by Mike Bradley
A perfect burger is something many claim to have had, or heard of in their time. One of my favorite episodes of any show ever is from How I Met Your Mother. It chronicles the group’s journey to find a fabled burger, that sees Regis Philbin join the hunt. It amounts to a hilarious adventure and one to which many people can relate. To quote a clue from the show, “Your search is over.”
The perfect start to any burger is having the right meat to fat ratio. Most ground meat comes in ratios above 80/20 but the perfect burger is actually going to have a 70/30 ratio. This means making your own burger meat which I prefer anyways because of my preferred fat source. To start, I always use top round cuts of beef cut into small cubes. Butchering beef down isn’t too hard, just remember to cut with the grain and have scissors available for any tough fat or gristle. Next, cut up 24 ounces of bacon into small pieces and combine with the beef. Finally, put the mixture through the meat grinder to create your homemade ground beef mixture. For advice on using the grinder to create the ground beef mixture, refer to my Sweet Italian Sausage post.
I am obsessive about burgers, so I actually used our kitchen scale to weigh out half-pound portions of meat and form them into patties. It’s important to refrigerate the burgers for at least 4 hours so that they firm up and stay cohesive when you go to cook them later.
This next thing, I can’t emphasize enough – grill your burgers, cooking to medium doneness! Grilling beyond medium dries out the meat, which in my opinion is unappealing. I add a little salt and pepper to each burger and nothing else. Let the burger be what you and your guests taste. Trust me, the flavor of the burger meat is plenty.
Be sure to have tomato slices, lettuce, onion slices and pickles available for when the burgers finish. The perfect burger should be on a brioche bun, it’s the Cadillac of burger buns.
Just before taking the burgers off of the grill, add a slice of cheddar cheese to each. Put your burger onto the bun and add whatever toppings you desire – we used onion and tomato slices, lettuce and some pickles. When it comes to the ketchup, mayo or mustard debate… I don’t get involved. I personally like to add a little mayo and a little ketchup, but I won’t judge if you choose to go with any combination of the three.
The perfect burger may be some kind of mythic entity, but I say that it doesn’t have to be. Keep your toppings classic and simple. Gourmet burgers with fancy toppings are nice and can be a fantastic change of pace, but they don’t bring that classic burger taste with them. The most important part in setting your burger apart from the others is the proper meat to fat ratio and proper cooking.
The Perfect Burger Recipe
Yield: 11 Half-Pound Burgers*
- 4 lbs Top Round Beef
- 1 1/2 pounds bacon
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Brioche buns
- Cheddar slices
- Sliced Onion
- Sliced Tomato
- Pickle chips
- Condiments (ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise) to taste
- Cut beef into 1/2 to 1-inch cubes, and chop bacon into small pieces. Mix together by hand until the bacon is well distributed.
- Grind the beef and bacon mixture according to the instructions for your meat grinder.
- Form into half-pound burger patties. Cover lightly with cling wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours.
- Add a little salt and pepper on each side of your burger, then grill burgers at medium-high heat (about 400°F) to medium doneness.
- Add a touch of butter to the the inside of each half of the bun and briefly grill them, butter-side down, to add just a touch of char.
- Assemble burgers with your desired vegetables and condiments, and enjoy!
- You can decrease the beef and bacon to make less ground beef, but just ensure the ratio remains roughly the same (about 1/3 pound bacon to every 1 pound of beef).
- Burgers can be frozen in a freezer-safe zip top bag for 3 to 4 months. Thaw the burgers before cooking.
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