Make the Best Basic Burger Ever

As part of our year-end review, we're revisiting some of the most popular stories of 2014. Here, watch how to make a plain and simple burger.

You think you’ve been making burgers the right way. Can you check off all the items on our list below? Then you were right. Can’t check off everything? Then we’ve taught you something. (And we’re going to pat ourselves on the back with a couple burgers.)

Quick note before we get into it: In this video, we pan-fry the burgers. Yes, the grill gives good smoke, but you’ve likely already stowed that thing away for the winter. Ours is a method you can use all year long, one that doesn’t require starting a chimney or getting your charcoal just right, and one that capitalizes on juiciness by keeping the meat and its tasty liquid in one pan—i.e. not losing those juices to the ashy underworld.

Here are the “musts” for getting a superjuicy, meaty burger patty:

Grind coarsely. The real sticklers grind their own meat to ensure freshness and to have ultimate control over the product. But since 74% of you don’t have a grinder, the best solution is to ask your butcher to do it for you, using chuck beef. That’s going to get you that meaty flavor—“steaky,” as Ryan Farr of 4505 Burgers & BBQ in San Francisco calls it. If your butcher won’t do that (which, mind you, is unlikely—even supermarket butchers will usually grind your meat if you ask!), be sure to look for packaged coarse-ground beef with an 80/20 lean-to-fat ratio.

Dimple. As protein—in this case, meat—cooks, it shrinks. Creating a shallow dent in each patty will counteract this natural process, so that you end up with an evenly shaped—and cooked—patty.

Chill. Chilling your burgers, once formed, before cooking will help them keep their shapes. So stick them in the fridge for at least half an hour.

Season. And season liberally, when it comes to salt and pepper. But do it just before cooking, otherwise you’ll draw out liquid from the meat and end up with a dry burger. No bueno. Season one side, then start cooking with that side down, season the other side in the pan, then flip and cook that second side. Bueno.

Leave it be. Resist the urge to press down on the patties when cooking them. When you do that, you’re pushing those delicious juices out of the burger. So… don’t do that.

Leave it be again. Just like you would with roast chicken or a ribeye, pull the meat from the pan and let it rest on a plate or cutting board for up to 5 minutes. This gives them a little time to redistribute their juices—and you get a sumptuous burger.

Classic Hamburger
by Angela Gaines
Serves 4

1 lb. coarse-ground chuck beef
2 Tbsp. canola oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
4 slices American cheese (optional)
4 hamburger buns (we like potato buns)

Divide beef into 4 portions and lightly shape each into a 1”-thick disc. Make a dimple in the center of each disc for even cooking. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

In large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, warm the canola oil. Season one side of the patties with salt and pepper and place, seasoned-side down, in the pan. Cook for 4-5 minutes, or until a nice crust forms. While patty is cooking, season its other side. Flip and cook another 4-5 minutes. (For a cheeseburger, place 1 slice of cheese atop each patty 1 minute before finished and cover with a lid to melt cheese.) Remove patties and let rest for up to 5 minutes.

While burger is resting, toast buns in skillet, cut side down, for 2 minutes. Assemble burger with your favorite fixings and serve.

Watch the video for instructions. Then check out some of our other Yahoo Food original videos here.