How to Make the Ultimate Hamburger
Weber's master griller shares the one rule you've gotta break to achieve backyard burger nirvana.
For decades, Weber's iconic kettle grills have been a fixture on American patios. And also for decades (two, to be precise) Jamie Purviance has been the Chicagoland company's master griller and cookbook-writer-in-chief. His Weber's Ultimate Grilling (Houghton Mifflin, $27) is a tip-packed, step-by-step compendium of more than 125 deliciously approachable recipes-including a diner-style burger you make outside on a cast-iron griddle pan.
"The basic American hamburger has not changed one iota. It's juicy, rich and charred with a flavor-packed crust," Jamie says. To achieve that exterior, you need a solid cooking surface, and you have to break a cardinal rule: Do press the patty with your spatula. In fact, Jamie adds, "Permission granted to really put some weight into the smash. You want to create as much direct contact between the burger and griddle as possible. More surface area means more browning, which means more crust, which means more flavor."
The reason this burger doesn't taste like a hockey puck is timing. By smashing the meat as soon as it hits the pan, you sear the outside and lock most juices inside. Plus, you're on a pan, not a grill grate; any fat or juices that do come out will stay put and continue flavoring the meat. From there, it's all business as usual: Toasted bun. Iceberg lettuce. Tomato. Onion. Special Sauce. And, if you like, throw on a slice of cheese-American, naturally.
Spicy Yellow Mustard
Ground Beef Round
Sesame seed Hamburger Buns
Vidalia or other Sweet Onion
Iceberg or Romaine Lettuce
Step 1: Prep
Prepare a gas or charcoal grill for direct cooking over medium-high heat (400° to 450°). Place a cast-iron griddle on grill grate, close the lid, and preheat until very hot, 5 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare Special Sauce: Stir together 1⁄3 cup mayonnaise, 3 tablespoons ketchup, 2 tablespoons minced dill pickle, 1 tablespoon spicy yellow mustard and 1⁄4 teaspoon hot sauce.
Tip: A griddle pan (or a large, short-handled skillet) makes a grill more multifunctional: Fry onions for brats or char peppers for fajitas. Plus, you can use it indoors over two burners. Lodge sells a nice reversible version for $55.
Step 2: Season
In a small bowl, stir together 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1⁄2 teaspoon sugar, 1⁄4 teaspoon black pepper and 1⁄4 teaspoon onion powder. Divide 1 pound ground beef round into four pieces. Do not shape into patties, but season on both sides with salt mixture.
Tip: For best flavor and texture, buy ground beef labeled by cut (like round, chuck or sirloin) that's 80 or 85 percent lean-any less fat, and you risk a dry burger.
Step 3: Grill
Lightly brush the hot griddle with vegetable oil. Place ground beef portions on griddle, well-spaced. Immediately smash each into a patty about 1⁄4-inch thick with a spatula. Close lid and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Clean the spatula, then scrape patties from the griddle and flip. Smash again, close lid, and cook to medium (160°), 3 to 4 minutes more. (If adding cheese, do so in the last minute of cooking.) Serve on toasted sesame seed buns with thinly sliced onion, tomato, torn lettuce and Special Sauce.
Tip: Smashing a hunk of ground beef into a patty directly on the griddle is not a task for a wimpy spatula. Choose a wide, sturdy metal one.
Get to Know: Jamie Purviance
Taught writing across Asia in his past life. Now a master griller for Weber and bestselling author of 17 cookbooks.