Best with meat you grind yourself.
1 1/2 pounds boneless chuck steak, cut into 1-inch chunks, or preground beef
1/2 small white onion, cut into chunks, optional
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 ounces cheddar cheese, grated or thinly sliced, optional
Hamburger buns, hard rolls, or English muffin, toasted if you like, optional
Lettuce, tomato, sliced onion, pickles, and condiments as you like
1. Prepare a grill or turn on the broiler; the heat should be medium-high and the rack about 4 inches from the heat source. If you’re broiling, put a large ovenproof skillet on the rack 10 minutes before you’re ready to cook.
2. To make your own ground beef, put the meat, onion if you’re using it, and a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper into a food processor (in batches if your machine is small) and pulse until coarsely ground—finer than roughly chopped, but not much—this will take only a few pulses.
If you’re starting with preground beef, mince the onion if you’re using it and fold it into the meat with a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper.
3. Handling the ground beef mixture as little as possible, lightly shape the meat into 4 large or 6 small burgers. (You can make them up to several hours ahead of cooking. Cover tightly with plastic wrap or foil and refrigerate; bring them to room temperature before continuing.)
4. Put the burgers on the hot grill or under the broiler and cook, undisturbed, until they release easily, 3 to 5 minutes. Turn and cook the other side the same way, topping with the cheese if you’re using it. Check for doneness frequently by taking a peek with a sharp knife or using a thermometer if the burger is more than 1 inch thick. For medium-rare, figure about 3 more minutes (if they’re over an inch thick, you’ll need a little more time; if they’re under an inch, you’ll need a little less). Serve on buns, topped however you like.
GRINDING YOUR OWN MEAT
Pulsing the machine helps you avoid overprocessing; the meat should just begin to come together in the bowl.
Don’t grind it into mush.
When forming the patties, handle them only enough to keep them together, using your thumbs to form rough rounds. Mash or knead them and they'll be tough for sure.
When they brown on the bottom and develop a crust, they'll release easily. Don't fuss with them.
Pressing down on the patties squeezes out their juice—don’t even think about it!
Put the cheese on top right after you flip the burgers; the heat from the cooked side will melt it.
Lean ground meat (any kind) cooks up dry and mealy. Whether you grind your own or not, choose meat well marbled with fat. You should be able to see it.
Season with conviction. Start with a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper and taste it (to check the taste, fry up a spoonful in a skillet and taste it that way). Add more as needed.
Pan-Cooked Burgers: After shaping the burgers, follow the directions for Pan-Cooked Steak on page 267.
Other Burgers: Try using pork, lamb, turkey, chicken (yes, with the skin!), or even seafood instead of beef. (Cook turkey, chicken, and seafood until no pinkness remains inside but not until they’re gray and dry.)
Seasoned Burgers: Stir in chopped fresh herbs, like rosemary, sage, or basil. Add spices, like curry powder, chili powder, or ground cumin. Or try a splash of soy sauce, Worcestershire, or Tabasco.