Five secrets to making the ultimate homemade hamburger patties

Our food editor shares her expert tips

27 May 2021 - 09:47
How do you know when a homemade burger is ready to flip in the pan? When the moisture bubbles to the surface, says our food editor.
How do you know when a homemade burger is ready to flip in the pan? When the moisture bubbles to the surface, says our food editor.
Image: 123RF/Natasha Breen

We humans are odd bods when it comes to the number of days on the calendar devoted to celebrating foods we love. May 28, for instance, is International Hamburger Day.

The origins of this celebration are no less murky than the story of the hamburger itself. You see, there’s a serious beef between the Americans and the Germans as to who actually invented it.

According to Andrew F Smith, author of Hamburger: A Global History, it may have been a combined effort. The hamburger patty originated in Hamburg, Germany, which is why its name has nothing to do with its beefy contents. German immigrants then introduced the idea to the US in the late 1800s, which is where the roll was added.

Hamburgers are synonymous with fast food, but nothing cuts the mustard quite like the homemade version. Here are five tips for making the ultimate burger patty:

1. Source best quality beef: Lean mince is a no-no because the flavour and juiciness lie in the fat. Coarsely ground mince is better than finely ground as it results in a patty with a less compact texture. For the ultimate burger, ask your butcher to coarsely mince a porterhouse or rump steak with a good strip of fat down the side.

2. Get the ratios right: Add 1 finely chopped onion and 125ml (1/2 cup) fresh white breadcrumbs for every 500g mince. Some recommend frying the onion in a little oil before cooling and adding to the mix. Season generously with freshly ground salt and pepper.

3. Don’t add eggs: I believe the added protein makes the patty tougher and more compact.

4. To avoid dense burgers, don’t overmix the meat; shape it into patties without compressing the contents.

5. Chill the patties in the fridge for 30 minutes before frying in a little vegetable oil preheated in a non-stick pan; this will stop them from falling apart.


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