How to make the perfect beef burger

By Elizabeth Atia

A perfectly juicy, homemade beef burger is one of my all-time favourite meals, and it’s not just me who loves them – did you know that they have a whole celebration day in their honour? The 27th of August, 2020, is National Burger Day and to help celebrate, here’s a few tips and tricks for you to make the perfect beef burger at home.

I like my burgers cooked on a grill panso you get those lovely black grill lines. My burgers are usually served open on a toasted burger bun with a selection of toppings for people to choose from. Each of us, in my household, prefer something different on our burgers butmy favouritesinclude crispy bacon strips, a generous helping of caramelised balsamic red onions, a slice of applewood smoked cheddar cheese and a generous squeeze of garlic mayonnaise.

One of the most common complaints when making burgers at home is the fact that the meat can often shrink while cooking.

Ground beef contains fat and water, and when it is cooked the juices created by the melting fat and water are released, causing the proteins to shrink. This can result in a burger that shrinks, ending up too small for the burger buns, and frustratingly, too thick to be eaten with any degree of ease.

5 tips to help stop a beef burger from shrinking

1. Use the bestcut of minced beef that you can find with no added water.

2. Cook your burgers over a slow heat, turning them only once halfway.

3. Don’t press the burgers with a spatula when cooking – you want to retain all those tasty juices!

4. Make your burgers slightly larger than you want them to be, as there will, inevitably be a little shrinkage as the meat cooks.

5. Press a little dimple into the centre of the raw beef burger before cooking. This dimple will even out as the burger cooks.

Another common complaint is that beef burgers can end up overcooked on the outside, yet still be undercooked in the middle. To avoid this, cook your burger over a slow heat and invest in a digital meat thermometer. This avoids the need for guesswork, or cutting into the burger (releasing those lovely juices) while cooking to see if the burger is ready. For a well-done burger you’re looking for a temperature of 71°C.

Beef burgers are incredibly versatile too, with regards to what you can load them up with. Salad, sliced tomatoes, onion, pickles, cheese, salsa, you name it –anything goes! For something more unusual why not trytopping your burger with a couple of crispy onion rings, some crispy bacon and a drizzle of Canadian maple syrup? You could also vary your cheese – mozzarella, gouda and even blue cheese make for a delicious burger topping.

Tips for assembling and loading up a beef burger

1. Toast your burger buns on the cut side under a grill (or use a bagel setting on your toaster, if you have it).

2. To make crispy bacon, place your smoked bacon rashers on a cold grill pan and switch the heat on to medium-high. As the bacon heats it will release fat, which will help the bacon crisp and caramelise nicely. Turn a few times until it’s as crispy as you like and drain on kitchen towel before serving.

3. Add a slice of cheese to the top of your burgers at the end of cooking, before you take them off the heat to rest. The heat of the burgers will melt the cheese nicely, but not too much.

4. To make a balsamiccaramelisedred onion topping, heat one tablespoonful of butter in a small saucepan over a medium-low heat. Gently sauté one finely sliced red onion, adding a little salt to prevent the onion from browning. Cook for about 15 minutes, until the onion softens. Sprinkle over one tablespoonful of dark brown sugar and two tablespoonfuls of balsamic vinegar. Cook for a few more minutes until the mixture caramelises and the liquid evaporates.

5. For awesome visual appeal, why not serve your loaded-up burger held together with a steak knife?

Easy Beef Burger Recipe

1 tbsp sunflower oil

1 small red onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

500 grams lean beef mince

1 tbsp tomato puree

100 grams dry bread crumbs

1 small egg, beaten

2 tsp mixed Italian herbs

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste


1. Heat the sunflower oil in a small saute pan and gently cook the onion and garlic until they begin to soften, about five minutes. Allow to cool.

2. Combine the beef, cooled onion and garlic, tomato puree, bread crumbs, egg, herbs, Worcestershire sauce and black pepper in a bowl. Using your hands, gently combine, taking care not to over mix.

3. Using wet hands, form the mixture into four large patty-shapes, pressing a small dimple into the centre of each.

4. Leave in the fridge, covered, until needed.

5. Heat a grill pan over a medium heat and cook the burgers for 8-9 minutes on each side, or until the internal temperature reads 71°C. Take care to flip the burgers only once during cooking, and do not press the juices out!

6. Leave the burgers to rest for a few minutes to allow the juices to settle back into the burgers.

7. Serve on toasted buns with a selection of your favourite toppings.

Elizabeth Atia

Mum, daydream adventurer, ex-pat Canadian & quite possibly Britain's most northerly award-winning food blogger. Calls Shetland home.

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