What Makes Restaurant Burgers Taste Different From Homemade Burgers?

U.S. research company NPD Group reports that burgers are the most popular sandwich item ordered at restaurants. That's a trend spotted across the world, according to The Washington Post, where even the gastronomically exacting French have a weak spot for le hamburger.

While a burger sandwich seems like a simple item to master for the home cook, per Fine Cooking, grinding the meat changes the way it cooks — so steak is actually easier to get right at home than the humble burger.

To Ben Turley, co-owner of the Brooklyn butcher shop The Meat Hook, a bad homemade burger begins with bland beef. He laments to GQ that 85% of the beef used at home — and even in restaurants — are from the same four companies, and claims that their factory farming methods and choice of meat cuts leads to dull and flavorless burgers.

Factory-farmed cows are fattened with items like corn and sugar, leading to a sweet meat. Grass feeding, Turley claims, enhances the umami. (In fact, according to Beef Magazine, when you taste umami, you are tasting the breakdown of proteins into amino acids.)

Getting homemade burgers to taste like a restaurant's

Beyond umami, there are a few things you can do to get your homemade burgers to taste closer to those served at restaurants. For one, you'll want to look for the right blend and texture.

Speaking with First We Feast, The Meat Hook's head butcher Tom Mylan recommends a blend that's 30% fat for medium to medium-rare burgers. He eschews expensive cuts, preferring to pay more attention to the fat content, and he recommends resisting the urge to slap the patties when forming — that just overworks the meat, which dries out the burger.

Restaurant burgers also control the temperature. Fine Cooking says cooking burgers on high heat is best, but not for long. There's a fine line between browned and burned and you do not want to cross it. Start your home burgers at high heat to get that all-important sear, then move to a lower heat to cook through.

The Daily Meal, meanwhile, claims that the right kitchen tools can also elevate your homemade burger game to restaurant-level, pointing out that flat top griddles, with their consistent temperature, make the best cooking surface. For home cooks, if you don't have a griddle, a cast iron pan mimics the griddle's temperature regulation.

Pressing the meat immediately when it hits the hot surface keeps the sear even while locking in the juice for that restaurant taste. For example, the smash burger technique is the preferred method of Shake Shack, the key to their irresistible burgers. Finally, to keep the tasty bits on the caramelized crust, scrape it off with a sharp-blade spatula.