Perfect burgers depend on the right meat. Here’s a pro tip

Sometimes simple is best, and for quick weeknight burgers or a backyard barbecue for a crowd, store-bought ground beef is certainly convenient. But with so many options available in supermarkets, we knew we would need to find the right cut of beef with the ideal amount of fat to produce tender, juicy burgers.

Generically labeled “ground beef” can be a combination of different cuts with little beefy flavour that yields fatty, greasy, or mushy burgers. Hoping for better luck with singular cuts of meat, we tested ground sirloin, round, and chuck.

Ground sirloin left us with dry burgers and ground round was flavourless and gristly, but 85% lean ground chuck gave us burgers with rich flavour and a tender, moist texture.

Our first few batches of burgers puffed up like tennis balls, but we quickly figured out that slightly indenting, or dimpling, the centre of each burger helped the burgers cook to a perfectly even thickness. You can serve these burgers simply with classic condiments, lettuce, and sliced ripe tomatoes.

CLASSIC BEEF BURGERS

Servings: 4

Start to finish: 30 minutes

1 1/2 pounds 85% lean ground beef

1/2 teaspoon table salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon vegetable oil, if using skillet

4 slices cheese (4 ounces) (optional)

4 hamburger buns, toasted if desired

Divide ground beef into 4 equal portions, then gently shape each portion into 3/4 inch-thick patty. Using your fingertips, press centre of each patty down until about 1/2 inch thick, creating slight divot.

— For a skillet: Season patties with salt and pepper. Heat oil in 12 inch skillet over medium heat until just smoking. Transfer patties to skillet, divot side up, and cook until well browned on first side, 2 to 4 minutes. Flip patties, top with cheese, if using, and continue to cook until browned on second side and meat registers 120 F to 125 F (for medium-rare) or 130 F to 135 F (for medium), 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer burgers to platter and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve burgers on buns.

— For a charcoal grill: Open bottom vent completely. Light large chimney starter filled with charcoal briquettes (6 quarts). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour evenly over grill. Set cooking grate in place, cover, and open lid vent completely. Heat grill until hot, about 5 minute s. Clean and oil cooking grate. Season patties with salt and pepper. Place patties on grill, divot side up, and cook until well browned on first side, 2 to 4 minutes. Flip patties, top with cheese, if using, and continue to cook until browned on second side and meat registers 120 F to 125 F (for medium-rare) or 130 F to 135 F (for medium), 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer burgers to platter and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve burgers on buns.

— For a gas grill: Turn all burners to high, cover, and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Leave all burners on high. Clean and oil cooking grate. Season patties with salt and pepper. Place patties on grill, divot side up, and cook until well browned on first side, 2 to 4 minutes. Flip patties, top with cheese, if using, and continue to cook until browned on second side and meat registers 120 F to 125 F (for medium-rare) or 130 F to 135 F (for medium), 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer burgers to platter and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve burgers on buns.

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