by Amanda Goetz
Have you ever had a burger in a restaurant and as you were eating it you thought to yourself (or shouted out loud with your mouth still full) “Shut the front door! This burger is amazing! Why don’t my burgers at home taste this good?” Well folks, I’m going to tell you right now why and how you can make your backyard barbeque the envy of the neighbourhood.
The first step to an amazing burger is the beef. Restaurants (the good ones) that serve the best burgers go right to the source and order beef from a local farm. Fresh beef that was pasture raised and pasture fed is going to give you the best burger. “But I live in the city” you say. I know not everyone has access to a farm like I do (living in the country has it’s perks… but I do miss shopping and Starbucks quite a bit) but even big cities have farmer’s markets and butchers. Visit a market or find a butcher that gets their meat from the nearest agricultural area to your city and you’ll get some fresh, great tasting beef. (I’m not knocking grocery stores at all, if that’s what’s convenient for you just look for the meat with the latest expiration date or ask the in-store butcher which day they receive their meat order and buy it that day.)
A big mistake people make is buying lean ground beef. Everyone has become quite health and fat conscious (which is great in most cases!) and buy lean ground beef because it’s healthier. Yes it is healthier, but it doesn’t make a good burger. Lean ground beef is great for pasta sauces, meat loaf, casseroles and tacos, but when it comes to burgers a lean to fat ratio of 70/30 is best. Lean ground beef cooks faster than medium and doesn’t have enough fat to keep the burger juicy, the result is an overcooked, dry burger. Now you’re sitting there and thinking “But medium ground beef is so fatty!”. That’s the joy in grilling, most of the fat drips away on the grill leaving just enough to keep the burger moist without making you feel like you’re eating a burger that’s been deep fried.
Once you have the right beef it’s just a matter of not committing these burger sins:
1. Do NOT mix in a bunch of “stuff”. If you want a burger that tastes restaurant quality don’t mix in eggs, onions, bread crumbs or whatever else you might be tempted to throw in there (a relative of mine puts in so much Worchestershire sauce it’s ALL you taste). It’s a burger, not a meatball. Restaurant burgers are beef, pure and simple. A friend asked me “well how do they stick together?!”, that’s where the medium ground beef does the trick. There’s enough fat content to make the beef hold together well. Shape the meat into burger patties making them about 1/4-1/2 an inch bigger than your buns as medium ground beef shrinks up a bit when it cooks. Bobby Flay has a great tip of pressing into the centre of the patty making a bit of a depression as burgers collect their juices in the centre and puff up making them rounded when they cook. The depression ensures a nice flat burger and not a baseball.
2. Do NOT throw every spice in your spice rack on your burgers. Restaurants season with salt and pepper, occasionally a wee bit of garlic powder, but if you stick with the S & P you’re going to have a great burger. I like to use seasoned salt personally, which a lot of restaurants use, and I use fresh-cracked black pepper.
3. Do NOT press down on the burger! I can not stress this one enough! Pressing down squishes out ALL the fat which will result in a dry burger. Most people press down to cook the beef faster (what’s the rush?) or to flatten out a puffy burger, use Bobby Flay’s trick, trust me.
4. Do NOT overcook your burger. A 1/4lbs burger only takes 3-5 minutes per side (depending on your cooking temperature) . If your beef is fresh a little pink is okay, but if you prefer a fully cooked burger use a meat thermometer (if you cut in all the juices run out, and you’re back to dry burger). The internal temperature of a burger should be 160˚F.
5. Once the burger is cooked let it rest off the grill, lightly covered in tin foil for 2 minutes so the juices re-distribute.
Following these tips will give you burgers that are juicy, fresh-tasting and comparable to even the best burger joints. Top it with your favourite toppings and enjoy!
Amanda Goetz is a WAHM to 3 kids under the age of 5. Her love of cooking was fostered when she was a preschooler helping her grandma in the kitchen. After a year long stint as a sous chef, she left the industry to continue cooking as a hobby before the stress and politics of a professional kitchen killed her love of cooking. Now she creates delicious dinners and delectable desserts for her family and friends and blogs about it at The Best Mom on the Block.