Week 12: Burgers. Nothing simpler, so why does everyone over-think them?

Keep it simple.

Burgers are one of the simplest of meals but everyone screws them up by over-thinking them. It is just ground beef, cheese, veggies and sauce on a bun. So why do we screw them up so bad? First, people try to play a silly game of “keeping up with the neighbors” and second, they try to make a simple burger the one stop, do everything meal.

If the neighbor cooked doubles, I need to do triples. If he put on three slices of bacon I need to grind in four. If some Chef made his beef patty one inch thick, I need to make mine two inches thick. What we have ended up with in the last few years are tiny meatloafs full of unneeded ingredients, loaded with incompatible toppings and dripping with exotic sauces resulting in burgers that ate far too thick to be eaten by hand as they were intended.

Burgers are basic food so lets get back to the basics. First the meat. You don’t need exotic strains of meat and never use extra lean grinds of beef. The flavor is in the fats. stick with an 80% lean ground chuck and you will be fine. Most of the fat renders out any way so don’t worry about it. A 94% lean burger is just dry unless you do as some do and add fat or butter. Why buy lean just to add butter to get some flavor?

Second, roll your patties out thin, real thin. Just roll them out between two sheets of baking parchment. Roll them about 6-7 inches in diameter and no more than one half an inch thick. They will shrink in diameter and thicken as they cook so start with them real thin. If you want more meat, make a double. Fry the patty until it is about medium well. You need to kill any bacteria that was ground into the beef but don’t over cook it or you will have a dry burger. Turn it only once and never press the juices out of the patty.

Top with anything sliced cheese just before the patty is fully cooked. American cheese is particularly well suited to burgers because of the way it melts. I know it’s not really cheese but a cheese-ish dairy byproduct but it just works so well on a burger.

Toast or fry the inside of the bun. Toasting on the Bagel setting in a toaster or in a lightly buttered skillet works great. Add toppings and sauces as desired.

My favorite burger is simple a single or double with American or Cheddar cheese and a little garlic and black pepper added as the second side Fries. Toasted bun. A little blue cheese salad dressing on the bottom bun instead of Mayonnaise but mayo is fine. Then the meat and cheese. Minced onion. Dill pickle chips dried with a paper towel. Ketchup and Mustard. Served with potato chips and a Coke. Simple.

Beyond this is where the problem starts so be cautious. Add anything you want to the meat. Use any toppings and sauces you want. Just be sparing with them. don’t try to do everything at once or you wind up with those ultra-thick, over-thought abominations trendy restaurants try to pass off as the Great American Cheeseburger.


This weeks menu was Colcannon Potatoes with Corned Beef. Chicken Fajitas. Waffles. Lasagna. And Grilled Cheese Sandwiches on home made bread.

Im looking forward to reporting this coming week as it will be the first time we have been on the road for several days. Thanks. John


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