The Perfect Burger

When it comes to crafting the perfect burger, high quality ingredients, temperature, and great toppings all play an important role.

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What defines a perfect burger depends on the person eating it! Maybe multi-tiered layers, loaded with toppings, are your thing or maybe you like to keep things simple. Burgers are personal and there is a lot to consider when it comes to this sought-after food.  

HIGH QUALITY INGREDIENTS

No matter whether you are making a beef, fish, chicken or vegetable burger, you want to use the highest quality ingredients you can find. Fresh protein will far surpass frozen and, when it comes to garnishes, the fresher the produce the better. Sometimes the difference between a good burger and a great one can be how crunchy the lettuce is. Speaking of lettuce, always place it beneath the patty so that it can catch some of the delicious juices. Tomatoes are a wonderful topping choice as well, since they’ll lend a welcome acidity. If you’re a more adventurous type, kimchi (spicy, fermented cabbage) can be an incredible addition. 

Sometimes the difference between a good burger and a great one can be how crunchy the lettuce is.

The bun has the power to make or break a delicious burger. Afterall, it is the vessel that holds all the goodies! Avoid breads that are very heavy and dense, since a burger is already heavy enough. The iconic sesame seed bun, made with milk, is the most traditional choice. Potato rolls and Ciabatta buns are also popular choices and soft brioche, though sweet, acts like a sponge and absorbs juices from the patty. Whatever bread you choose, make sure it’s fresh and butter and toast it before assembling your burger. Pro-tip: Slather a bit of mayonnaise on both sides of the bun before toasting it for a little extra magic. 

BEEF BURGERS

Beef is the most popular burger filling and is a great protein for novice grillers, since it is the most forgiving meat and can be enjoyed at a wide range of temperatures. A combination of chuck and ground pork is a very tasty combination. Alternatively, chuck mixed with brisket or short rib works well. Recently, the idea that home cooks should grind their own meat has become common but it really isn’t essential as long as you trust your grocer or butcher. 

When assembling the patties, stick to just the meat in order to let its flavor shine. Afterall, you’ll be garnishing it in the end with your desired toppings. It is extremely important to wait until after you’ve formed your patties to season with salt and black pepper. If you season the meat beforehand, it will only draw out the moisture and nobody likes a dry burger. 

Be sure to make a shallow dimple in the centre of the burger with your thumb. This will ensure that the patty doesn’t bulge in the center. As the meat cooks and expands, the depression will disappear, leaving you with a beautifully shaped and cooked burger. Most standard burger patties are between 6-7 ounces, but decide how large you want to make your burger, based on how big the bun is that you’ll be using. Keep in mind, the patty will shrink as it cooks.  

It is extremely important to wait until after you’ve formed your patties to season with salt and black pepper.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need an outdoor grill in order to get a charred beef burger. A cast iron skillet or grill pan can do the trick, provided it’s hot enough. You want to get a nice sear on the exterior of the patty in order to lock in flavor and provide texture! For juicy beef burgers, which is always the goal, look for an 80/20 mix of meat and fat. Any leaner, and your burgers will be very dry. Another way to ensure a juicy burger is by leaving the meat alone. Many people press down on their burgers with a spatula, which only pushes out the burger’s juices. Finally, let the meat rest for approximately five minutes after it’s finished cooking. While it can be very tempting to dig in right away, this is an important step that will allow the juices on the exterior to redistribute within the patty. 

For juicy beef burgers, which is always the goal, look for an 80/20 mix of meat and fat.

A LIGHTER BURGER

When it comes to burgers, two wonderful alternatives to beef and pork are chicken and seafood. Grilled chicken is a lighter, healthier option than breaded chicken but nothing quite beats the flavor and crunch of the latter. Avocado, red onion and tomato are all toppings that compliment chicken well and mayonnaise makes the perfect sauce. Of course, a little cheese never hurt a chicken burger, or any burger for that matter! Cheddar and provolone are both great options.

Whether you’re trying to limit your red meat intake or just looking to try something a little different, fish and seafood burgers can be super tasty. Burgers of the sea are also a heart-healthy and packed with omega-3 fatty acids. Fresh tuna and salmon make incredible burger patties. Again, high quality, fresh fish is what is needed here. Refreshing toppings include caramelized pineapple, cabbage slaw and corn, along with mayonnaise and guacamole. Think outside the box and if you want to be extra healthy, ditch the bun altogether and use iceberg lettuce as a wrapper.