If you thought the end of summer meant the end of burger season, think again – as one of the nation’s favourite foods, and a perennial menu staple, every season is burger season. However this week is extra special for anyone with a passion for patties, as 31 August is National Burger Day. National Burger Day.
And to celebrate, we’ve assembled the top expert tips for creating the perfect burger...
Get the meat to fat ratio right
It’s literally the most important aspect of a good burger. Ideally your meat will have an 80 percent meat to 20 percent fat split – that’s the magic ratio for burgers that melt in your mouth without falling apart in your hands.
If you’re looking for something a little more health conscious (though let’s face it, how health conscious can a burger really be?), using ground sirloin will give you a roughly 90/10 meat and fat split – a leaner if less flavourful option.
Grind your own meat
Labour intensive yes, but doing it yourself makes it easier to ensure you get the all-important aforementioned meat to fat ratio. It’s also cheaper pound for pound to buy whole cut meat than ground meat, and you can be totally sure there are no less than desirable cow parts in there…
Chuck (beef shoulder) is the cut of meat you want, with a coarse grind for the best burger texture. And if grinding your own isn’t an option ask a local butcher to freshly grind a whole cut for you.
Keep everything cold
If your burger isn’t suitably chilled it’s liable to fall apart on the grill. Warm fat is soft and sticky and a room temperature patty is likely to make a right old mess.
Get your hands wet
When putting your patties together make sure you wet your hands first, to stop the meat from sticking to them and making the patty making process something out of a horror film.
Unless a tough burger is your aim, be delicate when shaping and handling your patties – you want to keep those delicious meat juices intact and the more you work the patty the less of them there’ll be.
The thumb’s the thing
You’ve likely heard this one before… because it’s legit. Burgers are best enjoyed with toppings like cheese and salad, so you’ll want to keep the surface flat. By placing a small thumb indent in the middle of the raw patty you’ll prevent the centre from rising above the rest of the burger and keep your perfect line intact.
Be careful with your seasoning
The short version – don’t season your burger till the patty is fully formed. The long version – salt will dissolve the muscle proteins in your meat and you’ll be left with a springy patty more bouncing ball than burger.
Use the right tools
A well stocked kitchen is an advantage when it comes to preparing the perfect burger. Making sure to use different utensils for raw and cooking meat, you’ll need a spatula for the initial pressing, tongs for careful turning and moving the patty, and a cooking brush to….
Coat your burger in butter
Whilst many experts argue that a burger’s own fat is enough for it to cook in, there’s also a sizable camp who swear by coating the patty with a modest amount of butter before putting it in the pan or on the grill. Gordon Ramsey has even gone as far to suggest adding butter to the patty mixture for added flavour.
Turn up the heat
When cooking burgers the pan needs to literally be smoking hot. At least 200°C.
Pick the perfect temperature
How long you leave your burgers to cook depends on how you or your customer or whoever you’re cooking for likes it. What’s really key here is the burger’s temperature – 49°C for a practically still mooing, rare burger, 54°C for the celebrated and pink medium-rare variety, and 60°C for perfect medium.
A medium-well burger will be 66°C, and a well done one 71°C – though most chefs will be balking at the very idea of that.
Finesse your bread options
Your choice of burger bun is nearly as important as the burger itself, and the perfect bun is one that encompasses the meat entirely without drowning it, is soft enough to bite through without falling to pieces and with a delicious but delicate flavour that doesn’t overshadow that of the burger itself.
For these reasons brioche is the current go-to – a soft yet sturdy choice with a light consistency perfect for soaking up all the meat juice. Potato buns are another staple of the burger connoisseur because they don’t break or get soggy, instead sticking to the burger, melding together and making it easier to eat.
It’s the chef’s kiss finishing touch, but which variety to go for? Cheddar is the classic option for a reason – in terms of flavour it can hold its own against beef, but without overpowering it and it has the perfect consistency for pairing with bread. Monterey Jack is the ideal choice if you want a gooey burger, because it melts very easily, whilst food snobs will enjoy the luxurious texture of brie atop their patty.
Lettuce, tomato, ketchup, mustard, bacon, onions. All optional. The best burgers don’t need bells and whistles to make them memorable…
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