mention…only other option I can think of are the local farmer’s markets in the summer. I have 2 very sharp dietitian friends (one you certainly know 🙂 and they both attest that processed meat and not red meat will be exposed as the health hazard increasingly in future years. Thanks for these ideas! And glad you agree on Laura’s Lean! My mom mentioned it recently and I scolded her lol 🙂

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