Over the years, a good burger has become the American standard for a classic meal. The classic hamburger or cheeseburger is both a hearty lunch and a filling dinner.
Almost 30 billion pounds of beef are eaten every year in America, and a good portion of which is in burger form. In fact, a study in 2022 showed that the average American eats about 60 burgers per year, making the ground meat used to make hamburger patties one of the most popular ingredients in the entire country.
As you may have guessed, those statistics didn’t get so high because of homemade hamburger recipes — most of the hamburger meat eaten by Americans comes from fast food giants.
While these franchises certainly produce a quick and juicy burger, it’s a far cry from a great burger. In addition, the typical fast food burger is loaded with saturated fat, preservatives, and empty calories. We recommend skipping those burgers in favor of a homemade burger recipe that you make at home with grass-fed beef.
Whether you’re planning on a backyard cookout with your friends and family or just want to make a gourmet meal instead of going to a stuffy restaurant, a high-quality burger always hits the spot. So, how do you go about making the perfect burger, one that’s equally delicious and better for you and the planet?
A lot of questions might come to mind. What do you season your own meat with? Do you cook the patty until it’s medium or medium rare? What toppings or condiments do you serve with your burger?
A lot of the answers to these questions are based on preference. However, one truth always remains the same: To make the perfect burger, you always want to start with high-quality 80/20 beef, the juiciest and easiest to cook.
What Does 80/20 Mean?
When you purchase ground beef at the grocery store, your local butcher, or online through 99 Counties, you might see a ratio like 80/20, 90/10, or 70/30 on the packaging. This ratio is the balance between lean meat and fatty tissue mixed together in the ground beef.When the butcher prepares ground beef, they take most of the lean meat out of the shoulder of the cow and blend it with trimmings from elsewhere on the animal. These trimmings tend to be higher in fat, giving the butcher control over the blend of the ground beef.
What Are the Most Common Ground Beef Ratios for Burger Patties?
Below are the most common ground beef ratios that you’ll find in beef burgers:
This blend will usually be the fattiest that you’ll see in a standard grocery store and doesn't do us much good when it comes to putting together a burger. The higher fat content renders too much grease on the pan and can even lead to a potential grease fire.
However, 70/30 meat would be perfect for something like meatloaf or meatballs. When making these dishes, a home cook like you can mix in breadcrumbs during prep time, changing the consistency of the meat. The additional fat in the ground beef is what keeps the breadcrumbs moist and your meatballs nice and juicy.
Here is our sweet spot for burgers.
80/20 means 80 percent lean ground beef with 20 percent fat. This ground beef recipe has excellent flavor without needing much else.
Ground beef with almost the lowest possible fat content will likely need some supplemental flavors to make it taste its best. 90/10 blends are an excellent choice for a gravy dish or stew — something that has other fattier ingredients that the beef can play off of.
How To Cook the Perfect Burger
Now that we’ve got our 80/20 ground beef, it’s time to discuss how to turn it into a delicious, moist, flavorful burger with just a little bit of cook time. Of course, as we mentioned, a lot of this comes down to preference, but actually cooking the patty is fairly straightforward.
As far as seasoning your meat goes, we like to keep it simple. The holy trinity of equal parts salt-pepper-garlic powder is all you need for high-quality meat. You want to avoid covering up the flavor of the beef itself but rather showcase the grass-fed fat and muscle.
When it comes to cooking the beef patty, there are two primary options: grilling and stovetop cooking.
You might not have a grill or even a backyard, so cooking in your kitchen with your best cast iron skillet may be your only option. Don’t worry; both methods yield excellent results.
The Best Burger Ever: Pan-Fry It on the Stove Top
If you’re cooking inside, you’ll need a strong pan, vegetable oil to coat your pan, and your meat and seasonings.
Apply your seasonings generously to your meat while the pan heats up, and once it’s ready, smack that meat down on the high-heat surface.
You’ll know you timed it right if the beef sizzles on contact. Add a bit of pressure to your burger with the grates of your spatula or a burger weight, but don’t leave it on; this can lead to a dry burger.
You’ll only need to flip twice in the pan — once after about three-and-a-half minutes of searing and once more after another three-and-a-half minutes, this time flipping onto your plate.
The Best Burger Ever: Grilled
Grilling burgers in the backyard with the family is the ideal American holiday tradition.
Heat your grill up to about 400 and have your meat prepared once it’s nearly heated. Once you put your patties down on the grill, close the grill top for about three minutes total time without opening. This will keep the heat contained, and the fat from the burgers will steam and circulate throughout the patties.
Open the grill back up, flip to the other side, and sear for another minute until you’ve got color on both sides.
How Do You Handle Ground Beef?
Now that you know everything about cooking a perfect burger with 80/20 beef, we’ve got a few extra pointers to help you further develop your culinary skills.
Always Cook to 135 Minimum
Bacteria can develop in cuts of beef, and the FDA has some thoughts about how all burgers should be cooked. In order to successfully kill any potentially food-poisoning bacteria, ground beef should be cooked all the way up to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
However, that leaves us with a well-done burger, which may be safer, but lacks the flavor a medium rare burger has. Depending on where you get your meat and the time since it came out of the grinder, cooking your burger between 135 and 145 degrees should be appropriate.
If you’re buying from a local, high-quality butcher shop that ships cuts of meat within 100 miles and provides a deep-freeze shipping container, then you’ll have much less to worry about compared to buying ground beef elsewhere.
In order to get that deep crust on the top and bottom of your burger, you need your meat to be seasoned and your pan to be ripping hot before the meat ever touches it. This goes for everything from sirloin steak to pan-cooked brisket.
Turn your heat to medium-high, apply a small amount of oil, and while you wait for it to heat up, keep an eye on it. Most cooking oils will start to smoke around 350 to 400 degrees, which is plenty hot. Once it just starts to smoke, be ready to throw your burger down!
Toast Your Bun
We’ve talked a lot about meat so far, covering fat ratios and seasonings. However, the burger is just a lonely disc of meat without its partner, the bun.
You may prefer a classic white bread bun, a potato bun, or even a kaiser roll. Whatever type of bread you prefer, we have one strong recommendation. Always toast your buns.
Regardless of how you cook your burger, it’s going to be juicy and have a bit of liquid in it. Toasting your buns fortifies your burger’s structure and prevents it from getting too bogged down and mushy.
Of course, the last thing anyone wants to bite into is a soggy burger. Plus, condiments like ketchup, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce can add even more moisture. To avoid the sogginess, you can toast your buns in butter or any high-heat cooking oil.
A Final Word
Burgers are an American staple and a global icon, and in order to make the perfect burger at home, the most important step is starting off with 80/20, high-quality ground beef. From there, it’s mostly preference, but always remember to have fun and be safe in the kitchen!
Beef consumption U.S., 2020 | Statista
Average American eats about 60 burgers per year | Digitalhub US
Ground Beef and Food Safety | USDA