There is something magical about umami in food. This is a category of taste that goes beyond sweet, sour, salt, and bitter. Umami, which is Japanese for “pleasant savory taste” or “yummy,” can be found in soy, miso, parmesan, sun-dried tomatoes, and anchovies. When I tell you the secret ingredient in this burger recipe, you have to promise you will not freak out. Okay?
The secret ingredient that makes these burgers the best darn burger you have ever had is fish sauce. Whatever you do, don't smell it. Just add a small amount to your ground meat and trust me on this one. Fish sauce is made from fermented anchovies, but I don't want you to dwell on this - think about that magical burger.
For years I tested recipes for burgers which included grating onion and wrapping ground beef around a cube of cheese. I completely changed courses when I read an interview with Bobby Flay, and he recommends keeping it simple and let a burger taste like a burger. When you start adding too many ingredients, it becomes meatloaf. It was a lightbulb moment for me.
We use 80/20 ground chuck because if you are going to eat a burger you are apparently making this your cheat meal and it should taste darn good.
For every pound of beef, I add one finely minced garlic clove, 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon of granulated sugar, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/2 tablespoon of fish sauce. I like to use a mortar and pestle to grind these ingredients into a paste before mixing it by hand into the ground beef.
If time allows, leave the meat to sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours before forming into patties.
Once you gently form the beef into a patty the size of your hamburger bun, use your knuckle and put an indention in the center. When the burger cooks, it will naturally puff in the middle.
How to cook a burger
You can undoubtedly grill burgers, it's the American way, right? Just once, try cooking them on cast iron. The patty will be evenly seared, and a flavorful crust will form.
Before you place the patties on the heat source, give each side a light sprinkle of salt.
Let the burger cook on the first side for three to four minutes undisturbed. Then only flip it once and let it cook for three to four minutes on the second side.
If you have a food thermometer, this is what that thermometer was made to do! Pull that bad boy out and check the center temperature. We like our burgers to be slightly pink and juicy in the middle and cooked somewhere between medium-rare and medium which is around 145 degrees. Note that the USDA recommends cooking ground beef until it reaches an internal temperature of 160˚F for safety reasons.
Make mine a cheeseburger
My family likes to melt cheese on top of our burgers. After flipping the burger, add your sliced cheese and cover to help the cheese melt. Bobby Flay's tip is to add a splash of water to the hot skillet before covering. He says the steam it creates helps the cheese melt evenly.
Assemble your burger with your favorite toppings and treat yourself!