This blog is all about how to make your own homemade burgers. I don’t only mean the meat part. I mean everything that goes into them: the condiments and the buns as well. Well, maybe not the cheese, and you may be buying your own tomatoes and onions too. Nor is there a beer recipe for an accompanying brew. This is about everything else: the pattie, the bun, the condiments.
I know that can sound a little silly given what most people do: head down to the store, grab some buns and some patties, cut up a few tomatoes and cheese. Barbeque. Dollop store bought ketchup, mustard, and relish on them.
This blog is for those who want to kick up their culinary game and do it all from scratch. So if you crave the adulation of your foodie friends impressed with your culinary DIY wizardry, then read on. In addition to the meat, I’m including a lentil burger recipe for all the wonderful vegans and vegetarians out there. I’m also covering mayo and dijon mustard, as I know lots of you like those on your burgers too.
It may seem quite daunting but really, its not. Everything except the buns are all made ahead of time. I’ve got other blogs where this is all referenced. However, I’m putting up the recipes here so you can stay on this page and make a batch of 6 burgers plus all the trimmings from what’s here and have a great time. You can dig into my other blogs for more details and refinements. So let’s go into each of these pieces that makes up the quintessential American burger and look at how each one is done.
Before we start… know this…. I use a weigh scale and everything here is expressed in grams….
The buns (2 hours total time, 20 minutes of hands on time)
Let’s start with the buns because the buns are the only thing you need to really think about the day of. After all, if you’re going to all this trouble, why ruin it with buns a day or two old? I’ll assume that you’re somewhat familiar with baking but if you’re not that’s okay too. I’ll separate this into a note for those of you comfortable with making breads and another for those of you not so familiar: A fail safe bun recipe. The quickie recipe may be a good option for those of you ‘already bakers’ but pressed for time.
You are already a bread baker
Familiar with bread already? Make up your basic bread dough – whether its yeast, sourdough or something hybrid. Prepare your dough as you usually do. When it comes time to shape, cut the dough into 110g or so chunks and let them rest while you get other things ready. Prepare a cookie sheet big enough to handle your buns. Line it with parchment paper or a silpat liner. Pour out a mound of sesame seed on the counter. Gradually press out the burger bun into the sesame seed and gently press them out until they have reached the desired burger shape. Egg white wash is optional, as is a brushing of oil on the top. Cover with a damp cloth until they have risen – as you would for your usual bread. Bake for 12 minutes at 450 – you may need to adjust this depending on your local situation, but the buns should register beyond 190 degrees when done.
Baking is new for you
Basic bun recipe: For 6 burgers, and using instant yeast, do as follows: (total time: 2 hrs from “OK lets do this! to “Wow! They look amazing!” ‘Hands on’ time – about 30 minutes )
- 250 ml tepid or room temperature water
- 10g instant bread yeast
- 390g flour
- 8g salt
- Mix 10g instant bread yeast with 250g of tepid water. (You can use a lot less yeast too – like 3g -, and it will yield a more complex and tasty result, and take a lot longer to rise – like 8 or more hours.)
- While the yeast begins to develop, mix the dry ingredients: 390g flour (all purpose, whole wheat, a combination – your choice), 7g salt.
- Combine the water/yeast with the flour/salt and knead for about 5 minutes. Cover with a damp towel and leave to rise until it is clearly rising. This will be approximately 45 minutes to an hour depending on the room temperature: the warmer the room, the faster the rise.
- Gently remove the dough and knead by stretching the dough and folding over itself. (View this video between the 4:50 and 5:30 mark to see the technique) Do this about 2-3 times, until the dough tightens up. Divide the dough into 6 even pieces and let it rest. Prepare a couple of baking sheets: either oil the pan or use parchment paper.
- Pour out a generous quantity of sesame seeds or what ever else you want to have appear on the outside of your burger.
- For each pattie, do a final stretch and fold, roll into a ball, press into the sesame seeds, gradually working the pattie until it assumes the size and shape of your ideal burger pattie. An egg white wash or brush with oil is optional and will result in a glistening top. Place on the cookie sheet and cover with a damp towel. Turn on the oven to 450.
- Once they are all on the sheet, leave about 20 minutes with a damp towel on top (for this quantity of yeast. If you decided to go with a lot less yeast and a longer rising time, plan on up to an hour).
- Bake at 450 for 12 or so minutes. Do check the buns after 10 minutes as the time will change according to both your oven and how many buns you cook at once. They should register at least 190 degrees when done.
Buns on parchment paper about to go in oven
The burgers (30 minutes if you are using mince; about 60 minutes if you are grinding raw meat yourself)
The ‘burger factory’
Burgers are really sausages without skins. There are a lot of burger recipes out there that involve bread crumbs, flour, eggs and the like, but when you approach it like a sausage you get a really rich tasting and satisfying burger. I follow Michael Rulhman’s sausage recipe in Ratio as a base. If you use my sausage calculator – see my blog on sausages – you can use it to adjust your ingredients and quantities. Here is a recipe for 6 x 100g patties:
- 425g mince
- 65g fat (i.e. total of 980g that is a combination of meat and fat. This can be bacon grease you have saved, chicken fat from soups, suet, even butter or coconut oil, though meat fats are preferable. Keep in mind there will be some fat already in the mince.)
- 25g very finely diced onion (about a quarter of a small onion)
- 8g salt
- 1g (about 1/8 tsp) pepper
- 13g pressed garlic (about 1 clove. More can be added.)
- 60g red wine (about ¼ cup). Beer would work too – maybe a nice porter.
These quantities assume it’s according to taste and preference. Typically, patties weigh in around 100g which is slightly less than a quarter pound. But doing it yourself means that you can do whatever you want – though if you make them too thick and big you may have logistical issues with your bun, and risk them being uncooked on the inside and charred on the outside. I probably wouldn’t go less than 90g nor more than 150g. That all said, a 50g pattie makes a great breakfast sandwich slider, with eggs and cheese.
If you wish to get more creative or change up quantities, check out my sausage calculator
To freeze, shape the mix into patties, individually wrap in wax paper, put in freezer bag and then into the freezer. To defreeze, microwave to raw (1 minute for 1st pattie, 20-30 secs for each additional pattie, spread out on a plate). AAAND they’re ready for the bbq.
To serve fresh, cover and refrigerate until needed.
Lentil Burgers (about 1 hr, 40 minutes hands on)
For all the vegans in the crowd, my lentil burger recipe. This is based on a Chef Michael Smith recipe I have messed with, but its definitely different enough for me to call it my own.
- 1 cup lentils
- 1 large onion
- 1 large carrot
- 1/2 cup oats
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp basil
- 1 tsp thyme
- 1 tsp oregano
- hot sauce/pepper/ to taste
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- optional: salsa to taste
- cook lentils with 2 cups of water and a little salt
- cut and dice onion, saute in oil with a little salt and the herbs/spices
- grate 1 large carrot
- combine cooked lentils with carrots and onions and simmer, boiling down the extra liquid
- add other ingredients and keep simmering until oats have disintegrated and the mix is getting thick and sticky. ALWAYS keep stirring to prevent burning. The idea is to achieve the thick stickiness needed to hold the pattie together when cooking.
- shape into patties and refrigerate or freeze, or leave as a mix and form into patties right before cooking.
Freezing tip for burgers – and anything else like this:
You know how frustrating it is to extract just one frozen pattie, or piece of fish, or bun or what have you from the package in the freezer? Here’s how to avoid that. Spread the wrapped patties on a baking sheet and put that in the freezer for an hour, then bag them in sealed plastic bags. They will freeze in such a way that they will not stick together when you retrieve them.
Tomato ketchup (20 minutes)
Tomato ketchup is pretty easy. It’s essentially tomato paste + vinegars, salts, sugars and flavorings. I usually make a batch of green tomato chutney each year, at the height of the green tomato season and for my ketchup I use a cup of that plus a small 125 ml can of tomato paste. My blog on the chutney describes that preserve, and what I have done here is to distill that recipe so that you have measurements for 1 250 ml jar that you would combine with a single can of tomato paste.
setting up for green tomato chutney
Green tomato chutney: 1 single jar (the calculated weight is given, along with an approximation of how much of the fruit)
- half a green or a fairly dry tomato (93g)
- ¼ onion (46g)
- ½ tart apple – like a granny smith (46g)
- 1 tbs raisins or currants (5g)
- 1 clove of garlic mashed and pressed
- 1 tsp of finely minced fresh ginger (1g). (really fresh good quality garlic and ginger powder can also be used)
- 5g salt
- a pinch each of cloves & turmeric
- 23g brown sugar
- 28g vinegar
If you want a jar of chutney, roughly chop the tomatoes, onion and apple using the pulse function of a food processor until they are the size and consistency you like. Add in the other ingredients. Leaving it for a week or two will help meld the flavors.
For the ketchup, puree all the fruit and vegetables, then add and mix in the sugar, vinegar, spices and a small 125ml can of tomato paste.
Relish (10 minutes)
Relish essentially is pureed pickles plus sugar. If you taste commercial relish you will see the truth of that very quickly. It’s also salty so there’s sweet, salt and vinegar and that’s why we love it so much.
Pickles & sugar is all you need.
To prepare the relish, weigh out the pickles and then add 10% of the pickle weight in sugar and 10% of the pickle weight in the pickle vinegar brine. Although there is already salt in the brine, I suggest adding a little more – to taste: 3% of the pickle weight. Using the pulse of your food processor, chop until it is the desired consistency. You can experiment with other additions: garlic, spices, apple come to mind.
An example of this would be: 300g pickles, 30g sugar, 30g pickle brine, 9g salt.
Hot dog mustard – AKA yellow mustard (20 minutes)
I’ve been having a lot of fun with mustard lately as you can see in some of my other blogs. Recently I came across a recipe for hot dog mustard by Joshua Bousel. He has you mix yellow mustard powder with water, and add salt, vinegar and some turmeric and garlic, then cook it briefly for about 5 minutes. The recipe here gives you almost a cup and it’s also weighed in grams which is the way I like to do business.
Ingredients (Joshua’s recipe with metric weights yielding a cup of mustard)
- 150ml water
- 35g dry ground mustard
- 60g white distilled vinegar
- 2g all purpose flour
- 4g kosher salt
- Large pinch turmeric
- Pinch of garlic powder
- Pinch of paprika
- Place water, mustard, vinegar, flour, salt, turmeric, garlic powder, and paprika in a small saucepan over medium heat and whisk until smooth.
- Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes, stirring often.
- Allow mustard to cool, transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to a month.
Dijon mustard (10 minutes, but it should have a week or two for the flavours to meld)
My standby basic Dijon mustard is as follows – but check my blog for other options
- 75g (combination of) yellow mustard powder, crushed yellow mustard seed, crushed brown mustard seed. (I keep a coffee grinder for grinding spices and nothing else)
- 75g apple juice
- 75g apple cider vinegar
- 3g salt
Mix these together to yield a 250ml jar. It will be quite hot. If you want it calmer, put the mix in a pot and heat it up, tasting until the heat is at a level you prefer. Leave it at least overnight for the mustard to absorb the liquid.
Mayonnaise (10-20 minutes depending on how much persuasion the emulsion takes)
Some people love mayo on their burgers. For you, here’s mayo. This is Michael Ruhlman’s take on it, as described in his inspirational Ratio book.
This will yield 1 cup of mayo, so I usually double it as it is tricky and labour intense. You spend the same time and labour making a double batch.
Ingredients (1 cup mayo)
- Beat in this exact order.
- 1 egg yolk at room temperature
- 1 tsp water
- 1 tsp vinegar
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- ½ tsp salt (but taste at the end)
- 1 cup oil: You want a really mild almost tasteless oil, as it will impart whatever flavour it has to the mayo. DO NOT therefore use cheap, harsh olive oil. My preference is grapeseed oil.
Start with the largest bowl in your possession and a good big wisk. Have all ingredients prepared beforehand as once you start whisking you are committed to the end. Also strategize and position the bowl so that it is held in place while one hand whisks while the other pours. Some ideas about this are: sitting and wedging the bowl between your tummy and the table edge, or using a rolled towel to sit the bowl in.
Whisk until emulsified:
- 1 large egg yolk at room temperature with 1 tsp water at room temperature. The successful beating of the water and egg yolk is critical to everything else that happens. If this does not emulsify, the rest of it won’t either. If this is proving difficult, make sure your egg is relatively fresh, and also that everything is at room temperature.
- Keep whisking and add in this order:
- lemon juice, vinegar, salt. Add these slowly, making sure your emulsion holds. (I like using both lemon juice and vinegar. It wants the lemony taste, but with a little vinegar kick. )
- Add the oil in a slow stream to the whisk.
- Optional: 1 tsp – or 2 of Dijon mustard. Indeed you can add whatever you like at this point to make your own unique artisan mayo.
If you mess it up, and it breaks, pour all the mayo into the oil cup, and start over. Add a teaspoon of water and another yolk and try again, whisking until emulsified. Slowly add in the broken mayo, whisking continuously.
Well – That’s it. Sure it would be a massive undertaking to do all of this on one day. And you are also likely to be serving other stuff as well -snacks, dips, salads , desserts, etc. Just keep in mind that everything but the bread can – indeed should be – easily be prepared ahead of time, and the buns can be done while you are doing other mealtime prep.
Enjoy your burgers and all the praise & awe from your gathered friends!