Good burgers start with good beef, but your recipe is probably pretty vague, only calling for “ground beef.” So how do you know where to start making the best burger? When it comes time to choose the best ground meat for your burger patties there are a few factors to consider:
Save your love of lean meat for another meal. Fat provides flavor and the necessary moisture when cooking over a hot grill. Without enough fat, your burgers will dry out quickly. Start with ground meat that is 80/20 or at least 85/15. You may even want to go as low as 70/30 for a really juicy burger.
Choose a cut
The high fat content requirement eliminate cuts like sirloin and round, which are far too lean to make a juicy burger. Beef chuck falls in the 15 to 20 percent (80/20) scale, and it has a rich flavor making it ideal for burgers. Choose ground chuck whenever possible. You can buy it in the pre-packaged meat section of most grocery stores.
CHOOSE THE GRIND
If you really want to up your burger game, ask a butcher to grind your chuck fresh. Local shops and most grocery stores are up to the task of special orders at no extra cost, plus they can make great recommendations. In most cases, butchers will recommend a coarse grind for you burger beef, giving your burger patties better texture. This means the meat is ground using plates with larger holes. Finer grinds can sometimes leave meat too mushy — not a desirable texture for a burger.
Form the patties
Mix ground meat with any additional ingredients like salt, pepper, chopped onions, or herbs — but don’t go overboard. Too many extras and your patty could fall apart on the grill when you turn it. Use your hands to gently pack the meat into patties, or use a burger press. Either way, do so lightly. Pressing too hard will produce a hard burger.
Mix meats in your recipe
Ground chuck is the best burger meat, but you don’t have to stop there. You can use that ground round or even turkey or chicken, but you should mix them with ground pork or another high fat meat to balance out the leanness. Whatever you use, try to achieve an approximate 80/20 mix.
Get your grill on
You’ve gone through all of this effort to make the most perfect patty — don’t mess it up now! Unlike steaks which can be sizzled to lower temperature and eaten medium-rare, burgers need to at least be cooked to medium-well or 150º-160ºF. (Invest in a meat thermometer if you don’t have one.) To reach this temperature without burning the exterior, cook on medium rather than high or use indirect heat.
Top it off
Treat your toppings right, and you’ll have pulled off the most perfect burger. Cheese should be added only during the last minute of cooking. Veggies taste best crisp, and bread should be fresh. Choose one or two condiments, but no more than three.
You can go all fancy with caramelized onions and fried eggs, but the best burger is one you know how to make well. So proceed with caution and only go with what you know you can pull off. After all, a good burger doesn’t impress with the number of complex ingredients. What’s most important is that you serve a beautiful crafted, juicy burger — no matter how basic.