Four ways to give your burgers the star treatment

Always be sure to give your patties the star treatment
There's a million ways to get creative with a good burger. Photo courtesy of Scott Holstein/Rowland Publishing File Photo


Ground beef was created as a way to employ the trimmings from butchering. It’s perfectly OK to use generic ground beef for tacos, meat sauce, sloppy joes and other preparations where spices and sauces are the focus. But when you’re making a hamburger, the patty is the star attraction. Treat it like a steak by following same guidelines for selecting, preparing and cooking.

  1. Start with a very good quality beef and cut of meat. The chuck shoulder is very good due to its natural percentage of meat to fat. View fat as both flavor and moisturizer. The key is to maintain an 80-20 meat-to-fat ratio with whatever you use. Other delicious cuts to use when creating a blend are brisket, short rib and sirloin. Grinding fresh is best, but don’t fret if you can’t.
  2. Like a steak, you want substance, so shoot for nicely formed, thick patties. Do not smash your burgers when forming or cooking. Hand form patties to warm the fat, which helps the meat become a homogenous mixture. This helps the patty stay together when cooking. Six ounces is a good overall weight. Loosely form a patty using a Tupperware or mayonnaise jar lid with a three-quarter to one-inch depth. It doesn’t need to be fancy, but it does need to be consistent for cooking reasons.
  3. Keep it simple when seasoning. Salt and pepper. Dress it up with a flavorful sauce, but don’t adulterate the meat.
  4. Cooking on a charcoal or gas grill (that has briquettes/coals) adds a smoky element that meat so deserves. The rendering fats drip on the hot coals and turns into smoke, thus flavoring the meat. A medium-high heat is needed to get a good sear. Too high of a heat can cause flare-ups that will char the exterior without cooking the interior. Once again, do not smash the burger when cooking unless you want a dry patty. Flip once the desired sear/crust is achieved.

Use an instant-read thermometer to judge interior temperature. I prefer an internal temperature of 135 degrees, which is medium. Cooking by time can be tricky due to a number of factors, including grill temperature, fat content of the meat and patty size. Cook by temperature, sight and touch.

David Gwynn is the chef/creator/owner of Vertigo Burger & Fries in Tallahassee, which earned Best Hamburger honors in Tallahassee Magazine’s Best of Tallahassee 2016 reader survey. If you want a great burger, but aren’t in the mood to fire up the grill, visit Vertigo’s two locations at 1370 Market St. and 1395 Lafayette St. Gwynn also owns Cypress, which has earned several Best of Tallahassee awards over the years as a fine dining and special occasion restaurant.

Categories: At Home, Cooking