Burgers are the ultimate crowd-pleasing cookout food. Equal parts standard barbecue fare and specialty dish, it’s pretty easy to make a basic hamburger and it’s pretty tough to make one that’s perfect. A big factor we considered in when crafting ours was considering that everyone wants different layers and toppings on theirs – cheese, no cheese, onions, no onions, tomatoes, etc. Everyone’s got an opinion.
Toppings can totally change the flavor, texture, and presentation of a hamburger, and they’re completely subjective. The best way to handle any added accouterments is to just lay out a platter so people can pick and choose exactly what they want to add. Because of this, our article will not be focused on toppings, and will instead be addressing the star of the show: The patty itself. We’ve assembled what we think is the best burger you can ask for in terms of flavor, durability, size, versatility, and juiciness. Trust us, you won’t go back.
The best burgers you’ll ever make
1. 1 pound of 85% lean ground chuck
2. 1 pound of bison meat
3. 2 eggs
4. 1 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese
5. 3/4 of a yellow onion
6. 10 strips of bacon
7. 3 tablespoons yellow mustard
8. 1 1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
9. 1 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
10. Montreal steak seasoning
Obviously, this is not a vegan recipe, nor is it dairy-free. If you’re looking for other options, you can try and recreate these burgers with turkey, and don’t add any cheese or bacon. For vegan-specific burgers, you might just want to look elsewhere!
Mix the meat
Once you’ve gotten your ingredients out the first thing you’ll want to do is put your meats together: Put both the chuck and the bison meat into the same bowl and immediately start kneading and combining them together with either your hands or (if you’re squeamish) a couple of big forks. The reason we use two kinds of meat is because each brings something different to the burger. Chuck is pretty run-of-the-mill and should generally by your default hamburger meat. It’s inexpensive and serves to add some fullness to our burgers.
Bison, on the other hand, is more pricey and generally a mightier meat. It’s got a slightly sweeter taste – which will counter some of the aggressive salty-smokiness that we’ll be adding with other ingredients – and has higher levels of vitamins and minerals than chuck as well as double the beta-carotene of other red meats. What’s important for us, however, is that buffalo meat has more strength, substance, and overall grit to it. By cutting our chuck with buffalo meat we’re going to make our patties stronger, juicier, and overall tastier.
For a more in-depth walkthrough of different cuts of burger meat and where each reigns supreme, check out Alton Brown’s walkthrough:
Add the flavor
After your meat is added, start frying up your bacon. For both the bacon and (later on) the burgers we recommend using a cast-iron skillet. It will heat faster which means your meat will cook faster, and it also colors the meat a darker charbroiled color and cooks them through more thoroughly. If you don’t have anything cast-iron, though, don’t worry; a regular cooking pan will do the job just fine.
While your bacon is frying, add the cheese to the meat and chop your onion. We chose sharp cheddar for its bite and its tang, but you could use pepper jack for spicy or a Mexican blend if you’re trying to mix things up. You could even use mozzarella or Swiss if you’ve got mushrooms to add, but we digress.
If you’re dubious about adding onions, trust us. Besides adding a little contrast and bite to our rich meats, the inherent sweetness of a yellow onion will draw out that sweetness from the buffalo meat. Onions are a great addition, even if they’re not easy on the eyes when cutting!
TIP: When you’re cutting your onions, chewing strong mint or cinnamon gum will reduce tears. Or you could try chopping under a towel or wear goggles if you don’t mind looking like a nerd. Or just spend $20 and get yourself a mandoline. It will help you slice and chop onions in a flash – no tears necessary.
Once your bacon is finished (it doesn’t need to be overly crispy; we’re adding it directly into the burger meat!) grab a few pieces after they’ve cooled off a little and start tearing and crumbling it right over the bowl where the meats, cheese, and onions are. If you want the flavor to really permeate, crumble the bacon as finely as you can. Our preference is actually to tear more than crumble, as that gets bigger bits of bacon per burger bite (how’s that for alliteration?) Next up is our seasonings!
Mustard is king here since it’s got a little kick to it. Even if you’re not a fan of mustard in general, we definitely think it’s important to add regardless. It’s got some spiciness to it, sure, but it’s not as abrasive as, say, hot sauce or a ton of red pepper flakes. It’s got just enough spice to accentuate the meaty saltiness that you’re looking for in a burger. Still, if you’re hesitant try putting in two tablespoons instead of three.
Next up is Worcestershire sauce, and what more can we say about this? It’s rich, smooth, smokey, and sweet. A dollop of it will really bring out some of the matching sweetness we’ve already got going on.
Add black pepper for more smokey spice and be a little more generous with the Montreal steak seasoning. If you’re unfamiliar with this stuff, it’s a combination of pepper, paprika, salt, garlic, onion powder, cayenne, coraiander, and dill seeds.
It’s a powerhouse.
We also found that it’s generally better to avoid adding straight-up salt to this burger since it’s already going to have plenty of that. We like Montreal seasoning because it goes great on grilled meats and includes salt without overdoing it.
The incredible, edible egg
Lastly, crack a couple of eggs in a bowl and add them to the mix. We recommend the separate bowl for the eggs because we’re paranoid about getting shell in there. If you mess up and get shell in the separate bowl, it’s way easier to get it out than fishing it out of your giant bowl of burger ingredients …
But why add eggs in the first place? Eggs are the glue of cooking, and they’re going to help make these patties less crumbly. Don’t add them and your meat will come off the skillet looking more like Sloppy Joe filling. After the eggs are added, blend everything together until it’s one homogenous mixture. The goal is to have every flavor in every bite.
Just add fire
Grilling is always better done on, you know, a grill, but if weather isn’t permitting, you can grill these just as easily over a stove-top. For outdoors we found it was best to use apple wood chips, and indoors we liked using peanut oil, butter, and sprinkling of rosemary over your cast-iron skillet. Crank on some music and get grillin’!
A better bun
One key factor to take into consideration at this point is what kind of buns you’ve got for these bad boys. If you want a larger burger (our favorite) we’d suggest you use kaiser buns. Shape your patties about the size of your fist, and throw them on the heat to sizzle. If you want smaller, slider-type burgers, roll them into balls about half that size. We’ve had them both ways, and both are great.
When you take the burgers off the heat, you’ll likely want to put them on wax paper in order to let the grease drain off before serving. Normally we’d prefer good old paper towels, but since there’s cheese already in the burgers, they’ll wind up sticking to that. Put them on wax paper and you shouldn’t have that problem.
And that’s about it! Serve them and add any toppings you like! Anything goes, but our preference is on a toasted kaiser bun with mayo, ketchup, and a slice of tomato or pickle to cut the rich meatiness. Enjoy your BBQ!