There’s nothing that warms the cockles of the heart like a big, juicy burger, cooked on the grill, smothered in trimmings, and enjoyed in the backyard with family and friends. But not all burgers are equal. Some are dry. Bland. Overcooked or raw.
So what are the characteristics of a good burger, one that grabs you by the taste buds and leaves a glow on your face? As the judge said of pornography, “I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it”—or, in the case of a burger, you know a good one when you smell and taste it.
What Goes Into a Burger?
When I think of hamburger ingredients, I recall with a laugh a conversation in my farm kitchen between a guy and gal as to what should go into a hamburger.
The guy explained that he put caramelized onions, an egg, softened bread, and an array of seasonings. The woman looked at him in amazement and said, “That’s not a hamburger, that’s meat loaf!” Obviously, no two burger makers are the same.
These Days, Not All Burgers Are Beef
In recent year, burgers have become gentrified. We want them healthier, with less fat. We’ve subbed tofu, turkey, bison, venison, lamb, pork, tuna, or vegetables for the traditional beef.
I’ve had some of those. When not overly dry, they’re quite good, but a different species from the all-beef burger. Sometimes you just want a good, old-fashion whopper. The burger for which Wimpy would gladly pay a nickel tomorrow, if he could have one today.
The Three Ingredient Burger
In my quest, I came upon a 3-ingredient burger, that brought back memories. Decades ago when we seasoned everything with a can of Campbell soup or a Lipton mix, we often used dried onion soup as a seasoning.
I decided to try the retro Lipton Burger I made when I was a housewife, wanting a quick, but tasty meal. I’ve not used onion soup mix for decades, so I put it on my Instacart list. The formula is 2-lbs. of 85% beef to 1 package of dried onion mix and 1/2 cup water—plus a dash of Worcestershire, called for in some recipes. (You just want to get a bit of a umami taste from the Worcestershire, so don’t overdo it.) This makes 8 patties.
If you’re inclined to make your own dried onion mix, it’s easily done. All you need are dried onion flakes, beef bouillon granules or paste, onion powder, parsley, celery seed, paprika, and black pepper.
For more inspiration and lots of good ideas, take a look at this clip of Gordon Ramsey cooking burgers on his patio. As a bonus you get a stunning view of the countryside and the homes of his affluent neighbors.
More tips below:
Getting It Done Just Right
If you’re a perfectionist when it comes to beef burgers, get a cooking thermometer and test for doneness, using this chart:
- Rare: red in the center, 120 degrees
- Medium-Rare: very pink in the center, 130 degrees
- Medium: pink in the center, 140 degrees
- Medium-Well: gray-pink in the center, 150 degrees
- Well Done: grayish, No pink in the center, 160 degrees