From forming an even patty to keeping it juicy and flavorful, your burgers will be better than ever.

By Kelly Vaughan
May 26, 2020
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cheeseburger with grilled bun tomatoes pickles lettuce
Credit: Kate Mathis

Looking for ways to become a more confident cook at home? Our food editors are here to help. Each week, we're shining a spotlight on the exciting things happening in the Martha Stewart test kitchen. Our editors will share their best cooking tips, favorite products, new ideas, and more in our weekly series, Out of the Kitchen.

There's nothing like biting into a juicy burger topped with lettuce, gooey cheese, tangy pickles, and ripe tomatoes—all between a soft golden bun. The most important step to making a perfect burger is mastering the art of cooking a patty. Whether you're preparing a beef, turkey, lamb, or veggie burger, there are several essential steps that will help you make an evenly cooked, flavorful patty every single time.

Building the Flavor

When making beef burgers, both our food director Sarah Carey and deputy food editor Greg Lofts prefer to use grass-fed meat because it's more flavorful and better for the cows' diet. One of Greg's secrets for a flavorful beef burger is tucking a small, chilled pat of butter into the center of each patty. "As the patties grill, the butter melts, making them more flavorful and juicy. It's dirty but delicious," he says. To spice up ground turkey or chicken burgers, editor-at-large Shira Bocar is a fan of adding a tablespoon of Dijon mustard to each pound of ground meat before forming the patties. Sarah recommends adding ground pork, pancetta, or grated cheese to poultry-based burgers, which can add fat and umami to the meat. Our recipe for Hawaiian Turkey Burgers amps up the ground meat with ginger and garlic, then pairs the patty with grilled pineapple, thick slices of grilled red onion, and Havarti cheese on top.

Forming the Patties

Looking for a way to create evenly shaped patties? Use the lid of a plastic deli container to portion the meat, which ensures you shape uniformly-sized burgers. Senior food editor Lauryn Tyrell recommends making the patties larger than the circumference of the bun because the meat tends to shrink when cooking, especially if it contains lots of fat. Sarah's secret? "I like to make an indent in the center of thicker burgers because they tend to shrink as they cook and can end up in a rounder ball shape if you're not careful."

Indoor Versus Outdoor Cooking

When cooking burgers on the grill, make sure that the grates are clean and use high heat for a charred exterior and juicy pink interior. Much like cooking any type of meat on the grill or in a pan, don't move the burgers until they start to release naturally; otherwise, they may stick to the grates and fall apart.

Lauryn prefers cooking thin burgers on a griddle, such as the Staub Cast-Iron Double Burner Griddle ($179.95, williams-sonoma.com) or a cast-iron grill pan such as the Le Creuset Signature Cast-Iron Square Grill Pan and Press Set ($225, williams-sonoma.com), which helps to achieve the look of grill marks on the burgers, even in the colder months. Use high-heat and neutral vegetable oil with a high smoke point when using cast-iron cookware to cook burgers.

Top It Off

Our food editors are just as passionate about the toppings as they are about the meat. Sarah and Greg prefer American cheese (as does Martha!)—"I know it's not 'real' cheese but it melts best, stays melted, and the flavor doesn't overwhelm the way blue cheese and sharp cheddar often do," says Greg. They both like soft buns, such as Martin's or King Hawaiian sweet hamburger buns. Crunchy iceberg or romaine lettuce leaves, lots of dill pickles, a combination of mayonnaise and Dijon mustard, and tomato slices also top the list (and the patties) as our editors' favorite toppings.

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