The perfect burger is something I've dedicated a significant amount of time to. Burgers these days have become over-wrought, complicated and impossible to eat. What I've discovered, to no one's surprise, is that a great cheeseburger ultimately comes down to the quality of the ingredients and simplicity. Here's my take on the perfect cheeseburger.
Prep time: 30 mins
Cooking Time: 20 mins
What you'll need:
- 500g ground beef
- 1 red onion
- 2 tomatoes
- Dill pickles
- Butter lettuce leaves
- 8 slices Emmenthal cheese
- 4 white burger buns
- 2 tbsp mayonnaise
- 1 tsp harissa paste
The key to making this easy is making sure you have everything prepared and laid out before you even start cooking. The first thing you need to prepare is the patties. These burgers don't have any gimmicks in them. No breadcrumbs, no eggs, no herbs, just beef. You'll need fatty ground beef, so don't bother with a supermarket, rather go to a butcher and ask for some ground beef chuck or their burger mix.
Using your hands, make balls of beef that are a little smaller than a tennis ball. If you have a kitchen scale, they should weigh about 125 grams. Using your thumb and forefinger to shape the balls of beef into patties that are about 2 cm thick. Lay them out on a baking tray and salt and pepper both sides of liberally. Leave them out on the counter for around 30 mins.
Now, start with your toppings. Using a sharp knife or a mandoline (be careful with both) thinly slice your tomatoes, onion and pickles. Wash your lettuce, even if the packet says its's pre-washed.
Next, cut your burger buns in half and butter both sides of each. In a pan on medium heat, toast the buttered buns until they're golden brown. This'll add an extra layer of crunch to your burger and take it up a notch.
To make a sauce, combine one teaspoon of Harissa paste and two tablespoons of mayonnaise in a bowl. This is more of a recommendation because you can use whatever sauce you want, be it Sriracha, mustard or even just tomato sauce. I just think Harissa mayo is an excellent compliment to this burger.
Game time! Get a cast-iron skillet (or your best pan) screaming hot. Don't put any oil or fat in the pan, as the fat from the patties will be all the lubricant you need. Put your patties into the pan and listen to them sizzle - do not move them! You want them to sit on the heat and create a beautiful crispy crust. Watch the edges of the patties and when the brown starts to creep up towards the middle of the patty, flip them.
Lie two slices of cheese on top of each patty and put a lid over the pan for two minutes. This'll steam the burgers and help the cheese melt. When you remove the lid, the cheese should have melted and coated the patties in an oozy layer of deliciousness. Leave them on the heat for another minute, then remove them from the pan and leave them to rest for a few minutes.
Finally, time to assemble. On the bottom bun, lay down a few leaves of lettuce. This will stop the juices of the burger making the bun soggy. Then the burger patty, then a couple slices of tomato, then a couple slices of onion, then a layer of pickles. Spread some Harissa mayo (or the condiment of your choice) on the top half of your bun and add it to the pile.
There you have it. What I believe to be the perfect cheeseburger.
Cape Town based creative and strategist in the advertising industry. I love food, cycling, running, adventure, and my family. Things I write about: food, travel, technology and some personal stuff.