Best. Burgers. EVER.
September 4th, 2010
01:00 AM ET
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All National Cheeseburger Day coverage

On Labor Day weekend, what better way to say goodbye to summer than with one last barbecue, and what says summer better than hamburgers? (Even for those of us who still use our grills deep into winter).

I’m not talking about those pre-made, pre-packaged, frozen-thawed-refrozen meat discs. I mean a real, honest-to-goodness, freshly-ground burger, the way nature intended.

Okay, I can hear you now: they’re too much work, they make too much of a mess, I don’t have the fancy equipment you need and besides, they taste as good as the burgers I make with that big lump of pre-ground meat.

Let me dispel a few of those myths.

1. Home-ground burgers taste so much better than any of the pre-formed patties you can buy in a store. Plus, you know exactly what’s in your burger unlike some of the questionable ground meat you find in the store.

2. You do not need fancy equipment like a meat grinder. If you have a food processor with a metal blade, you are good to go.

3. They are not nearly as difficult to make as you think. You just need to do a little planning and a little organization.

4. See #1.

Let’s talk equipment first. Yes, you can use a meat grinder to make your own burgers at home. There are stand-alone varieties as well as ones that attach to certain types of mixers. But as I mentioned above, if you have a food processor with a metal blade, that will do the trick. I have both and have been pleased with the results no matter which one I use.

Credit: Michael Milhaven

Credit: Michael Milhaven


You’re also going to need a cookie sheet, a cutting board, a knife and a plate. In fact, take all of these items as well as your meat grinder attachment (or your Cuisinart bowl and blade) and put them all in the freezer. We’ll get back to this later.

Like with any cooking adventure, you need to do some planning and organization first. Let’s start with the meat itself. The nice thing about grinding your own burgers is that you can choose the cut of meat you are going to use as well as the fat content.

In one of my first attempts at making my own burgers, I chose a beautiful cut of sirloin thinking that a fancy cut of meat like that would make great burgers. The feedback I got from my daughter: “It tastes like steak”. She was right it did. Not that that’s bad or anything.

I love nothing more than a good steak off the grill, but burgers don’t taste like steak. They taste like burgers. I recommend a cut like chuck. It’s not something you would choose for the grill, but grind it up and form it into patties, and you have the best tasting burgers you have ever made.

Let's take a minute to talk about fat. It’s an ugly word. And when it comes to food, some people are fanatical about avoiding it. Burgers need fat. This is so important, I’m going to repeat it.

Burgers need fat.

Ask anyone to describe the best burger they ever ate and I bet you most of them will say it was juicy. You need fat in your meat to make a good, juicy burger.

Don’t go overboard. When you buy pre-ground meat, a good ratio is 80% meat to 20% fat. Some people go as high as 30% fat. When you’re grinding your own burgers, look for cuts of meat that are well-marbled, but not too much. After a few attempts, you’ll know what to look for.

Now that you’ve got your nicely-marbled cut of beef with just the right amount of fat, let’s go back to the freezer. You want everything cold so that if your meat gets too warm before you grind it, it can smear. That just makes for a burger with the wrong consistency. So, try to keep every surface the meat is going to touch cold. I also cut the meat into cubes and throw that in the freezer too for about 20 minutes. This just makes it a little easier to grind and get that great texture you’re looking for without smearing.

Credit: Michael Milhaven

Credit: Michael Milhaven


Once the hamburger is done, try not to handle it too much. Quickly form it into a patty with a little finger depression in the middle. This is a little trick I learned that helps keep your burgers flat when you grill them. Otherwise, you wind up with grilled meatballs.

Heat the grill to high and put your beautiful, home-made burgers on. One important thing to remember: don’t touch them! The tendency is to poke, prod, press and flip them while they’re cooking. This just forces all the juices out and you’ll end up with tough, dry, grilled hockey pucks. Leave ‘em alone! Just a quick flip is all they need, then let them cook on the other side. I like to top mine with a little cheese, maybe some caramelized onions and finish it off with a nice, chewy bun that can hold it all together.

Making your own burgers from scratch can be easy and the results are totally worth it. Plus, you can brag to your guests about all the hard work you put into making them. They don’t have to know the truth.

Give it a whirl and have a great weekend.

Photos by Michael Milhaven

See all our best grilling advice at Grilling 101

All National Cheeseburger Day coverage

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soundoff (108 Responses)
  1. JJ

    Some critical tips here. There are much better articles out on the net... just google..

    1. If you're cooking on the grill, rub the outside of your bugers with some vegetable oil. ( I use olive but not extra virgin). The oil does 2 things, 1. Helpsprevent sticking 2. helps conduct the heat into the surface of the burger to get that cripsy/crunchy goodness on the outside without over cooking in the middle

    2. Short ribs. I use 1/2 short rib meat and 1/2 chuck steak when I grind my own. Nice and fatty, fat=flavor so make your patties much bigger than you expect. This results in an initial burger that's more than 30% fat but makes the best burgers on the planet. It's not just about the fat content it's the texture of the initial meat that makes the big difference too.

    3. salt and pepper well. I also use a little of obie-cue's steakmaker seasoning.

    May 25, 2014 at 4:50 pm | Reply
  2. Pedro VanPeter

    It just doesn’t get any
    better than seeing the gorgeous “Mrs. Anita Pelaez” over at her and her
    husband “Captain Kutchie’s” place..Some Folks Also Call Him..”The
    KutchMan others call him The Kutchmon!”…Most Just Call Him “The Most
    Interesting Man In The World”….(Anita and Kutchie Pelaez’s Key West, Key
    Lime Pie Factory and Grill)…Just watching the lovely couple baking together all those Yummy
    Key Lime Pies at their Key Lime Pie Factory and Grill in Asheville.
    …It’s always worth the trip to visit them in they’re Historic Key Lime
    Pie Factory and Grill…It should be on everyone’s bucket list for
    sure..And The World’s Best Key Lime Pies!..YUM-YUM-YUM….­­.”Talk About
    World Class” What An Understatement!…….AA­­HHHHH!….The Magic Of The
    Lovely..”Mrs. Anita Pelaez” And Her Delicious Key Lime Pies Baked With
    Pure Love…Always……40 Years And They’re Still Going Strong….

    ….May GOD Continue Blessing “Anita And Kutchie Pelaez” and They’re World
    Famous Key Lime Pie Factory And Grill Where The Personalities, Ovens And
    Smiles Are Always Warm And Inviting. “Kutcharitaville” You’re The Best We Love You!….

    …Now You Know Who Is The Hottest!…And Baby Let Me Tell You, Mrs. Anita Is No Act…She’s The Real Thing Baby!…

    ….Located Near The Biltmore House And Estate…..
    ….Who Could Ask For Anything More?…Anita’s Key Lime Pie…(Hell Yes!)

    ….Just Think, Kutchie’s Goody Goody Cheese Burgers, The Original Cheese Burgers In Paradise!
    ….That Alone Is Quite A Pretty Big Deal If You Ask Me. ….”Hell”,..It’s A Pretty Big Deal Even If You Don’t Ask Me.

    January 2, 2014 at 3:36 pm | Reply
  3. ldlbrd

    Good education requires a hello, so hello and wish you all warmly and look forward to a pleasant and fruitful discussion.
    Best Regards

    October 14, 2011 at 5:04 am | Reply
  4. Margaret

    What the heck. Grill, barbecue, same thing as far as I'm concerned. Nummies, grilled, barbecued hamburgers. Num, num, num.

    May 30, 2011 at 6:50 pm | Reply
  5. bailey wiener

    When adding bacon to the hamburger meat is it cooked or uncooked?

    May 25, 2011 at 8:49 pm | Reply
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