Commentary: How to make a perfect burger

Commentary: How to make a perfect burger
July 19
12:00 2018

By Algenon Cash

Every summer backyard chefs across the nation promise this will be the year they perfect their burger grilling skills.  Well the season has arrived once again, so I’m sharing insider secrets for all the burger lovers, considering my involvement in developing the menu at Zesto Burgers & Ice Cream – most would agree that I know a thing or two about burgers.

Here are some tips to help you produce the ultimate burger and impress your friends:

1. Use 80/20 ground chuck – I can tell you a higher fat content will guarantee a juicier burger.  An 80 percent lean, 20 percent fat ratio is my preferred choice, which may not be completely diet friendly – but what can I say, it’s a burger.  Ground beef is essentially any part of the cow left over grinded together, so I encourage burger enthusiasts to use ground chuck. 

2. Use salt and pepper only – Many people like to add onion, garlic, or other herbs to the beef mixture to season the burgers, but my strict advice is to use salt and pepper only.  Only sprinkle the outside of the burger and do so liberally.

3. Temperature matters – We get a lot of customers used to eating well-done meat, but the perfect burger will be somewhere between medium rare and medium.  I advise my cooks to grill the burgers for around seven or eight minutes, depending on the temperature setting of the grill.

4. Don’t press the burgers – Most backyard cooks like to press their burgers so they cook faster, but always be mindful that pressing the beef will extract flavor. 

5. Flip once – Look carefully for a crust to start forming around the bottom of the burger, which often takes around three minutes, then use a metal spatula to flip over.  Continue cooking until a crust has formed on the bottom once again, and the burger is grilled to ideal temperature, about four more minutes.  Constantly flipping the burgers will cause the flavor to escape.


6. Use a quality bun – I’ve always preferred a “squishy” bun, like a potato bun, so you don’t have a mouthful of bread in search for the actual burger. It’s good because it does not break up and molds itself around the contents of the burger.  You might try butter and lightly toasting the bun prior to placing the patty on.

7. Classic toppings are best – Nowadays you can have a burger with just about anything on it. But I prefer to keep things more simple with classic toppings like pickle chips, lettuce and ketchup.

Send me a photo of your best burger and I’ll post it.  Good luck 🙂

Algenon Cash is a nationally recognized speaker and the managing director of Wharton Gladden & Company, an investment banking firm. Reach him at

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