How to make burgers

Discover the secrets to creating burger perfection.

Burger and chips

Shop-bought burgers are certainly the easy option but making your own is really simple and once you know a few basics, you can throw the recipe book away and customise to your heart's content. 

Follow these tips for successful burgers every time:

1. Choose your meat

You want your burger to remain juicy so avoid going too lean. Choose a standard minced meat (usually around 20 % fat) or if you are set on leaner cuisine then 10 % fat is ok, don't go for less. Beef is the typical meat used in burgers but you could use lamb or pork, or a mixture of beef and pork.

Burger with spring onions2. Add your flavourings

The world is your oyster when it comes to flavouring your burgers. Grated onion, finely chopped spring onion, crushed garlic, ground spices (cumin, coriander, ground chilli, fajita spice mix etc), mustard, chopped fresh or dried herbs, ground black pepper - pick the flavours you like. Think of tried and tested combinations:

For Italian burgers, add crushed garlic, finely chopped parsley and grated parmesan to beef mince. 

For Moroccan burgers, add chopped coriander, ground cumin and a dollop of harissa paste to lamb mince. 

For Spanish burgers, add smoked paprika and finely chopped chorizo to pork mince. 

If you're a fan of fromage, instead of topping your burger with cheese, make 2 thinner patties, pop a square of cheese in the middle, then squeeze the edges to seal, like a meat cheese sandwich... just warn your guests about molten oozing when they bite in!

3.  Bind it 

If you're going for a leaner meat or adding bulky ingredients (eg spring onions, onions, chillies), add an egg and a handful of breadcrumbs to bind the burgers.

Shaping a burger4. Shape it 

Give everything a thorough mix, it's good to get your hands in for this, then shape into burgers. "Squash the burgers really flat before you cook them. As they cook the meat will constrict, which will make the burgers smaller and fatter. Flatten them down with a spatula during cooking," suggests Cassie, our food editor. 

5.  Season it

"Don't add salt to the ground meat before it's shaped, it'll draw the liquid out of the meat leaving you with a dry burger. Instead sprinkle the outside with salt as it cooks," adds Cassie.

6. Chill it or freeze it

"Chill your burgers for at least an hour before you cook them," says senior food editor Barney. "This will help them keep their shape when they're cooking and stop them falling apart." You can also freeze them before cooking. Lay them on a tray in the freezer and once they're frozen, pop them into freezer bags to save space. To defrost them, lay them back on the tray. Defrost throughly before cooking.

7.  Cook it

Pop your burgers on the barbecue or in a hot, non-stick frying pan with a little oil. Cook for 5 - 6 minutes each side for medium and 8 - 9 minutes on each side for well done. The NHS Live Well website recommends not leaving any pink meat in your burger. 

Cassie suggests the following delicious tip: "Steam it! Once the burger has browned on both sides, pop your cheese on top (if using) and cover with a small bowl or lid to finish off cooking, this will melt the cheese and keep all the lovely meaty juices inside the burger." 

Burger with roasted burger salsaFinally, the buns: Always toast soft buns as it keeps the sauce from sinking into them and gives you a nice contrast of textures. 

And there you have it, burgers really are that simple.

Share you favourite burger tips and flavourings below and take a look at our burger recipes collection to get you started.

For a different take on burgers, try our tuna, turkey and vegetarian burger recipes too.

Comments, questions and tips

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Comments (2)

Maxineh's picture

If I use a Fajita mix to the Burgers do I still need to add bread crumbs

ne_pas_deranger_le_chef's picture

Try adding some fine chopped chilies. For 500g of mince = 4 x 1/4 lb burgers, I use 2 Birds Eye chilies seeds included but adjust to taste.

Questions (0)

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Tips (3)

vanesa's picture

From now on, I add breakfast OATS, not breadcrumbs in my burgers. I find that this change, does not make a difference to the flavour and it is HEALTHIER. But I would still stick with breadcrumbs for coating and frying (e.g. fish or bean burgers), as I can taste the difference there.

puertodelnegro's picture

For hamburger buns. Always butter the soft side of each half and grill before placing the hamburger between tham

bipinsmasala's picture

If you like a little bit of spice and enjoy Indian kebabs try adding a blend of fresh Indian herbs and spices -little ginger, green chilli, hint of garlic and a quality garam masala. A freshly prepared masala such as the Sheek masala from bipin's www.curryfusion.net does the trick. You're guaranteed not look back on a bland burger!