How to Build the Best Burger Ever, According to Professional Chefs

Here's what a chef, a food historian, and a butcher have to say about the perfect burger.

How to Build the Best Burger Ever
Photo: RealSimple.com

A lot has been said about how to achieve the perfect burger. The first step is to learn how to cook the most delicious beef patty. Then you need to figure out how you want to top it. Of course, there are options like the smash burger, which include toppings like ketchup, mayo, and chopped pickles. But what if you want to build a burger the old-fashioned way?

Recently we spoke to several experts who had some great burger tips to add to the conversation. Charles Michel, University of Oxford chef and food scientist, George Motz, author of The Great American Burger Book, and Bryan Mayer, Fleishers' director of butchery education, explain what makes a burger great. Here's what you need to do to build a burger like a professional.

Steps for the Perfect Burger

Grill 80 percent lean beef.

Prep your beef burger from scratch for the best results. To do this, select beef with an 80/20 ratio of beef to fat. You need that 20 percent fat to ensure the juiciest, most flavorful burger. Make about quarter-pound patties, store them in the fridge, and take them out just before cooking. Salt them then—no sooner.

Melt some American cheese.

You might be tempted to step out of the box when it comes to your cheese choice. However, the experts suggest sticking to what works. American cheese is engineered to melt perfectly and quickly. If you use fancy cheese, you run the risk of overcooking the burger while waiting for the slice to melt.

Opt for a hefty bun.

For a firm foundation, choose a potato bun—it’s essential for supporting juicy beef and its accouterments. You can also opt for a buttery brioche bun, though you'll miss out on some extra flavor. Try to avoid buns or rolls that are extra crispy and chewy, which defeats the purpose of creating an effortless burger-eating experience.

Load on classic toppings as desired.

Leave the fried egg or avocado dollop for breakfast or when you want to try out a smoky adobe burger. If you have a good beef patty, there’s no need to get too fancy with everything else. Instead, stick to the basics for a classic burger experience.

Optional but expert-approved toppings include:

  • A piece of lettuce
  • A slice of tomato
  • A bit of onion

Use mustard instead of ketchup.

Mustard works with the beef flavor profile, not against it. (Ketchup is too sweet to complement beef burgers.) Smear your favorite mustard on both the top and bottom buns.

Wrap up burgers until you serve them.

Wrapping burgers in parchment keeps them piping hot and helps them retain their juices.

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