Common mistakes to make a perfectly wrong burger.
1. You’re buying the wrong lean to fat ratio
And so: your burgers aren’t tasty
Too often I go to barbecues and the burgers are dry and overcooked. This is typically due to people opting for 90% lean to 10% fat ratio ground beef. The optimal percentages are 80% lean to 20% fat. One thing to note, finding the 80/20 ratio is difficult in Hawaii and many times I see 85/15 ratios. If that's your only option, by all means, go for it. Fat is flavor. We are making a burger people, not a kale salad- stop trying to make it healthy.
2. You're buying cheap meat
And so: you’re nervous about eating or serving rare or medium rare
My personal temperature preference on a burger is rare to medium rare, but if you're buying cheap meat from your local grocery chain where it’s been sitting for half a week in the case of shrink-wrapped, pre-pattied ground beef - it can get a little dicey. If you can afford going to a butcher, have them ground it while you wait- it will make a huge difference. Butcher & Bird grinds their meat daily so that's a great option too.
3. You’re adding anything other than salt and pepper (which should be done just before cooking) to the meat
And so: you’re not even making a burger
The number one offense is adding anything like onions, eggs or herbs to the meat. You’re essentially making a meatloaf sandwich. With eggs especially because it limits the temperature to which you can serve your burgers. Unfortunately, I have found too many “burger” joints in Hawaii adding eggs to burgers. A telltale sign is when they only offer temperatures medium or higher. I find this blasphemous.
4. You’re adding salt to the meat before making patties
And so: your burgers are not tender
Don't salt your meat until you have finished making the patties and just before they go on the grill. Adding salt before making the patty will draw out the water in the meat and start to dissolve the proteins which makes them cling to each other. The finished texture will be springy like a sausage, not tender like a burger. Which leads us into number 5.
5. You’re over-handling the meat and packing your patties too tight
And so: your burgers have a tough rubbery texture
Another great way to get a tough texture is packing your patties into tight hockey pucks. The result will be a similar experience to chewing on one. Over-handling the meat causes the proteins to get worked up, making the burgers less tender. Form the patties just until you think they won’t fall apart while cooking. Keep in mind the proteins and fat will bond once they cook so you can pack them a lot looser than you think. No need to beat a dead cow.
6. You’re not making an indentation in your patties
And so: your burgers are not cooking evenly and becoming spherical
Burgers contract while cooking, causing the middle to puff up which makes for uneven cooking and a real b*tch to hold toppings. By making a small indentation in the middle of the patty your burgers will cook evenly, and be nice and flat.
7. You’re pressing the patties down while they cook
And so: your destroying all the flavor and juiciness of your burgers
The only acceptable reason to press your patties while cooking is if you are making a smash burger on a flat grill. Other than that, you are pressing all the delicious meat juice straight out of the burger. STOP!