Best Burgers: The Patty

I had a couple good burgers on that road trip of mine, and came back just before Memorial Day, which is a big day for grilling. I got a tip on cooking steaks, but neglected to ask for any burger secrets, so I got together with a couple friends to discover them on our own on one of the grilling-est days of the year.

Burgers on the Grill

We  realized that with only three of us to eat the results of  our experiments, we couldn’t investigate all possible variables in hamburger making, but we got started with seasoning, patty formation, and fat content of the beef. We began to test cooking methods, trying to vary whether flipping once vs. flipping multiple times would be better, but all of our burgers proved a lot to track (here’s a picture of us trying to keep it all straight), so we’re planning another round to test that cooking variable, as well as others, such as how directly they’re exposed to the coals.

Burger Tracking

We purchased ground beef at 80%, 90%, and 95% lean to test which made the most satisfying burger (I can’t — we had a definite bias going into that one. We seasoned them with various spices, and included chopped onions in some. In the process of seasoning, we handled some burger patties more than others, which we had all heard can affect the end product. The tip has always been to handle the beef as little as possible, so as not to compact it, but on the ones with the onions were handled quite a bit. We also made the patties different thicknesses.

So what makes the best burgers? Drum roll please….

  • 80% lean ground beef. No, I’m not surprised either to find that once again, more fat makes things better. The 80% burgers had the best flavor and texture.
  • Thicker patties. The thicker burgers were moister and seemed meatier.
  • Seasoning.
And what doesn’t seem to make a difference?
  • How much you handle the beef. I’m sure if you really got to kneading it that you’d start to see a difference, but we found that the hand mixing required to incorporate onions and seasonings
Our next agenda item is to test varying cooking styles and techniques and see how they affect the perfect patty we’ve discover: a nice, thick patty, seasoned with onions and love, and made with 80% lean beef. Stay tuned for our next barbecue!

One response to “Best Burgers: The Patty

  1. It does make a difference if you really knead the heck out of ground beef. I do that when I make kefta (though I do it in the food processor.) But it is good to know that the hand mixing for burgers doesn’t really make that much difference –I appreciate the research on that!

    Here’s another idea: How about grinding your own beef? Compare sirloin to chuck, etc. We’ve been grinding our own for a couple of years now and love it. I use an attachment on the Kitchenaide standing mixer, and kick myself everytime for turning down my step-mother’s old-fashioned grinder that attached to the kitchen table.

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