Meat Morgan: How to Build the Best Burger

Cook’s Country Deputy Food Editor Morgan Bolling shares some tips for making the best burger.

Published July 31, 2019.

Whether you love cooking meat or just eating it, it’s time you formally meet our in-house meat connoisseur, Morgan Bolling. She’s worked at a few different kitchens across the United States, gracing those who will listen with her meat knowledge. When she’s not at work developing a new meaty recipe, there’s a chance that she’s hosting a homemade sausage dinner, running a half marathon (to cancel out those sausage dinners), or planning her next pig roast.

Burgers are the backbone of America, without it, we'd be useless. Maybe that's going a little too far but what I'm trying to get at is that burgers are quite popular here. Its consistent existence in our social settings is part of the reason why we feel it is important for home cooks to master the basics of making one. To make that possible, we reached out to Deputy Food Editor Morgan Bolling to see what tips she has for building burgers and more importantly, to get her answer on a constant kitchen debate we have here . . . is a burger a sandwich or not?


Short Rib Burgers for Two

A tangy, savory scallion-miso mayonnaise was all that was needed to top off these ultimate burgers.
Start Cooking

1. Is a burger a sandwich?

This is always a point of debate here in the test kitchen. Here's what I think: A burger is a sandwich, a hot dog is not. What do y’all think?

2. What's the best method for cooking burgers indoors?

You want to focus on getting a good sear. To do so, heat oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet or cast-iron skillet until just smoking. Then, give burgers a hard sear on each side.

3. What's the best temperature to cook them to?

I prefer medium-rare, so 125 degrees.

4. What meat should I use if I want to grind my own?

Short ribs have great beefy flavor but a ton of fat, so you need to trim them well.  Sirloin steak tips or chuck eye roast also will work well.

5. What's the ideal percentage fat for a burger?


6. What's your favorite homemade burger topping?

We have a great homemade mayonnaise recipe. It can easily be doctored up with some fresh herbs, pickles, chipotle, etc.

7. What's the best thickness for burger to bun ratio?

¾-inch for a standard bun. 

8. Any tips for shaping a patty?

Ground beef is not Play-Doh. The more you handle it, the denser and more rubbery it will become when cooked. After you’ve seasoned the meat, divide it into individual portions and with lightly cupped hands shape it into patties. As soon as the patties hold together, stop!

9. How do you avoid bulging burgers?

The collagen or connective tissue in ground meat shrinks when heated. This causes the bottom and sides of the meat to tighten like a belt, which forces the surface of the burger to expand. To prevent a bubble burger use two fingers to press a 1/4-inch divot, or indentation, in the center of each patty before cooking.

10. What’s the best way to season a burger?

Just dusting salt on the exterior of shaped patties doesn’t cut it. Put the ground beef in a bowl. Lightly break up the meat with your hands and sprinkle evenly with salt. Use 1 teaspoon of table salt for 1½ pounds of ground beef before shaping the patties.

If you're looking for new or familiar burger options, check out our recipe database

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