The Basic Burger

Last week we talked about the best restaurant burgers in the country, but isn’t homemade always better? Here are a little history and a few ideas I think you will like.

The burger may be American’s greatest addition to the culinary world. Many people believe German immigrants from Hamburg thought up the idea. Others say that Louis Lassen of New Haven, Connecticut, invented the burger in 1900, but whoever came up with the idea, they created a near revolution in food. Think I am kidding? What was the first fast food to hit the streets in the 1940s? The burger. Is there a country anywhere in the world where you cannot find a hamburger? Maybe North Korea. Can you imagine how many burgers are sold in just in the USA annually? I’ll give you a hint, McDonnell’s sell about 75 hamburgers a second. No kidding!

But just what is a burger? It is a sandwich, no doubt. Two slices of bread and a beef patty are the basic components, but just with those two components, there are lots of options. From plain white bread to a crusty baguette, and cheap beef at the grocery store, to wagyu, there are an awful lot of combinations. Add to that list all the possible toppings, and this becomes a very long list indeed.

Let me make one point very clear, the best burgers are cooked on a grill. The best fire in a grill is made of hardwood, next is hardwood charcoal, followed by regular charcoal, next to last is a gas grill, and in absolutely last place, a skillet on a kitchen stove.

The burger has come a long way from what the German immigrants imagined, but it is still one of Americans’ favorite foods. Here are a few cooking ideas, from simple to just a bit complex. Just don’t forget to dress your burger properly, what is a burger without pickles, onion, tomato, and lettuce?

Basic Burger

This is just a basic burger, so don’t expect fireworks. It is fine for the kids or a family lunch, but you are not going to impress guests with this recipe. If you want to upgrade this recipe a little, fry your own frozen French fries, just make sure to serve them immediately after coming out of the oil (drain and salt first).

  • 1 pound 80-20 ground chuck
  • Salt and pepper
  • Traditional hamburger buns
  • Mayo, ketchup, mustard
  • Tomato, pickle, onion, lettuce

This is as simple as it gets. Buy USDA select or choice ground beef. Season the beef with salt and pepper, form into patties and grill over a charcoal or wood fire until done the way you like it. When using store-bought ground beef, well done is probably a good idea (155 f. by the way). It is not worth a date with E. Coli bacteria. Make sure to toast the buns on the same grill, and you can add a little butter if you like!


Pretty Good Burger

  • ½ pound choice ground beef
  • ½ pound ground pork
  • Thick slices white cheddar cheese
  • Sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, red pepper flakes
  • Dales Steak Seasoning
  • Crusty dark bread, sliced 2/3 inch (see the deli of your grocery store)
  • Heirloom tomatoes
  • Homemade mayo

Combine the beef and pork, season aggressively and mix well. Remember the Dales is salty, so don’t over salt. Form into patties at least 1 inch thick, thicker if you like. Grill over a hardwood charcoal fire until just done, top with the cheese, close the grill lid and finish cooking and the cheese is melted. Toast the bread on the fire, thick slice the tomatoes, slather on the mayo and serve at once.


A World Class Burger

  • 1 pound ground to order prime beef
  • Sea Salt, freshly ground black pepper, pungent red pepper flakes
  • 1 diced jalapeno pepper
  • 3-4 cloves finely diced garlic
  • Best quality olive oil
  • Gruyere cheese
  • Thick sliced locally baked dark or wheat bread
  • Olive salad
  • Optional heirloom tomatoes

Find a grocery that sells prime beef, pick a well-marbled cut and ask the butcher to grind it for you (he may have tears in his eyes, but he will do it for you). Be prepared to pay through the nose. Just warning you! Season aggressively, add the pepper and garlic and mix well. Make the patties THICK! Grill this bad boy over a hardwood fire, until it is cooked the way you like it, but, please, not well done, that would be a complete waste of good beef. Add the cheese and melt. Toast the bread, assemble the burger, top with olive salad, add sliced jalapenos if you want to spice it up, grab a handful of paper towels, and dig in.




Written by Julian Brunt

Julian Brunt is a food and travel writer that has been writing about the food culture of the Deep South for over a decade. He is the eleventh generation of his family to live in the South, grew up in Europe, traveled extensively for the first fifteen years after graduating from the University of Maryland, University College, Heidelberg, Germany. Today, he's a contributor for multiple publications, including Our Mississippi Home. He's also appeared on Gordon Ramsay's television show, "To Hell and Back in 24 Hours."


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