I recently watched a cooking show that inspired me to experiment, with the aim of making the ultimate burger. I really love a truly good burger, but can certainly live without ho-hum ones of which I’ve had plenty. After a bit of playing around, my resulting recipe did not disappoint!

A couple of the things I love about this are 1) that you just season with salt and pepper, no intrusive flavors (although smoked salt and pepper are heavenly here – think Circle City Smoke); and 2) the trick of pressing the onions into the meat so that when you flip the burgers the onions stay in place and cook into the meat. I might add that the precise division of meat and the pressing method combine for very consistent results, which is a plus.

Although it is meant for beef, this method can work equally well with bison, lamb, or pork, as long as you compensate for super lean meats by adding a little extra fat in the form of butter or oil when cooking.

My Ultimate Burgers


  • 6 buns of choice (I’m partial to brioche, ciabatta, or whole wheat)
  • 6 slices cheese of choice (optional for you burger purists)
  • 1½ pounds 85 percent lean ground beef (or other ground meat)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • ½ cup finely chopped onion
  • 4 tablespoons water


  1. Prepare bottom bun-halves with condiment of choice, about 1 tablespoon each, and set aside. You may want to take the extra step of toasting them lightly first.
  2. Set out 6 slices of your favorite cheese (if using) or 3 each of two favorites that go well together. If using two types, cut them in half so you will be able to put a half slice of each on 6 burgers.
  3. Cut open side seams of a gallon-size plastic bag, but leave bottom seam. Or alternately, use plastic wrap, parchment, or wax paper folded over to create about the same size.
  4. Divide beef into 6 equal portions (4 ounces each) and roll each portion into a ball. Place balls on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil, wax paper, or parchment. Wash hands.
  5. Place a meat ball in prepared bag/plastic/paper and fold top of bag over. Use clear pie plate or other flat-bottomed item to press the meat into an even circle, about ¼ inch thick. Remove meat from and place on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining balls. Sprinkle meat evenly with salt and pepper. Wash hands.
  6. Heat 1 teaspoon of oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just beginning to smoke.
  7. Add 3 patties to the skillet. Sprinkle evenly with half of the chopped onion. Press onion firmly into patties. Cook patties, without moving them, for 2 minutes.
  8. Reduce heat to medium. Carefully flip patties. Top each patty with cheese and a bun top.
  9. Add 2 tablespoons water into an empty spot in skillet being careful not to wet the buns, and cover skillet with lid. Cook, covered, until burgers are cooked through and cheese is melted, about 2 minutes. Turn off heat.
  10. Remove lid and transfer burgers to prepared bun bottoms. Cover burgers with large piece of aluminum foil to keep warm.
  11. Scrape browned bits out of skillet. Repeat steps 6 through 10. Serve immediately with sliced tomatoes and crisp lettuce leaves if desired.

This may seem like a lot of steps, but they’re short and precise, so once you get the drill down, it really is pretty easy. And the results are definitely worth the effort.

Cook’s Note: If you hate the idea of cooking in the kitchen instead of out on the deck or patio, use a cast iron or other oven-safe skillet directly on the grill. But with record high temps this week, you may appreciate staying inside with the air conditioning.

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