Now that grilling season is in full swing, it’s time to fire up the flames and perfect your patty-making skills. Bypass the brats and hot dogs and get cooking with 10 tips for grinding, shaping, cooking and serving the best-ever burger.
1. Pick Your Protein: While beef is a popular protein for burgers, there are countless other options ranging from poultry to seafood. Expand your burger repertoire with creative combinations featuring chicken, turkey, pork, salmon, veggies, beans or whole grains like quinoa and bulgur.
2. A Better Blend: Grinding your own meat is the first step in transforming a burger from blah to brilliant. The KitchenAid® Food Grinder Attachment makes creating custom blends a total breeze and allows you to determine the lean-to-fat ratio for your meat mixture. As a general rule, 70/30 and 80/20 are popular ground beef lean-to-fat ratios that result in juicy, flavorful burgers. However, you can opt to include less or more fat depending on your personal flavor preferences.
3. Patty Pressure: Ground meat should be lightly pressed rather than tightly compacted into patties. The more you condense the mixture, the tougher your burger will be. It’s also important to create an indentation by pressing your thumb into the center of each patty. This gives the patty space to expand, which results in a more evenly cooked burger.
4. Meat-to-Bun Ratio: Consider the size of your bun when shaping your patties. Burgers shrink as they cook, so it’s important to shape your patties to be slightly larger than the size of your buns. Accounting for this shrinkage will guarantee a proper meat-to-bun ratio and will prevent the burger from getting lost in a sea of carbs.
5. The Time to Season: Burger enthusiasts are split on when in the patty-making process the meat should be seasoned with salt. However, a majority will agree that salt shouldn’t come near the meat before it’s ground, as it draws out moisture and results in a tougher, denser patty. When in doubt, refrain from seasoning the ground meat mixture and only season the meat after it’s been formed into patties.
6. Meat Meets Heat: Whether you’re cooking your burgers on a grill or on the stove, it’s important to consider several key factors during the cooking process:
Heat: Patties should be placed on a hot cooking surface so that they begin to sear the second they touch the grill or grill pan. It is this searing that creates the flavorful exterior crust and seals in moisture.
Fat: Grease the grill or grill pan with your choice of fat to prevent the patties from sticking to the cooking surface. Opt for a fat with a high smoking point, such as vegetable or canola oil.
Spacing: Avoid overcrowding burgers by spacing them a minimum of 1 inch apart on the cooking surface, which also provides ample room for flipping the burgers.
7. Hands Off: While it may be tempting to smash down your patties as they cook, doing so releases juices and can cause the patties to become dry. A minimal amount of flipping guarantees juicier burgers with the characteristic, flavorful crust.
8. Test, Don’t Guess: Never cut into a burger to test if it’s cooked to your desired temperature, as doing so causes all of the juices to release from the meat (read: dry and tough burger). Instead, insert a digital meat thermometer to test the doneness. The USDA recommends a safe minimum cooking temperature of 160°F for ground meat and meat mixtures, which equates to “well-done” for beef burgers.
9. Cheese, Please!: To transform a basic burger into a cheeseburger, top the patty with your favorite slice of cheese and then cover it with a cooking lid (or if grilling, top the burgers with cheese and then close the grill). Covering the patties causes the heat to collect and perfectly melts the cheese onto the patty.
10. Better Buns: A bun can make or break a burger depending on its size, shape and general compatibility with your preferred protein. Step outside the breadbox by considering alternatives to basic buns, such as brioche rolls, Texas toast or salted pretzel rolls.
*The Contributor of this post has been compensated by KitchenAid for this post, but this post represents the Contributor’s own opinion.*