Ultimate Hamburgers

(from jerseyjenny’s recipe box)

Hamburgers are easily one of America’s most popular foods and the true test of a grill cook. A great grilled burger is well browned on the exterior and juicy and tender on the inside. But they rarely turn out that way. More likely, they are gray, tough, and bland. We wanted to make the ultimate no-holds-barred burger. Here’s what we discovered:

Test Kitchen Discoveries

Make a “panade”—a blend of breadcrumbs and milk—to bind the burgers together.

Add bacon fat to the beef mixture. The rich, smoky-tasting fat adds flavor and will keep the meat moist.

A little minced garlic goes far in flavoring the meat.

Be gentle with the beef mixture while mixing and shaping the burgers. Overworking will yield tough, dense burgers.

For this recipe, you want ground beef that is 85 percent to 90 percent lean. With the added bacon fat, 80 percent lean beef will make slightly greasy burgers. Crumble the cooked bacon slices over a salad, or use the slices as a burger topping.

Source: Cook's Illustrated May 2007

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Serves 4 people

Categories: Cook's Illustrated, bbq, dinner, hamburgers


  • 8 strips bacon
  • 1 - 2 slices white sandwich bread , crusts removed and discarded, remaining bread cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef (see headnote)
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 large cloves garlic , very finely minced
  • Vegetable oil for grill rack


  1. Fry bacon in large skillet over medium heat until crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer bacon to plate lined with paper towels. Spoon 3 tablespoons bacon fat into heatproof bowl and place in refrigerator while preparing other ingredients.

  2. Place bread in small bowl, add milk, and let mixture sit until saturated, about 5 minutes. Using fork, mash bread and milk until it forms smooth paste. Break up beef into small pieces in medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper, then add garlic, bread paste, and reserved bacon fat. Using fork or hands, lightly knead together so that ingredients are well incorporated and mixture forms cohesive mass. Divide meat into 4 equal portions. Using hands, toss each portion of meat back and forth to form loose ball, then gently flatten each ball into 3/4-inch-thick patty.

  3. Oil cooking grate and grill burgers over very hot fire, without pressing down on them, until well seared on both sides, 7 to 10 minutes. Serve, topped with bacon, if desired.

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