The Great American Burger
Editor's Note: Make your Fourth of July cookout or tailgate party one to remember when you include this recipe for The Great American Burger on the menu. This easy burger recipe is a no-fuss take on the classic hamburger, as you'll only season the ground beef with salt and pepper. When serving the Great American Burger, set out an assortment of toppings and condiments that can include fresh lettuce, tomato slices, crispy bacon, guacamole, and the perennial favorites of ketchup and mustard. The burgers can be made in advance, saving you a bit of time along the way, too.
What makes a great hamburger? First there’s the meat. You want to use a flavorful cut, like sirloin (for uptown burgers), or chuck or round (if you’re feeling more democratic). And it shouldn’t be too lean: 15 to 20 percent fat is ideal. I adhere to the “less is more” school when it comes to making hamburgers. Namely, the fewer ingredients you add to the meat, the better. Oh, I know how tempting it is for cooks to want to season the meat with onion, garlic, spices, and condiments. But to taste a burger at its best, keep it utterly simple. The garnishes will add all the flavor you need. One final bit of advice: Handle the meat as little as possible: a few pats to form it into patties. Anything more will rob the burger of its juiciness and primal flavor.
Make Ahead RecipeYes
Occasional Fresco, Buffet, Buffet Meal, Casual Dinner Party, Family Get Together, Picnic, Pool Party, Sports Party, Tailgate Party
Recipe CourseMain Course
Taste and TextureButtery, Meaty, Savory
Type of DishHamburger
- 2¼ pounds ground round, chuck, or sirloin
- 6 slices (½ inch thick) Vidalia or other sweet onion (optional)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, or 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 6 hamburger buns
- Iceberg lettuce leaves
- Sliced ripe tomatoes
- Sliced dill pickles or sweet pickles
- Cooked bacon (2 slices per burger)
- Ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise
Divide the meat into six equal portions. Lightly wet your hands with cold water, then form each portion of meat into a round patty, 4 inches across and of an even thickness (see Note below).
Set up the grill for direct cooking and preheat to high.
When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate.
If using onion slices, brush them on both sides with melted butter and season with salt and pepper. Place the onion on the hot grate and grill until nicely browned, about 4 minutes per side, then transfer to a plate.
Brush one side of the meat patties lightly with melted butter and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the burgers, buttered side down, on the hot grate and grill until the bottoms are nicely browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Brush the tops lightly with some of the melted butter and season them with salt and pepper. Using a spatula, turn the burgers and grill until they are browned and cooked to taste, 4 to 5 minutes longer for medium. Meanwhile, brush the cut sides of the buns with the remaining melted butter and toast them, cut sides down, on the grill during the last 2 minutes the burgers cook.
Set out the toppings. Put the burgers and onion slices on buns and serve.
If you are not planning on cooking the burgers immediately, place them on a large plate, cover them loosely with plastic wrap, and refrigerate them.
1998, 2008 Steven Raichlen