It doesn’t matter if they’re cooked on the stovetop or grill – burgers are yummy. They’re tender, juicy and flavorful, plus the fact that you can take them out and munch on while you’re on a road trip makes it a go-to meal.
Sometimes, when you make your own burgers at home, they turn out to be tough and dry. Or sometimes, they just don’t have the rich and meaty flavor you expected. Then there are times that they taste flat and well… they’re just plain disappointing.
Next time, take care and avoid these common blunders in making your own burger.
1. You forgot to prepare the grill.
A dirty grill is not just gross – it can ruin the beautiful shape of burger patties by causing it to stick to the grill and fall apart. Also, choosing the right grill will ensure the quality of the burger. Why not choose the right grill when you can? The charcoal fuel one brings out the most delicious flavor and you also need one that is portable enough to take it everywhere.
If you didn’t clean the grill on your last cooking, bring it to low heat and scrape the old, crusty bits of food with a grill brush. Use tongs to wipe the rack with a lightly oiled paper towel.
Cleaning the grill might be no fun at all, but if you want your burgers to come off the grates cleanly and smoothly, you must consider doing it more often.
2. Your pan is not hot enough.
The pan or griddle you’re using must be at the point of smoking while your burger cooks. If it is not hot enough, it will surely cause the patties to stick to the bottom, and it will create a crust on the outside of the burger. The burgers must be seared, not steamed, and you should see a dark brown sear on the underside of the patty. If not, the burger will look gray and will lack the salty, crusty flavour of a nicely cooked patty.
3. You’re using the wrong meat.
There’s a time and place perfect for lean, expensive cuts of meats. Filet mignon and steak may be gloriously delicious with lean meat, but it doesn’t mean you do the same for burgers. The secret for a juicy and good tasting burger is to use ground chuck meat with 15 to 20% fat. The fat is essential for adding flavour and holding the patty together. Without fat, the burger will be dry.
The best option would be freshly ground chuck beef. Ground sirloin is better for bolognese, shepherd’s pie and lasagna. You may see pre-formed burger patties at your local grocery store, but we recommend you to build your own patties with the ground beef so that you can have total control of its flavorings and ingredients.
4. You have been too rough with the meat.
Okay, so you’ve used ground chuck beef with some fat. But trust us, the way the meat is handled can also affect the taste and texture of burger (By the way, touching them with dirty hands is a different story).
When forming the patties, handle the meat as little as possible. Skip the use of wooden spoons or any kitchen tool to stir them. Simply dampen your clean hands and lightly use them to clump the meat until it holds together just enough for it not to fall apart. Packing the meat too tightly can result into hard, dense burgers no one would love. Resist the temptation to shape them thoroughly to make perfectly round and flat patties. It’s not important. Your light touch and careful handling can make a tastier difference.
5. You didn’t put a dimple in the patty.
As proteins cook, they shrink and cause beef to curl up and form a dome. Once it happens, it would be hard to put toppings onto that. To make sure your burger stays flat-topped, just make dimples in the center of the burger. Use one finger to press down the center of the meat mound and make it thinner than the outer edge. Don’t overdo it though – a shallow indentation will do the trick. This would keep the meat from bulging up while being cooked.
6. You’re not seasoning it just right.
By right, we mean right kind, right amount and right time. A burger deserves good flavour, but it doesn’t mean you need to put sautéed onions, cumin, garlic powder, paprika, taco seasoning and all other custom seasonings. The only seasoning you need is salt and pepper.
Once you have formed the patties, generously put the seasoning duo right before throwing them on the pan or grill. Put the patties to the grill with the seasoned side down. After flipping, season the other side. Yes, that’s the optimal time to season them – just right before you’re ready to cook them. Doing so would bring flavorful and tender burger patties.
You might be thinking, does it really make a difference? Since salt naturally pulls moisture from food, adding them too early would dry them out. Premature seasoning would affect the texture of your patties, creating gummier meat strands that would result to denser burgers. Plus, if you would add the salt to the meat mixture before you form them only means that you would have to handle it more to make sure the salt is well-distributed. Since we talked about being too rough with the meat, you know what this means.
7. You kept on flipping the patties while it cooked.
While it is tempting to keep nudging and poking and flipping those patties while you’re simply standing there, cooking, you should know that burgers don’t need them. Moving your patty a lot of times means that it would never get enough time to form a crisp crust. It might also end up falling apart. Let your patty sit on the grill untouched for at least three minutes before you rotate and flip it. Then do the same for the other side. If you like a them cooked to medium of doneness, cook them for about four to five minutes per side.
Doing this ensures that the hot spots on the stove or grill would hit all parts of the burgers. If you’re unsure if you need to start flipping, you can insert a meat thermometer to check.
8. You used the wrong buns.
First you need to consider the size of the buns. It’s a depressing eating experience when you take the first bite out of a burger and then you realize it’s all bread, no meat. The best remedy for that is to shape the patty according to the size of your buns to be used.
You might also be tempted to use fancier bread like whole grain or crusty rolls for a burger, but it doesn’t blend nicely to the taste. The classic soft bun with sesame seeds on top is still the best choice.
9. You neglected the other essentials.
A great-tasting patty is important, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to take care of its other components. Like for example, the cheese. Adding cheese to burger patties prematurely will melt it down before the meat has actually finished cooking. Adding cheese right after you’ve taken the patty off the heat would make the burger taste a little bit depressing. It would be perfect if you would add the cheese on top of the patty for the last minute or two of cooking, for a nice and gooey effect on the burger.
Meanwhile, it’s better if the buns would be toasted on a buttered pan for about a minute. Keep your pickles, lettuce, onions and tomatoes super fresh by keeping them cold. FYI many of these tips also apply if you are cooking via char-broil as well.