7 Things I Never Do When Making Burgers at Home

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Burgers are quintessential summer fare and, as is true for most idealized foods, people make up a lot of rules about what you can and can’t do to burgers at home.

As a home cook who prefers my own burgers to anything takeout, I can tell you some of those rules are helpful and some are just rumors. Here are the seven things I never do when making burgers at home.

1. I never buy lean beef.

Do you like dry burgers? No, then never buy lean ground beef for burgers. Juicy burgers come from plenty of fat in the ground beef. Aim for 80/20 ground beef if you’re buying it from the store. Or buy ground sirloin and add fat in the form of butter for juicy, never-dry burgers.

Butter burgers are your new BFF: How To Make the Juiciest Burger Patties

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

2. I never try to make identical, perfectly round patties.

It can be tempting to want perfectly shaped burger patties that are all exactly the same width and thickness, but compact the meat too much and the burgers will be dense, overworked, and dry. Cover your scale in plastic wrap then divide the beef to get each patty roughly the same weight. Use your hand to gently shape each portion into a round.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

3. I never salt the burgers in advance.

Seasoning beef works on a bell curve — season them right before cooking and they’ll be tender and flavorful, but season them less than an hour before cooking and they can be tough. Season the burgers just before cooking. Yes, technically you could season your burgers well in advance and get similar results, but you’ll be able to store the shaped patties longer if they are left unsalted.

4. I never bring the burgers to room temperature.

By now we’ve all heard the advice to take big cuts of beef out of the fridge well in advance of cooking them, but do that with burgers and you’ll risk overcooking them — especially on the grill. Keep the burger patties cold until you’re ready to cook them. Salt just before adding them to the grill and you’ll have juicy, perfectly cooked burgers every time.

5. I never cook burgers for a crowd without a thermometer.

While I might estimate cooking time and use a push test to determine doneness for just my family of four, when I’m feeding a crowd I never make burgers without a probe thermometer.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

6. I never worry about over-flipping them.

There are two camps when it comes to burger cooking: the single flippers who claim that flipping too much dries out the burgers, and the multi-flippers who think moving the burger makes for a crisper crust. Personally, I’ve done both with great results — just doing a few flips gives really great grill marks, while multiple flips on the stovetop really does make for a crusty burger patty.

7. I never skip mayo on the bun.

Look, I think burger toppings are very personal. If you like American cheese and special sauce, you’re a classic. If you love sharp cheddar and bacon, you’re a flavor king. But skip a swipe of mayo on the bottom bun and you’re destined for soggy bottoms no matter the burger toppings. The mayo creates a layer of fat between the burger and bun keeps the juices from destroying the soft bun. Don’t skip it!

Do you agree with this list? What are your tips for making burgers at home?