1. GRIND YOUR OWN BEEF – Grind your own beef, and not only do you control everything from the meat blend, to the grind size, to the fat content, but even better, you get to tell people that you grind your own beef.
2. KEEP EVERYTHING REALLY COLD – Until your burgers are fully formed, heat is their mortal enemy. Warm fat is soft and pliable, and tends to stick to your hands and work surfaces. And if that fat’s on your hands, then its not in the burger.
3. WEIGH AND SIZE YOUR PATTIES – Weighing your meat as you divide it and measuring your patties as you form them will ensure that all your burgers will be uniform in shape and size, which in turn will guarantee that they all cook at the same rate.
4. USE A THERMOMETER
- 120°F and below for rare (red/raw in the center
- 130°F for medium-rare (pink and warm)
- 140°F for medium (totally pink, starting to dry out)
- 150°F for medium-well (grayish pink, significantly drier)
- 160°F and above for well done (completely gray, very little moisture)
5. SEASON LIBERALLY- No matter how carefully you select your meat blend, without salt and pepper, you’re better off dining with the King or the Clown, who, despite their significant shortcomings, at least understand the benefit of a little sodium chloride. Freshly ground black pepper from whole peppercorns is a must. It is far more flavorful than the insipid pre-ground powder.
6. DO NOT SALT BEEF UNTIL PATTIES ARE FORMED – do not salt your beef until the patties are formed. Salt will dissolve muscle proteins, which subsequently cross-link, turning your burgers from moist and tender to sausage-like and springy. The effect is dramatic.
7. FLIP YOUR BURGER AS OFTEN AS YOU’D LIKE – How many times have you read that you should only flip your burgers once while they are cooking? Don’t worry about it. It was recently proven that the nervous flippers are actually right. Flipping your burger repeatedly (as often as once every 15 seconds) encourages faster, more even internal cooking, shaving off as much as 1/3 of your grill time.
8. DON’T OVER HANDLE YOUR MEAT – Despite outward appearances, ground meat is not dead. From the moment you lay your hands on it, it is changing dynamically, reacting to every knead, every sprinkle of salt, and every change in temperature. Working the meat unduly will cause proteins to cross-link with each other like tiny strips of velcro, making your finished burgers denser and tighter with every manhandling of the grind.
9. CHOOSE YOUR BUN WISELY – Buns come in all shapes, sizes, densities, and flavors. Make sure you’ve got the right one for the job at hand.
10. DON’T LET ANYONE TELL YOU WHAT TO PUT ON IT – don’t let anyone tell you what should and shouldn’t go on your burger. If you want to go commando, do it with gusto. Do you like pecorino, pimentos, and peanut butter on your patties? Yes? Well, pile it on.