Burgers for a crowd or “picky” eaters?

Blog by Josh Roe, VP of Policy and Market Development

Hamburgers cooked medium (pink center) and steaks cooked medium rare (light red throughout) are my preferences, and thankfully, how my wife and son prefer their meat prepared. However, I have a select few family members and even friends who prefer that I “ruin” their beef by cooking it medium well or even well done! While this makes me cringe because I think of the flavor they’re sacrificing, truth is that I don’t care how they eat their beef, so long as they’re eating it!

I cook for church and community crowds regularly where the “norm” is to serve hamburgers that are done all the way through. This might bring memories of charred hockey pucks we’ve all enjoyed at large scale dinners. However, medium well does NOT have to equal medium ruined, here are a few tips I’ve picked up along the way to keep flavor profiles in well cooked beef:

  • Although convenient, avoid preformed patties. Being able to mix seasoning throughout the mix and create a tight patty makes a big difference.
  • In terms of meat, 80:20 hamburger seems to be a nice balance of cost and flavor. I’ll lean toward 90:10 making burgers for my family or a smaller crowd. Note that less fat content can lead to less flavor if you need to cook the meat beyond medium.
  • Seasoning, there are many schools of thought on this from just salt and pepper to elaborate mixes. My go-to is Weber Gourmet Burger seasoning, about 2 teaspoons per pound plus a few splashes of Worcestershire sauce.
  • Patties, this is very important, use a heavy-duty patty maker that applies pressure from the top and bottom. Here is a patty maker I’ve used for literally tens of thousands of patties: amazon.com. I also line it with precut wax paper on the top and bottom to make handling and freezing meat easier, plus it greatly speeds up the cooking process. The tight patties lock in the flavor and juices, making a more flavorful result.
  • Cooking, I’m solely a charcoal guy, so this involves very hot temperatures. In general, 4 minutes on one side and 4 on the other on medium-high heat will cook a burger thoroughly. However, if unsure use an instant read thermometer or simply cut a patty in half to test.
  • If cooking for a large crowd that will be served from roasters, be sure to keep the external heat to a minimum, no more than the required temperature of 160 degrees. Oftentimes a roaster set too high will be the culprit for creating a hockey puck, not the cooking itself.