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How to cook a burger at home.


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#1 Stone

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Posted 13 February 2003 - 04:45 PM

There are many threads on restaurant burgers and one perfecting the composition of home-ground burger meat. But I didn't see one on how to cook the damn thing. I'm talking about in a pan on the stove (not a grill). Perhaps this is easy for everyone but me (like making pasta or finding true love), but I usually end up with either an overly crisp outer crust a mushy/raw center; or a uniform greyness. I know I need to just experiment more, but how about some tips?

The only advice I recall hearing is to start on medium heat or the outside will burn before the interior gets cooked.

What methods do y'all use?

#2 nightscotsman

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Posted 13 February 2003 - 04:48 PM

Well, first you get a cow...

#3 Schielke

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Posted 13 February 2003 - 04:51 PM

An interesting tip I saw once on a Martha Stewart show was to form your burgers around a little pat of flavored butter such as blue cheese butter. It results in a really juicy burger.

As for cooking on the stovetop, I dont really do it too often and need practice myself.

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#4 Stone

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Posted 13 February 2003 - 04:52 PM

Well, first you get a cow...

I'm asking about making burgers, not finding true love.

#5 nightscotsman

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Posted 13 February 2003 - 05:07 PM

I think there was a Cook's Illustrated article on the "perfect" burger. The only thing I remember is that they determined the best shape to make your patty was quite thin, but thinner in the middle and thicker toward the edge - like the shape of a red blood cell, if you remember any biology. Since the patty tends to plump in the middle as it's cooked, and the outside edge cooks faster than the center, this shape ensured an even thickness and doneness in the finished product.

I'll try to find the article and see if there were any other tips.

#6 =Mark

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Posted 13 February 2003 - 05:08 PM

First of all, there's the patty. I'll avoid all the references to grinding ones own, it's been discussed elsewhere. Not too thick, I've seen too many folk try to make an impressive but overly thick fist sized meatball on a bun. I like mine gently pattified about four inches round and about 2/3rds of an inch thick, you might even make a bit of a depression in the center a 'la red blood cell to counteract it's tendancy to swell in the middle when cooking.

Now for the cooking... Forgive me but I've got a natural gas grill just outside my back door in the kitchen, so I can avail myself of it's use year round at a moments notice (as I did at lunch today. Folks at work sometimes ask why I go home for lunch every day... Answer? "Because I CAN"). So I grill it till nicely done. Avoid any impulse that is being taught to my kids in the culinary wasteland of western Pennsylvania: "Don't lean on the burger with a spatula squeezing the life out of it!"

I like to serve on a toasted bun with some thin sliced red onion, splashed with some worcestershire sauce and a nice blap of heinz. Two of these will make a meal!

Sorry for not addressing the original question as to pan frying, but I honestly don't know.
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#7 Stone

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Posted 13 February 2003 - 05:13 PM

No need to apologize. But can you expand a bit on this wisdom?

So I grill it till nicely done.



#8 elyse

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Posted 13 February 2003 - 05:23 PM

I use a cast iron skillet (flat) heat it on high for five or so minutes, use about a fist size ball of meat (bigger?), say, around an inch think, salt and pepper my burger (haven't perfected that true love thing), throw it in the pan (no oil), and let it rip. I don't touch it until it starts to ooze from the top or sides, or maybe it's a smell thing. I use cheese, so after I turn it over (thin stainless spatula scraping the bottom), I teeter thick pieces of cheese on top. By the time the burger is done the cheese is usually slopped all over the bottom of the pan and mixed with the delicious fat from the burger. I keep an eye on it, and if it's comming down too fast, I scoop it back up and either put it back on the burger or put it on my plate til it's almost finished. It's usually nice and crusty. If I'm too hungry and make a bigger burger than I'm used to and it's too rare inside, I have no qualms about putting it back on the heat.

Hope that helps, and tell me if I left something out. Finally, I feel qualified to answer a cooking query here.

Edit: Yeah, I do that central indentation thing time to time.

Edited by elyse, 13 February 2003 - 05:28 PM.


#9 jaybee

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Posted 13 February 2003 - 05:42 PM

Place a nicely formed 1/2 pound patty in a superheated cast iron pan and cook on each side for about 1 to 1.5 minutes to form a nicely browned crust. Remove pan from heat and place in oven preheated at 450 degrees for 3-5 minutes (depending upon desired degree of doneness). Remove from pan and place on home made onion roll. Spronkle burger with grey sea salt, open a bottle of '69 Chambertin, put your computer to sleep, put your dog to sleep, turn on your favorite Thelonious Monk disc (maybe Ruby My Dear or 'Round Midnight, eat burger, sip wine, eat burger, sip wine, eat burger sip wine......


Then join her in the next room.....


On second thought, skip the wine, music and stuff and just chow down with glass of icy root beer.

Edit Note: spronkling requires some technique.

Edited by jaybee, 13 February 2003 - 05:56 PM.


#10 =Mark

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Posted 13 February 2003 - 05:48 PM

No need to apologize.  But can you expand a bit on this wisdom?

So I grill it till nicely done.

This is where the procedure becomes more of an art than a science. Knowing when your burger needs to be flipped, when to add cheese should you desire, and when to remove from the grill is a result of experience and practice. In smoking BBQ, the state of perfect doneness is referred to as "Wabba-wabba."

In my case with burgers, I slap it down on what I know is the hottest part of the grill, then close the lid. After about 5 minutes I check on it. What I am specifically looking for is when the bulging little strings of meat that make up the burger are starting to show a cooked color (brownish grey) on the top of the patty while the swelling caused by the cooking burger starts causing the little valleys between the meat "strings" to appear pink, sometimes even with little droplets of blood forced out by the cooking. At this point I check how long it has been on, then flip the burger.

What I do next varies depending whether I intend to put cheese on it. If not, just let it cook about 3/4ths the amount of time it cooked on the first side. In a 2/3rds inch patty this is about 6 minutes on the first side and 4 to 5 minutes after flipping. Again with the lid closed when not tending. This is medium rare.

If cheese is to be added you'll want to flip an extra time because the side that is cooked first has a flatter profile than the side cooked after flipping (cheese will want to slide off the "more curved" side). You want to cook the burger about 3 to 4 minutes after flipping, then flip it again, add the cheese cover and grill another minute and a half to melt the cheese.

Another hint... when plating the cheeseburger put the BOTTOM of the bun on the cheesy side of the burger. If you leave it cheese side up the condiments have a hard time sticking and tend to slip off. Put the burger cheese side down then add the onions, catsup etc to the "cheeseless" side. I find the onions act as sort of a loose "sponge," helping to retain the drizzle of worcestershire and catsup.

More recently Ive discovered the absolutely best burger condiment is Hoboken Eddie's Mean Green Hotsauce.

I guess I'm obsessing here... :unsure:
=Mark

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#11 Holly Moore

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Posted 13 February 2003 - 05:51 PM

You've got to start with good ground beef. That rules out the junk sold in supermarkets - sloppy, watery, low quality beef no matter what they promise. In Philadelphia I get mine at the Chef's market. Certified Angus, about 15 percent fat content. Actually I prefer 18-20% but haven't found that here-abouts.

Yes to cast iron - nice and hot before the burger goes on. I've never tried the "red blood cell" technique - I just hand form the patty - use my Pelouze portion scale to keep it at 4 - 5 ounces. I'm not one for 8 - 10 oz megaburgers. Can't consistently cook them and too cumbersome to eat. Rather have a couple of 4 oz burgers.

I use a restaurant caliber spatula - sturdy thickness, sharpish edge. If I'm using a griddle instead of a frying pan, I take the Steak and Shake approach - make a ball, throw it on the griddle, and flatten it out with the spatula. Probably doesn't change the end product, but it's fun and showy when one has an audience.

I'll either use french style dinner rolls or Metropolitan whole grain, whole wheat bread. I like it better untoasted. Some iceburg lettuce too. Something about the synergy betwen hamburger grease and iceberg lettuce. Jersey tomatoes in season, not tomatoes out of season, and a sharp, non-vidalia onion. The cheese needs to have a kick - very aged cheddar or a strong bleu. Maybe some mustard. I've still got some factory mustard (formulated for sardines) from Raye's mustard mill in Eastport, Maine.

And e-coli be damned. Never more than a true medium rare.
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#12 jaybee

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Posted 13 February 2003 - 05:54 PM

I've developed an appreciation for a a mixture of ground brisket and ground chuck, about 1/3 : 2/3 ratio. The brisket adds a real beefiness and handles the fat in the chuck well.

Edited by jaybee, 13 February 2003 - 06:00 PM.


#13 Holly Moore

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Posted 13 February 2003 - 05:58 PM

I've developed an appreciation for a a mixture of ground brisket and gound chuck, about 1/3 : 2/3 ratio.  The brisket adds a real beefiness and handles the fat in the chuck well.

The original McDonald's formula (don't know what it is nowadays) was 80 percent chuck and 20% flank, which is close to brisket. Chuck for fat content/juiciness, flank for flavor.
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#14 tommy

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Posted 13 February 2003 - 06:06 PM

I've developed an appreciation for a a mixture of ground brisket and ground chuck, about 1/3 : 2/3 ratio.  The brisket adds a real beefiness and handles the fat in the chuck well.

i did this (or something similar) last night, on your previous recommendations. 1/2 lb brisket. 1/2 lb sirlion. 1 lb chuck. in the food processor. i was pleased with both the texture and the flavor. :laugh: the cooking method, however, left a lot to be desired...and that's why i'm on this thread.

i think for sure that a thinner patty is the way to go, rather than a fat one at least. although a fat burger is romantic, i've had horrible results. :hmmm: like stone, i've had (nicely) charred outsides, but raw and cold insides. cast iron grill pan for sure, however.

Edited by tommy, 13 February 2003 - 06:14 PM.


#15 jaybee

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Posted 13 February 2003 - 06:12 PM

I've developed an appreciation for a a mixture of ground brisket and ground chuck, about 1/3 : 2/3 ratio.  The brisket adds a real beefiness and handles the fat in the chuck well.


i think for sure that thinner patty is the way to go, rather than a fat one at least. although a fat burger is romantic, i've had horrible results. :hmmm: like stone, i've had (nicely) charred outsides, but raw and cold insides. cast iron grill pan for sure, however.

I agree. 1/2 pound is about as big as you want to go, and you don't want it too thick--maybe 3/4". 1/4 pounders tend to cook too fast using my method, since I like a rare middle, unless you make a rounder patty, sort of like a somewhat flattened baseball.

The mavens also say that you don't want to compress the meat too much, but to form it loosely into the right shape. This helps cooking and juciness. My experience says they are right.

#16 awbrig

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Posted 13 February 2003 - 06:21 PM

do you typically season with anything except salt and pepper?

Alwasys looking for great ideas with burgers...

I use Emeril Essence and think that works fairly well...not too saltly like a garlic salt or Lawrys Season Salt...

#17 hjshorter

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Posted 13 February 2003 - 06:42 PM

I've had success with Alton Brown's method. He uses 1/2 chuck and 1/2 sirloin, about 5 ounces per burger.

Click here

I like medium rare, so 4 mins per side is as long as I cook it, and I make a fairly flat patty to avoid the hockey puck result.
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#18 Jinmyo

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Posted 13 February 2003 - 06:44 PM

I use Emeril Essence and think that works fairly well...not too saltly like a garlic salt or Lawrys Season Salt...

Oh jebus, awbrig. You shouldn't have admitted to using Essence. :shock: You're dead meat now. :sad:
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#19 awbrig

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Posted 13 February 2003 - 06:46 PM

I like essence on burgers and thats about it, oh, unless i am searing Foie Gras...I tend to bam it on that too :smile:

#20 Rail Paul

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Posted 13 February 2003 - 06:51 PM

I prefer to cook burgers outside, on the grill, whenever possible, but...

I always roll the burger in a mix of spices (jalapeno powder, comino, oregano, etc). Holly, Elyse and Jaybee hit the big points (good beef, super hot cast iron, burger not too thick). I add just one more: cover the skillet when cooking the first side. The steam, grease, and retained heat provides a very rapid cooking effect.

remove the top after 2-3 minutes, let the side crisp a bit, flip the burger, and finish. Cheese in the center works nicely, blue cheese crumbs work very well.
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#21 pixelchef

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Posted 13 February 2003 - 09:17 PM

Do you guys add anything else to your burger mix (egg, seasoning, etc?)

#22 jaybee

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Posted 13 February 2003 - 09:34 PM

Do you guys add anything else to your burger mix (egg, seasoning, etc?)

I never do, except I sometimes put salt inside the patty when I am forming it. This distributes the salt throughout the meat more evenly. But now I have this delicious gray Fleur de Sel with large crystals that I love to sprinkle on top if i haven't salted it. I like to have a slice of sweet onion and good tomato, but often eat it as a side, since the tomato makes the bun all mushyand the onion often slides out and falls on my lap. :biggrin: I do like ketchup on my burgers, but sometimes switch to dijon mustard.

Jeez this is getting me hungry.

#23 Jason Perlow

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Posted 13 February 2003 - 09:40 PM

I use Emeril Essence and think that works fairly well...not too saltly like a garlic salt or Lawrys Season Salt...

Oh jebus, awbrig. You shouldn't have admitted to using Essence. :shock: You're dead meat now. :sad:

Fundamentally there is nothing wrong with the composition of Emeril's seasoning mixes. I'm partial to "Joe's Stuff" though, which is a creole/cajun spice mix that comes from New Orleans School of Cooking. Tony Chachere's and Zatarain's works well too.

Joe's Stuff (click)


Posted Image
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#24 jaybee

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Posted 13 February 2003 - 09:44 PM

I use Emeril Essence and think that works fairly well...not too saltly like a garlic salt or Lawrys Season Salt...

Oh jebus, awbrig. You shouldn't have admitted to using Essence. :shock: You're dead meat now. :sad:

Fundamentally there is nothing wrong with the composition of Emeril's seasoning mixes. I'm partial to "Joe's Stuff" though, which is a creole/cajun spice mix that comes from New Orleans School of Cooking. Tony Chachere's and Zatarain's works well too.

Joe's Stuff (click)


Posted Image

Yeah, if you want o make meat loaf that's fine. But it ain't a burger to me with that stuff in/on it.

#25 Stone

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Posted 13 February 2003 - 09:46 PM

Fundamentally there is nothing wrong with the composition of Emeril's seasoning mixes.

Yeah, it's not much different from other spice mixtures I've seen. But it is Emeril. That said, nothing goes into hamburger meat. (I think salt changes the texture a bit, but only a 7.5 palate could tell.)

(Hey, JB, quick, take the picture out of the quote. Don't you read the guidelines?)

Edited by Stone, 13 February 2003 - 09:48 PM.


#26 Jason Perlow

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Posted 13 February 2003 - 09:47 PM

I was referring to the spice itself, not for its specific use in burgers.

I prefer my burger meat unspiced.
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#27 Jason Perlow

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Posted 13 February 2003 - 09:51 PM

Fundamentally there is nothing wrong with the composition of Emeril's seasoning mixes.

Yeah, it's not much different from other spice mixtures I've seen. But it is Emeril. That said, nothing goes into hamburger meat. (I think salt changes the texture a bit, but only a 7.5 palate could tell.)

Its rather sad that Emeril has such a negative connotation now. In the mid-90's I went to New Orleans a few times for various computer shows and had the pleasure of eating at Emerils. I even sat at the chef's table once, and the food WAS good. Some of the best I've had in that city.

The man did have talent, and didnt get his reputation at his place and at Commanders Palace for nothing, you know. Its just that he's devolved into this way-out-there bombastic personality for Food TV and we barely get to see that side of him anymore. As to the quality of his restaurants nowadays, I have no idea.
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#28 elyse

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Posted 14 February 2003 - 05:46 PM

I'm on the purist's side with burgers too. Salt and pepper, no bun, no lettuce, no tomato. Ketchup sometimes if I'm home. But seriously, try the cheese run-off thing sometime. It's sooo good.

Might be important, my stove flame doesn't get that hot, so it's highest might be lower than other people's. Don't need the oven or a cover. Spatter guard if I happen to have one.

#29 Jason Perlow

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Posted 14 February 2003 - 05:57 PM

I'm on the purist's side with burgers too.  Salt and pepper, no bun, no lettuce, no tomato.  Ketchup sometimes if I'm home.  But seriously, try the cheese run-off thing sometime.  It's sooo good.

Might be important, my stove flame doesn't get that hot, so it's highest might be lower than other people's.  Don't need the oven or a cover.  Spatter guard if I happen to have one.

But this is more along the lines of a chopped steak, not a burger. A burger I think implies that its a sandwich.

Mind you, I love a good chopped steak, especially one at a good diner or a reputable steakhouse, with good fried onions and sauteed mushrooms. Sometimes with a mushroom gravy or steak sauce on the side.

A chopped steak should be mostly if not entirely sirloin though.
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#30 tommy

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Posted 14 February 2003 - 06:30 PM

But this is more along the lines of a chopped steak, not a burger. A burger I think implies that its a sandwich.

jason, if you have the time and feel :laugh: comfortable, how would you :hmmm: consider $30 of truffles, and $10 of foie gras, playing a part in a "burger," in any generally accepted sense of the word. considering the ingredients, replies in french would be greatly appreciated.

for me, chop some meat, grill it, and enjoy. i rather like that, even with truffles. :laugh: