Let me start off my reiterating the fact that I am a burger purist. I like my burgers pretty much on the standard side. My ideal: a nicely seared beef patty (on a flat top – not grilled), sandwiched between a potato bun with mayo on both halves of the bun, and topped with melty American cheese, iceberg lettuce, one thin slice of tomato, some pickles and a few rings of raw onion (not a full slice). Occasionally I will throw some bacon on top, but I figured out a better way to get the bacon into the mix without adding yet another topping. Sometimes when the toppings get too numerous, you end up with a tall stack; that sucks.
I should also mention here that anyone can make a good burger at home. In fact some home burgers far surpass anything you can get at a burger joint. It’s one of the easiest things to cook at home, so a “recipe” for a burger is kinda nonsense, know what I mean? There’s nothing particularly special or innovative about this recipe other than the first three steps, and to even suggest innovation there is a stretch. It’s really just good sense, and I feel like more people need to know about it.
Here’s a quick time lapse video of me executing all the steps below:
1) Fry up some bacon in a cast iron pan – as much as you would normally include on top of your burger.
2) Remove the finished bacon from your cast iron pan, but leave the grease in the pan.
3) Once cooled, crumble up the bacon and mix it into your chopped meat. The crunchy bacon inside will add texture as well as flavor to your finished product. Don’t overwork or overpack the meat when mixing the bacon into the patty. I like about 6oz of chopped meat for a burger. That means it’s not too ridiculously thick, and not too thin to the point where you need to eat two burgers just to feel something in your stomach.
Note: Some burger recipes tell you to add diced bacon into the chopped meat BEFORE cooking the bacon. BIG MISTAKE. If you’re like me, and you like your burger medium or medium rare, then some of that bacon won’t cook properly in the amount of time is takes to get the beef up to temperature. There’s nothing worse than rubbery, undercooked bacon. It blows. The key is to fry that shit off beforehand, as I noted in step one above, and then mix the fully cooked bacon into the raw beef burger patty.
4) Cook your burger in the bacon grease, in the same cast iron pan. This will follow through on your bacon flavor, and it’ll give the patty a good crust to boot.
5) When you flip the burger (you’re only flipping it once, by the way), add your American cheese (go with two slices) and cover the pan, so that the cheese gets nice and melty.
Note: Some people add a bit of water into the pan at this point, before covering the pan (like maybe 2-3oz). Why? The water instantly sublimates to steam, which is a higher temperature than the air in the pan. When sealed up and covered, this helps to melt the cheese faster. This is especially helpful if you like a rare or medium rare burger, because you don’t have to wait as long for the cheese to melt, which in turn means you are less likely to overcook your burger while waiting for the cheese to finish melting.
6) Remove your patty from the pan when the cheese is melted, and set it aside for a moment. You can use a cooling rack or a plate.
7) Prep your bun for assembly. This entails a few sub-steps:
a) Apply mayo to both sides of the potato bun.
b) Add one leaf of iceberg lettuce to each side.
c) On the bottom side, set down your thin slice of tomato on top of the lettuce. Ideally you want a good sized tomato so that your slice covers the majority of the bun from end to end.
d) On the top side, place your rings of raw onion and pickles on top of the lettuce.
e) I’ve also opted to add some fried crispy shallots to the burger for extra texture, as well as some sliced jalapeños for heat, mainly because I almost always have these things in my fridge.
f) Put your burger in there, and close her up.
That’s it. You’re ready to eat!