Your Guide to the Perfect Burger

The Great American Hamburger

National Hamburger Day is on the horizon—May 28—and you’ll want to polish your burger game in anticipation and get a start on the 50 billion burgers Americans eat every year!

So what constitutes the perfect burger? You’ll know the moment you bite into it. Your teeth will sink through a softly crisp, smoky crust into a rich, meaty, lasciviously moist interior. Of course, you should smell a whiff of smoke and the beef should taste, well, like beef. (For 10 tricks to boost your burgers’ umami flavors, check out the blog we recently published: In short, it will be the sort of burger that doesn’t need a lot of fancy over-the-top garnishes, but that benefit from a few judiciously chosen accompaniments.


*Use a grind with a fat content of 20 percent, preferably, from grass-fed beef. Steven favors a combination of chuck and brisket and/or beef short ribs. If you’re feeling indulgent, buy Wagyu beef from a local farmer or a well-regarded online source like Pat LaFrieda.

Wagyu Smash Burger with Parmesan Crisps

*Keep the meat well-chilled before forming into patties. Run your hands under cold water and handle the meat as little as possible. The optimum size is 8 to 9 ounces (a modest food scale is a handy tool.). Build burgers that are 3/4 to 1 inch in thickness and at least 1 inch larger than the diameter of the bun. For a more professional look, use a ring mold or burger press (or even a clean aluminum can) to achieve uniformity. Using your thumb or the back of a teaspoon, put a shallow depression in one side of the burger to avoid excessive puffing as the meat cooks. Cover and re-chill before grilling.

*Set up your grill for direct grilling and heat to high (or medium-high if your grill runs extra hot).
You can use a charcoal grill, gas grill, or a pellet grill that has a searing feature. Toss wood chips or chunks on the coals, smoker box, or in a smoker pouch. There is no need to soak the chips or chunks as the cooking times are relatively fast (3 to 5 minutes per side, depending on how you like your burgers). The FDA recommends an internal temperature of 160 degrees for ground meats. For the best results, turn the burgers only once. And never press down on them with a spatula unless you’re making smash burgers (More on those another day.) If cheeseburgers are on the menu, it helps to overturn an aluminum bowl or cooking dome over them for a couple of minutes once you add the cheese.

*Always let your burgers rest on a warm platter or plate for two minutes before serving.

Holy Grail Burgers

*If you’ve purchased premium burger meat, you’ll want great buns, too…right? Many chefs serve Martin’s Potato Rolls, available in some supermarkets or online. Brioche buns are good, too, as are bakery buns.

Check out our 1000+ Recipes section here on Barbecue Bible.Com

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