Behold the homemade hamburger, hero of the easy summer meal. The key to getting great, juicy results every time? Step away from the grill and make friends with a heavy-bottomed, even-cooking skillet.
"You lose fat when you cook a burger directly on the grill," says TT Food Editor Andy Baraghani. "That leads to a dried-out patty with a charred exterior. The burger wants to be cooked in fat—it helps keep everything juicy and tender."
Start with a blend of three kinds of meat (sirloin, chuck and short rib). Salt freely and use a light touch when forming the patties—the goal is to keep the meat cold and not overwork it.
The gear: A cast-iron or any heavy-bottomed skillet holds heat evenly, allowing for a deep sear on the outside and a rosy-pink center. A metal spatula gives you more control than flimsy plastic versions. But don't get carried away: One flip only!
The meat: Under 20% fat: way too lean. Over 30%: gets too greasy and falls apart. We like a blend of equal parts sirloin, chuck and short rib that clocks in around 25% fat. Ask your butcher to grind everything twice—or blend at home if you happen to have a grinder attachment for your stand mixer.
A gentle touch: Mix the ground meat together loosely in a cold bowl. If you press the meat too tightly, you'll wind up with meatloaf—not a good look. Flatten the burgers on a smooth surface, not between your hands, and keep them about ¾-inch tall—any bigger and you'll end up with a well-done crust and undercooked interior.
Cold fridge, hot pan: The meat should be chilled when it hits the hot pan. This helps create that all-important sear.
Better toppings: Flash-macerate red onions in red wine vinegar to help cut their sharp bite. Sprinkle tomatoes with a touch of kosher salt to increase their juiciness. Spread a little of our Secret Sauce on the buns—it's made of pantry staples and comes together right quick.
Speaking of buns: No more calls, we have a winner—toasted Martin's potato rolls. The buns are marshmallow-soft yet able to hold their own against the juicy burger.
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