I know you know how to make a cheeseburger … but as it turns out, I have some tips you might find useful! From the best beef to the best bun to the best cheese, today’s burger recipe also comes with your choice of burger sauces: a tomato one or my quick creamy Special Burger Sauce. Plus, homemade fries!
The only questions left are really, single or double cheeseburger?? Stove or BBQ??
A very big thank you for the incredibly supportive, excited response to the cookbook pre-order announcement last week! I must admit, hitting publish on that post was a scary moment. The whole time, I kept up a cheery face to my publisher, my team, family and friends, exuding confidence and excitement.
What a total lie! 😂 Inside, I was a complete nervous wreck.
But now, I really am excited, thanks to you and your enthusiastic messages. So thank you!
– Nagi x
Anybody who claims the sight of a big juicy cheeseburger doesn’t get their blood pumping is either made of stone or a vegetarian! 😂
And anybody reading this is neither of those things, right?? 😂 We are people who hold burgers like we are clutching onto dear life, like this! ⬇⬇⬇
And we are people who go gaga over sights like this (noting that in no way does the following represent reality because I mean, who cuts burgers with a knife??):
Pictures, done. On to business then – how to make them!
What you need for a great cheeseburger
Here is (in my humble opinion) what you need to make a great cheeseburger:
1. The beef: No need to get (too) snobby
My simple view: The better the beef, the better the flavour, but I would never turn my nose up at a burger made with everyday supermarket beef. Here’s my skinny on beef:
For company: 50/50 brisket and chuck with 20% fat, ground to order by the butcher. Brisket brings really good beefy flavour, and chuck for texture.
For the everyday: Standard beef mince from the grocery store still makes a great burger. Mince can be a mixture of any cuts and offcuts but is usually predominantly chuck. Fattier mince = juicy and more flavourful. Leaner mince = still fine but not as juicy. You pick (guess which camp both my feet are in! 😂)
Single vs double cheeseburger: The decision is entirely up to you. I use 150g / 5 oz per patty for a 10cm / 4″ wide bun, so just double up if you want a double. Yes, a double is big and mighty and indulgent…. but it’s such a good treat!
2. The cheese: Processed for authenticity!
For the truly classic cheeseburger experience, we need processed cheese. Nothing oozes, stretches and runs the way proper, luridly orange processed American cheese does when it melts. Natural be damned – we’re in this for the nostalgia and the authenticity!
These days in Australia, there’s even cheese helpfully labelled “Burger Slices” so we can’t get it wrong!
That said, don’t let my loyalty to processed cheese stop you from using any melting cheese you want. Swiss, cheddar, tasty, colby, gruyere – or an even fancier cheese if you so desire / your wallet stretches that far!
3. The bun: Soft and white
Soft white buns, preferably with sesame seeds, are in my opinion the only way to go. Soft is essential so it becomes one with everything jammed inside. There is a time and place for crusty artisan breads, but now is not it!
There is also a time for wholemeal breads, seeded breads and olive studded breads – but again, now is not the time! 😂 (But really I jest – use whatever bread you want.)
As for size….
I always hunt down burger buns around 10cm / 4″ in diameter. Why? Because I like my patties to cover the bun from edge to edge, and it becomes a little more logistically challenging to make patties larger than 10cm when you factor in a 25% diameter shrinkage as they cook.
Nothing is more irritating than taking a giant bite of a burger only to end up with a mouthful of juicy air sandwiched between two pieces of bread.
So my rule of thumb is 10cm / 4″ of so. It’s a safe size, and also a practical size in that it’s a filling meal for one person. Even for someone with a hearty appetite such as myself.
4. The green stuff and pickled stuff
Lettuce – Cos/romaine and shredded iceberg lettuce are about as classic as you can get with burgers. If you want to get gourmet with baby greens, rocket/arugula, spinach or even kale, go right ahead (I promise I’m not judging you!)
Onion – Raw red onion rings are my onion of choice. I like the bite and freshness they bring as a foil to all the fatty beefiness of the burger. For those who find them too harsh, alternatives are to dice them then scatter just a bit on your burger, or cook ordinary (not red) onions instead.
Tomato – As with the onion, tomato brings moisture and a touch of welcome freshness to this stack of goodness.
Pickles (BIG!) – Opt for big gherkins rather than small ones, else you’ll end up with a burger scattered with dozens of tiny little gherkin rounds! And that ain’t cool.
5. The sauce
And last but not least, the sauces. You can absolutely stick to the tried-and-true ketchup / mustard script. But today, I’m also sharing two homemade burger sauces:
Special Burger Sauce – An orange-hued, mayonnaise-based sauce that’s a blatant copycat of a popular burger sauce sold at grocery stores; and
Tomato Burger Sauce – Essentially a quick tomato chutney. But it has a more savoury flavour which I think suits burgers better than traditional chutney which is traditionally quite sweet and flavoured with distracting things like ginger, chilli and cardamom.
More burger sauce options
Ketchup (or Aussie tomato sauce) – straight out of the bottle, just as it is!
Mayonnaise – plain (the Special Burger Sauce is a flavoured version)
Yellow mustard – I’m talking the bright yellow stuff, sometimes labelled “American mustard”. (Caution: Don’t accidentally get the bright yellow Hot English Mustard which is spicy!)
Barbecue sauce – See my Barbecue Pork Ribs recipe for a classic homemade Barbecue Sauce recipe.
Thousand island sauce – A creamy pink sauce made with mayonnaise and ketchup that’s popular with seafood (Aussie favourite prawn dipping sauce!). Recipe here.
OK! The ingredients done, let’s move on to the cook part!
How to make great cheeseburgers
If a BBQ isn’t an option, switch your range hood to max and cook on the stove in a heavy cast iron skillet. Give your non-stick pan the night off – it doesn’t cope well with high heat cooking!
1. The cheeseburger patty
Form patties – Separate the beef into 4 mounds, or 8 if making double cheeseburgers. Gently roll each mound into a ball (not firmly, we want tender patties not rock hard ones!) then press down into a patty that is slightly wider than the burger bun, to factor in cooking shrinkage.
As noted above, I like using buns that are maximum 10 cm / 4″ wide so the patty is proportionally a good size and thickness. If your buns are much larger, I’d recommend using more beef else you’ll end up with wafer-thin patties, or patties that are way smaller than your buns!
Tip #1 – Dent your patty in the middle. Thinning the centre of the patty compensates for the tendency of the patty to dome up in the middle as it cooks. It also reduces the overall patty shrinkage during cooking. Doing this means there’s no need to squash the burger to keep it flat and even as it cooks (losing precious juices!) Use your fingers or the back of your hand to press a dent into the centre of the patty. A neat trick I picked up from Bobby Flay many years ago!
Photo 3: The dent – Here’s what it looks like. It doesn’t need to be even or deep, just a slight inwards curve, so the patty is shaped a bit like a red blood cell.
Tip #2 – Salt JUST before cooking. My second key tip is to only salt the patty just before cooking. If you salt your patty ahead of time and leave it sitting around, the cooked patty ends up much firmer. This is because the salt acts on the meat proteins and changes their chemistry. Go ahead and give it a go, if you want to see it for yourself! 🙂 I salt mine while the skillet is pre-heating.
2. Cooking the patties
Cast iron skillet – Preheat oil in a heavy-based cast iron skillet over high heat until it is very, very hot. Why a cast-iron skillet? Because it’s made for high heat fast cooking so we can get a great caramelised dark brown crust without overcooking the inside. This burger patty cooks in 3 minutes flat!
Don’t have a cast-iron skillet? You can use a non-stick frying pan but just heat the oil until hot, not smoking. Don’t cook it as aggressively as I do in the recipe video below (ie. very, very hot skillet) or you may damage the non-stick coating. You probably won’t get quite the same colour on the crust but avoid the temptation to cook for longer as you’ll end up with overcooked insides.
BBQ/Grilling option – see box below for directions!
3-minute cook – Place 2 or 4 patties in the skillet (depending how many fit) and cook the first side for 1 1/2 minutes, pressing down LIGHTLY with a spatula. Note the emphasis on “lightly”! Nobody likes dense, hard patties where all the juice has been squeezed out during the cooking phase!
Flip & cheese – Flip the burgers then immediately top with cheese and cook for another 1 1/2 minutes.
Melted! And look at that. A perfectly cooked patty and melted cheese draped over it. A flawless burger!
How to BBQ/Grill cheeseburgers
Better than cooking indoors! If your BBQ hot plate / grill is well-seasoned, you won’t need oil, especially given the beef patties are quite fatty too. If your BBQ isn’t well-seasoned, then brush lightly with canola or vegetable oil (or use a scrunched up paper or two).
Preheat your BBQ on high heat until you see wisps of smoke, ie. very hot. Then simply cook the patties per the recipe directions (1 1/2 minutes on each side). You can also toast the buns on the BBQ by placing the cut face down on the grills.
3. Assembling cheeseburgers
This is the order in which I like to build burgers because I think it’s the most structurally stable. Anybody who’s bitten into a giant burger only to have a slice of tomato jettisoned out the other end knows exactly what I’m talking about!
Toast the buns under the grill/broiler for a few minutes until light golden. I only do the cut face because I like to keep the round outside faces soft. Using your BBQ? Just pop them face down straight onto the grill.
Smear with sauce of choice. In the photo above I’m using my homemade tomato chutney burger sauce and in the video you’ll also see me using my creamy pink Special Burger Sauce. No need to choose – sometimes I use both. 🤷🏻♀️
Lettuce → tomato → patty – I put lettuce down first because it kind of “sticks” to the sauce followed by tomato then the patty (or patties!)
Gherkins → onion – Next, gherkins are scattered across the cheese (they kind of naturally adhere which is nice) followed by onion.
Sauce on lid – Finally I also usually smear the sauce on the lid though if I’m feeling extra saucy I’ll spoon additional sauce straight onto the burger stack instead or (gasp shock horror!) as well. 😇
Jam the lid on top then demolish your burger!
It’s your burger – you do you
I know this cheeseburger recipe contains clear statements regarding what I think makes a great cheeseburger. However, I don’t believe in burger dogma. I’ve always been a firm believer that you should never let anyone tell you what you should or should not put in your burger.
So really, make yours how you wish. Ignore all my tips, do what you want. And share your Great Burger tips in the comments below! – Nagi x
PS. If accompanying crispy French fries is on your list of “non-negotiables” for burger meal bliss, I wholeheartedly agree. My long-awaited French fries recipe has finally arrived! I promise you will love them. They are a game changer. 😇
Watch how to make it
PS. I filmed this during a time when there were national supply issues with some lettuces, so I had to resort to butter lettuce. Nobody panic, I survived.
Also – Crispy French Fries recipe has been published! Make it!
Cheeseburgers (double or single)
- 600 g / 1.2 lb beef mince (ground beef) , at least 20% fat (Note 1 for quality)
Mighty Double Cheeseburgers:
- 1.2 kg / 2.4 lb beef mince (ground beef) , at least 20% fat (Note 1 for quality)
- 1/8 tsp each salt and pepper PER burger
- 2 – 3 tbsp canola oil
Everything else you need:
- 4 soft burger buns or rolls , around 10cm/4″ wide (Note 2)
- 4 – 8 slices burger cheese (American) or other cheese or choice (Note 3)
- 8 cos/romaine lettuce leaves , torn to size (or shredded iceberg)
- 2 large tomatoes , cut into eight 7mm/ 1/4" slices
- 1 red onion , finely sliced into rings (Note 4)
- 2 large gherkins , finely sliced (Note 5)
On the side:
- French fries (and it’s epic!)
- Patties: Separate the beef into 4 equal portions, or 8 if making double cheeseburgers (do it!). Gently roll each portion into balls then press down into round patties that are slightly larger than your bun to allow for shrinkage (12 cm / 4.7" wide, 1 cm / 0.4" thick for a 10cm / 4" burger bun).
- Prepare: Get all your burger bits and pieces out and ready to use. Don't salt your beef until just before cooking (it toughens the meat).
- Toast buns: Preheat the grill to high. Place the bread cut face up on a tray and toast for 3 to 5 minutes until light golden. (If using BBQ, place cut face down on the grill). Set aside.
- Dent patty: Sprinkle one side of patties with half the salt and pepper. Flip, then press a dent into the middle of each patty. (Prevents patties doming when cooking and reduces shrinkage!). Sprinkle this dented side with the remaining salt and pepper.
- Preheat 1 tablespoon oil in a large cast iron skillet over high heat until very hot – smoking hot! (Note 6)
- Cook: Cook 2 to 4 patties (whatever fits in the pan) for 1 1/2 minutes. Press down lightly with a spatula (not too hard else the meat juices squeeze out!). Flip, then immediately top with a slice of cheese. Cook for another 1 1/2 minutes (cheese will melt by itself!) then transfer burgers to a tray to rest for 3 minutes.
- Preheat: If your BBQ hot plate/grill is well seasoned (ie oiled), there is no need to oil before cooking. If not, lightly brush with vegetable or canola oil (or use scrunched up paper towel). Then preheat your BBQ on high until very hot and you see wisps of smoke.
- Cook the burgers per above directions for 1 1/2 minutes on each side, topping with cheese as soon as you flip, then resting for 3 minutes. (You can also toast the buns on the grill (face down on the grills, 2 – 3 minutes.)
- Slather the base of the bun with your sauce of choice. My order of assembly: lettuce, tomato, burger (x 2 for double!), gherkins, onion, sauce on bun lid, jam it on top of the stack.
- DEVOUR with French Fries on the side.
- My favourite blend for flavour and juiciness – 50/50 brisket and chuck, ground to order from the butcher, with 20% fat.
- Supermarket mince – Nobody in my circles turns their nose up at burgers made with supermarket beef mince. The trick is to follow my specific direction to salt it just before cooking as the patty is far more tender once cooked. And also, lean = less flavour and less juicy (fat is where beef flavour is).
Life of Dozer
Dear Dozer fans: Don’t miss Dozer’s cameo in today’s recipe video. Don’t worry about the recipe, just skip straight to 1 minutes 55 seconds to see Dozer.😂
And here he is, looking mighty unimpressed at the sad McDonald’s Big Mac I got for study purposes to compare Maccas’ special sauce to my recipe. (Spoiler: no comparison!!!)