How-To & Diy

How to Make Any Burger in 5 Steps

July 29, 2013

Here at Food52, we love recipes -- but do we always use them? Of course not. Because once you realize you don't always need a recipe, you'll make your favorite dishes a lot more often.

Today: How to make one of the easiest dishes of the summer.

Burger from Food52

Shop the Story

Some tasks in the kitchen involve skill, coordination, and a little bit of luck; they, like making a towering souffle or turning a carrot, require practice, patience, and precision.

Making burgers is not one of these.

If you can form meat into shapes and move them around on a hot surface, you can make a burger. You can make any burger, and throw a barbecue, or a party, or simply eat them for dinner and feel accomplished and sated and happy. Here's how.

How to Make Any Burger in 5 Steps

1. Dump your ground meat into a bowl. (We go for ground meat with around 20% fat.) Season it with salt, pepper, and whatever else you want; you can add spices, perhaps, or Worcestershire sauce, or shallots, or chiles.

Seasoning meat

2. Shape your burgers into patties, using your thumb to make an indentation in the center; this will keep the burgers from puffing up. Keep in mind that the burgers will shrink up a bit once you cook them, so make your patties a bit bigger than you want them later.

Shaping patties

3. Oil your grill or a cast-iron pan, and grill or sear those patties. (How many times to flip them is up for debate -- but when I'm grilling, I flip once so I can get get those nice grill marks.) Cook them until your desired doneness (around 125-130ºF for medium rare, around 1 minute per side for each inch of thickness). But before you take them off the grill...

Grilling burger

4. ...add your cheese and toast your buns. Let the cheese melt while the burgers are still on the grill; to speed things up, you can close the cover.

Cheese and bun

5. Once your burgers iare finished cooking, and your cheese is melty and your buns are nicely charred, throw some condiments and toppings on those burgers. Anything goes. (Really, anything goes.) Bite into it and let those juices run down your chin, and rejoice that it's summer. And then make another round, because now you know how.

Burger from Food52

Still want a recipe? Here are some to try out:
Classic Diner Burger
Burger with Spicy Slaw
Lamb Burgers with Cilantro Yogurt

Order Now

Any Night Grilling is your guide to becoming a charcoal champion (or getting in your grill-pan groove), any night of the week. With over 60 ways to fire up dinner—no long marinades or low-and-slow cook times in sight—this book is your go-to for freshly grilled meals in a flash.

Order Now

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Chris Glenn
    Chris Glenn
  • SaucyCuisine
  • chriskline
  • LuCinda Nedimyer
    LuCinda Nedimyer
  • shecooks
Brette Warshaw

Written by: Brette Warshaw

I'm a reader, eater, culinary thrill-seeker, and food nerd.


Chris G. April 1, 2017
Hmmmm, I can't let this one go by! To Brette Warshaw and others: Be careful with those very expensive cast iron fry pans! When heating to "very hot," they do warp! I ruined a 12 inch "Griswold" (spelling?) doing just that! It now has a definite round bottom and does not work well on the stove but is still serviceable in the BBQ!
SaucyCuisine August 6, 2013
I love goat cheese for a little tang with your burger.
chriskline August 5, 2013
The key to a great burger is the initial prep. Do not over work the meat! Just enough to get it to stay together. I dip my hands in a bowl of milk, grab a hunk of meat and roll into a ball while helping the grind intact in the middle. The milk help seals the outside to keep the juices in the middle. Then I put it on the board, press my thumb in for a slight indentation, then flatten it with the ball of my hand to the desired thickness. Salt and pepper for a good crust. And definitely, Flip Once!
LuCinda N. August 4, 2013
The big issue with beef for me is the big agriculture machine. Cattle are fed antibiotics daily, shot up with subcutaneous growth hormone and fed animal bi products which was the culprit for mad cow disease. Buy organic, grass fed beef. We would all benefit... Even the cows.

shecooks August 4, 2013
Or, buy the organic grass-fed beef at your local farmer's market & trust it implicitly.
edwin C. August 4, 2013
You are of course right, and I'm sure if you buy from your farmer in person you will get much better service. Your farmer in the market sees you as a person, The large corporation see you profit point. I don't think they intend to poison us, but as they see us paying for lawyers and settling a few suits here and there is just part of doing business. A cynical person would say they just get away with murder. I have never seen a corporation get the death sentence.
pierino August 5, 2013
I don't trust ANYTHING implicitly. edwin cohen is correct in that grinding your own meat is a big step toward food safety. Packaged supermarket ground beef might contain the meat and trimmings from one hundred animals, hence all the e-coli related recalls. That said, I can almost look out my window and see cattle grazing on grass. My problem with grass fed beef is that it doesn't make a good burger. Not enough marbeling in the meat. Beef for burgers should be 80% meat to 20% fat. Otherwise the flavor and texture is just blah!
devorah13 August 4, 2013
grind your own meat with the kitchen aid attachment..its great! you can mix chuck with brisket, bacon whatever your fancy is!
edwin C. August 4, 2013
OK but the meat is very important. With all that has gone down with the meat industry I think if is very reasonable to look at the gr beef in the supermarkets to day as poison. So what to do? Well Chuck Pot roast often sells for the same or less than the ground beef. So go ahead and have the service guy grind it for you, you might even tip him/her $5 they will really like you next time. At lest you know what your getting and the chance of it having any poop in it is way less. As for cooking a one inch burger one minute per side seems a little short, but your burger as pictured looks perfect.
Giovanni C. August 4, 2013
I wholeheartedly agree with the use of freshly ground meat, not only to avoid the mystery of what you get with pre-ground supermarket meat but because it also provides for a more tender patty. my kids now insist on freshly ground. i've tried brisket (a little too fatty) and top sirloin (too lean), so chuck might provide a happy medium. also, two trips through the grinder makes for a better blending of the fat.
edwin C. August 4, 2013
I would recommend passing the meat through the grinder head only once. Running meat through the grinder works it quit hard, and twice through takes you half way to a emulsified sausage. If you look at those larger bits of fat like fat in a bisquit dough. They render and crisp as the burger cooks and help to make it less tuff. You don't want it too big but if you look at the picture the strings of about that size you will still be able to have them hold together.
Giovanni C. August 5, 2013
that also depends on the gauge of the attachment on the grinder. the attachment used by my local butcher creates strands 1/4 inch thick, which leaves pretty prominent chunks of fat when grinding brisket.
edwin C. August 6, 2013
Well as I say give it a try you may like it. only your own tastes will tell for you. For me in the best of all worlds I'd get chuck at about 20 to 30% fat cut it up and add one table spoon of Thia Fish sauce per pound and some fresh gr pepper mix it and let it sit a day or two uncovered in the fridge then grind it and take it as closely as it comes out the grinder head. loosely form it and cook it at high heat. But that's just me.
pierino July 29, 2013
I'm definitely in the "flip once" school of design (FOSDI). It is okay to rotate if you want to put a cross hatch on the grill marks. I agree, it's best to close the cover, especially if you are cooking over wood charcoals.
BurgeoningBaker July 29, 2013
Can you give better information on cast iron indoor technique for burgers, please?
Brette W. July 29, 2013
Sure! Heat up your cast iron super-hot, add oil, let that get really hot too, and then place your patty in the pan. Cook until your desired doneness -- and to get a good sear, don't flip it right away. Let me know if you have any more questions!
judi H. August 4, 2013
I like a thin coating of oil and a generous layer of kosher salt in my super-hot pan. It gives a great salty crust...just remember you don't need to put much salt in the meat.