5 Tips for the Perfect Burger

Memorial Day weekend already? That brings us to the essential question: What constitutes the perfect burger?
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Memorial Day weekend already? That brings us to the essential question: What constitutes the perfect burger?

For me, it starts with a live fire (preferably wood) to produce a perfectly charred, deftly seasoned crust and a juicy interior that contrasts perfectly with a soft, sturdy, buttered, grilled bun and a few well-curated condiments.

Below are 5 steps for attaining burger nirvana.

  1. Grind it fresh: Start with freshly-ground beef, preferably from a grass-fed steer. Use a meat grinder or a stand mixer fitted with a grinder attachment. For the best texture, almost freeze the meat before grinding; freeze the grinder parts, too. Use the coarse blade and grind the meat twice. Or ask your butcher to do it.

  • Blend the beef: Use chuck as your starting point, adding rich-flavored cuts like sirloin, brisket, even boneless short ribs. More outlandish additions can include beef marrow, bacon, or uncured pork belly. Experiment, and take notes so you can replicate your successes.
  • Chew the fat: A succulent burger needs fat--at least 20 percent. Don't worry--some of it will cook out.
  • Handle with care: Start with thoroughly chilled ground beef. Chill your hands under cold running water. Divide the meat into equal portions of 7 to 9 ounces each, then gently form into patties about 1 inch thick and 1 inch larger than the buns. (They'll shrink.) With your thumbs, make a shallow depression in the top of each burger. (Burgers puff more in the center.) Handle the patty as little as possible to avoid melting the fat or compressing the meat.
  • Chill out: Chill the patties for at least an hour before grilling. Line a large plate or a rimmed baking sheet with plastic wrap. Arrange the patties in a single layer, then cover with additional plastic wrap. Refrigerate for up to 6 hours.
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    Steven Raichlen is the author of the Barbecue! Bible cookbook series and the host of Primal Grill on PBS. His web site is