5 Ways to Cook a Burger
Our country is burger obsessed. According to Eric Schlosser’s book, Fast Food Nation, American’s eat about 13 billion hamburgers per year while spending over 130 billion dollars on fast food. While we don’t think the burger craze is going away anytime soon, you can take the “junk” out of your food by making more of those burgers at home. Always start with fresh, top-quality, natural ingredients, like our Kobe-Style Wagyu Ground Beef then choose from one of our five favorite cooking methods below, for perfect burgers every time.
Chef’s note: Hamburger patties cook relatively fast so you should have your burger mise en place ready before the meat hits the heat.
Pan-frying is a great method for cooking burgers using minimal time while achieving maximum flavor. A super hot, dry skillet allows the burger to quickly develop a flavorful outer crust without overcooking the interior, keeping the center juicy.
No special equipment is needed, just a shallow fry pan or skillet, large enough to hold all of your patties without crowding and a wide spatula for gentle turning. A spatter screen is recommended but not mandatory.
Start by turning on your exhaust fan then preheat a dry pan over maximum flame until just smoking. The patty should make a sharp sizzle sound when it hits the surface. Now here’s the hard part… don’t touch it! Let the patty develop a nice sear without poking, nudging or squishing! When ready, the burger should be gently turned, just once. After your desired temperature is achieved, gingerly remove the patty and allow it to rest for 5 minutes, right on the bottom bun. The moisture will redistribute evenly throughout the burger and if you do lose any juice, the bun will soak it up.
The smashed burger technique was pioneered in the high-volume greasy-spoons and hamburger stands of the 1920s and 30s. Without having to hand-form patties, smashed burgers saved prep time as several golf-ball sized hunks of ground meat could be thrown onto a flattop griddle at once. Flattening a ball of ground beef on sizzling griddle resulted in a fully caramelized crust over the entire surface area.
To make classic smashed burgers at home, you need a cast-iron or other heavy-duty griddle or an extra-large skillet and a stiff spatula, preferable with a solid surface, not slatted.
Start by turning on your exhaust fan and preheating your griddle. The surface should be nearly smoking and water droplets should dance on the surface. Gently form golf-ball sized hunks of ground beef being careful not to handle it too much then season with coarse salt. Lay the balls gently onto the skillet leaving plenty of space between them. Cook for one minute, then turn the balls over and smash down firmly and evenly with your spatula to create very thin patties. Cook for another minute then flip again, top with cheese if you like and cook for about another minute before sliding onto buns.
Steamed hamburgers are a Northeast regional specialty, served up in luncheonettes and slider shacks since the 1940s. The patties are essentially steamed over a bed of onions on a griddle or cooked vertically in an old-fashioned steamer box. We recommend the former onion-steamed technique for the home cook.
All you need to make soft, steamed burgers or sliders at home is a cast-iron griddle or wide, shallow skillet and a spatula.
Preheat your griddle on medium-high. Place balls of seasoned ground meat onto the griddle and flatten into a patty with your spatula. Place a generous pile of thinly sliced raw onion on top. Cook for about a minute, depending on size. Carefully flip the patty over on top of the onions. Now is the time to add a slice of cheese if desired. Stack the buns on top of the patty, top bun first then bottom bun. This traps steam allowing the patty to cook through and softening the bread. When the burger is done the whole stack is lifted from the griddle and the bottom half of the bun is placed on the bottom of the patty. The result is a burger that despite being completely cooked through is soft, moist and fragrant with onion, on a pillow soft bun.
Broiling is a super easy technique for cooking burgers at home. The intense, direct heat gives the meat a flavorful crust on the outside while sealing in juices. As a bonus, if you use a proper broiling pan, the extra fat will drip away from the meat.
Use of a broiling pan or lipped sheet tray is ideal when broiling hamburgers. Don’t forget the spatula!
Set your oven rack in the top position and preheat your broiler to its highest setting. When forming your patties for broiling (or grilling) it’s important to make a dimple or imprint in the center. When exposed to direct heat not only from below or above but also on its sides, the edges of the patty shrink, cinching the burger and compressing its interior up and out. A simplesmoosh with your fingers remedies this. Next, season your patties, place on the broiling pan. In the oven, the tops of patties should be positioned 3 to 4 inches below the heating elements or flame. Broil for 3 minutes until the top is well browned then flip patties and continue to broil until your burgers reach desired temperature.
Besides the grill itself, you’ll need charcoal (we recommend natural lump charcoal), vegetable oil for oiling the grate and a metal spatula. A chimney starter, wood chips and meat thermometer are optional items but very useful.
Always start with clean grates. Preheat to high and oil the grates using a folded paper towel held with tongs. A good way gauge if your grill is ready (once your flame has died down and coals have ashed) is to hold your palm about 6 inches above the cooking grate – if you can stand it for no more than 2 seconds, it’s high heat. When forming your patties for the grill, be sure to employ the dimple technique described above. Generously season patties on both sides then place on the grill. Don’t even think about squishing the burgers down or poking at them. Your burger’s juices will end up on the coals not in the patty. Excess fat will drip down during cooking and may cause flare-ups. Covering the grill with the lid for a second or using a spray bottle of water will help. Flip once during cooking and cook to desired doneness – think 2 to 4 minutes per side for medium-rare.