It's actually really simple to make a great burger that's crisp on the outside and juicy on the inside. Just remember two things: use the right meat, and don't mess with it too much. Follow the tips below for burgers that are crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside…
What's the right meat? For the best burger, buy beef that is about 80% meat and 20% fat. This ratio of meat to fat is the sweet spot- any less fat and your burgers won't be juicy. Ground lamb is another great option for flavorful burgers and the rules below still apply.
What do you mean, don't mess with it? Keep your hands off the ground beef- literally. You want to shape the cold beef into patties as gently as possible. The more you handle the beef, the more densely-packed it will become, making your burgers tough.
You might wonder, how do I mix in the seasonings? That's easy - you don't. Don't season your burger mixture before shaping the burgers. Season with salt and pepper liberally after shaping. Why? Because salt can break down the proteins in the meat, especially if you salt ahead of time. So, the best time to salt the shaped burgers is right before cooking.
To dimple or not to dimple? Making an indentation in the center of your burgers will help them to maintain their shape, but only if you're grilling or broiling. If you're pan-frying, the direct heat doesn't touch the edges of the burger, so they tend to keep their shape.
How to Cook? Start fast and finish slow. Jump-start the cooking and sear the outside by starting out hot, at high or medium-high heat. Then, turn down to medium (or if grilling, move to from direct to indirect heat).
Here are your doneness temps (take the burgers off the heat just before you reach target temperature. They will continue to cook a bit off the heat).
- 130°F for medium-rare
- 140°F for medium
- 150°F for medium-well
- 160°F for well done
Can I tell by looking if the burgers are done? Here's a good visual- when the juices start to pool on the top, the burgers are probably already rare or medium-rare, so stay close to check the temperatures.
Flip but don't squish- It's okay to flip the burgers a few times- it will help them to cook more evenly. But, do not press down on the burgers with a spatula- that will squeeze the juices out and make your burgers dry.
But what about "smashed burgers"? Aren't they squished? Yes, but not during cooking! For a smashed burger, you drop a portion of beef onto a hot pan, then immediately press down to flatten before the burger starts cooking.