How to Achieve Your Personal Burger Best

Related To:

Let's talk burgers — big (but not too big), juicy and perfectly turned, with or without cheese, tucked inside a fancy bakery brioche or a basic potato bun, dressed to the nines or served neat. It's nearly impossible to discuss the finer points of burgers without working up an appetite. But there's no nibbling around the fact that some burgers are better than others. The question, then: What's the key to making sure your burgers rank among the best?

According to The New York Times, a lot of it comes down to what you cook the burger on, and those known for the most-perfect patties insist on "heavy, cast-iron pans and griddles." Yes, even if you're cooking outside on a grill. Heat the meat in a pan over the fire. Don't place your patties directly on the grill. "The point is to allow rendering beef fat to gather around the patties as they cook, like a primitive high-heat confit," Times Senior Editor Sam Sifton explains as he strives to deconstruct "the perfect burger."

Documentary filmmaker (2005's Hamburger America) and burger expert George Motz contends that using a skillet allows the grease to function not only as a cooking agent, but also as a "condiment that is as natural as the beef itself." George compares a "great burger" to "a baked potato, or sashimi," telling Sam, "It should taste completely of itself."

What about the meat? Bobby Flay's Perfect Burger recipe (pictured above) seconds Sam's suggestion and calls for ground chuck that is 80 percent lean.

The size of your patties matters: Bobby says burgers should be about 6 ounces each, formed loosely into 3/4-inch-thick patties. Make a deep indentation into the center of each burger, season with salt and pepper, and cook over high heat after the oil in your pan starts to shimmer. Once the first side is "golden brown and slightly charred" (figure about three minutes), flip your beef burger over and cook it until the other side matches it (a medium-rare burger will take about four minutes). If you're using cheese, add it about one minute before reaching your "desired degree of doneness" and cover or tent it to facilitate melting.

Bobby tweaks his recipe a bit if you're using ground turkey (90 percent lean) instead of ground chuck. And if you're looking for more variations on your burger theme, you'll find them here: Giada's Beef Burgers with Mushrooms and Aioli adds an interesting topping twist. Or add curry flavor with Jenss Chang's Malaysian Indian Curry-Spiced Beef Burgers; she shows Bobby how to make them here.

There are lots of ways you can get creative. And while Sam cautions against overdressing your patties — noting that fancy extras are no substitute for proper cooking technique — marrying burger basics and innovative ideas is bound to produce not just a better burger, but one that can take its place among the very best.

Keep Reading

Next Up

Chefs' Picks: Best Burgers in New York City

Petite and cheap or dripping with luxury, here are four top burgers in New York City, as picked by the chefs who love ’em.

Speak Up, Fans: Where Do You Eat the Best Burger Ever?

Before you tune in to Best. Burger. Ever., FN Dish wants to know where you go to enjoy the ultimate between-the-bun creation.

Fan Favorites: Your Picks for the Best. Burger. Ever. in Photos

Find out where Food Network fans go to enjoy the Best. Burger. Ever. from coast to coast.

Viewer's Choice: 15 Best Burgers from Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives

Browse the photos and vote for the best burger Guy Fieri has eaten on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

Layer by Meaty Layer: How to Build the Best Burger, According to Tim Love

Hear from Chef Tim Love as he breaks down the ins and outs of building the best burger. Then get Food Network's best burger recipes.

Michael Symon Continues His Search for the Best Burgers, Brew & 'Que in Season 2

Find out what's ahead in Season 2 of Burgers, Brew & 'Que with Michael Symon.

This Is the Best Burger for Summer Grilling

You’ll be making these all season long!