When I was young, I didn't like hamburgers, which is odd because it's one of those foods that all kids seem to like. I eventually realized that my issue wasn't the hamburgers, but the ketchup. I know it sounds a bit un-American to dislike ketchup, but I'm quite put-off by the concept and execution of a tomato product that tastes sweet. I now love burgers but I highly recommend topping them with mustard, strong dill pickles (homemade if possible), and sliced avocado.
Homemade burgers often pale in comparison to the restaurant variety, not least because they're dry rather than juicy. Professional chefs tout using meat with the highest fat content, but even then burgers can end up disappointingly dry. I have found that adding a bit of unflavored gelatin to the ground meat results in a juicy burger every time. Don't go overboard with the gelatin, as too much of it will cause the burger to fall apart when you flip it. I like my burgers rare, but my husband likes them medium-well, so I speak from experience when I say that even a medium-well done burger will stay juicy with gelatin.
I always grind the meat myself when I make burgers. This may seem a bit overboard, but hear me out: the longer that ground meat sits, the more it loses its juice. Additionally, I love the quality control that goes into my hamburgers. I know that owning a personal meat grinder might seem expensive, but because I and many others already own Kitchenaid stand mixers (unbelievably, mine was a gift from my grandmother when I was still in high school; it's still going strong), a grinder attachment is fairly inexpensive.
One last thing before I move on to the recipe: I always make homemade rolls for my burgers. I know, I know, I'm suddenly taking a fast and easy weeknight meal and turning it into a real production; however, I encourage you to go all out and make these potato hamburger rolls at least once, as it truly takes the burger experience to a whole new level. The combination of a freshly baked roll with a juicy burger is more than worth the extra effort.
Makes ~ 7 burgers
2 pounds ground beef (alternatively, I highly recommend grinding your own)
1 package Knox unflavored gelatin — .25 ounces or ~2¼ teaspoons
2 tablespoons cold water or chicken broth
oil (any oil with a high smoke point will do) (optional)
In a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over cold water or broth and stir until fully saturated. Pour mixture over ground meat before it fully gels (this way it distributes itself more evenly, but it'll be fine if mixed in post-gel). Combine gently, but don't over-mix the meat. Form into patties, being careful not to pack them too tightly. Place the patties on parchment squares (this will make them easy to grill later), and refrigerate until ready to cook. Refrain from salting the patties until just before you place them on the grill, as the salt sucks the moisture out of the burgers.
I prefer to cook burgers on a very hot cast iron frying pan or griddle because of the crust that forms, but if you don't have cast iron or you prefer the flavor of an outdoor grill, other pans and outdoor grills works great as well. Heat the frying pan until very hot over medium-high or high heat. (Optional: lightly oil the griddle before placing the burgers down to help with sticking.) Although most meats benefit from being brought to room temperature before cooking, hamburgers should be cold when place on the griddle so that a crust has time to form, while the interior is still rare or at least rosy. Salt, then place the patty on the griddle for 2-3 minutes (don't move it around) and don't overcrowd the pan. When the crust forms, the burger will release on its own. Flip and grill for an additional few minutes to reach desired temperature. For the most part, I don't make cheeseburgers because I'm not convinced cheese is necessary when there's already so many other flavors involved, but if you love cheese, by all means throw it on after flipping (just be sure it melts). This is best accomplished by doming the burgers for the last minute or so. I do like my burgers to taste purely of ground beef, but if you love other flavors, absolutely add Worcestershire Sauce or any other condiment you love.