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Recipe: If you grill your hamburger, you're doing it wrong

A hamburger made at Vaka Burger in Glassell Park
A hamburger made at Vaka Burger in Glassell Park
Jacob Margolis
A hamburger made at Vaka Burger in Glassell Park
Photo by donsolo via Flickr Creative Commons
A hamburger made at Vaka Burger in Glassell Park
Father Burger from Father's Office ordered medium rare.
TJ Morales/Flickr Creative Commons

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As the Fourth of July approaches, Angelenos of all stripes are firing up their grill and putting on it the most American of foods: the hamburger.

But according to food writers like the New York Times' Sam Sifton and the L.A. Times' Russ Parsons, if you're grilling your burger, you're cheating yourself.

Instead, Parsons says, use a heavy stovetop pan like a cast iron skillet or griddle.

"You get great surface contact all the way across the burger," he says. "On a grill you've got the bars, and so there's parts of the hamburger that are in contact with the hot metal, and you'll get striping. But there's other parts that aren't, and you don't get the same kind of crust that you can off a griddle."

You can put steaks, chicken, tri-tip, just about anything on a grill. But, says Parsons, burgers should be the last thing.

Recipe: Russ Parson's basic hamburger patty

(makes 6 patties)



  1. Warm a cast iron skillet or griddle over medium heat with the oil. If no cast iron is available, any heavy pan will do.
  2. In a mixing bowl, sprinkle ground beef with salt and pepper and lightly toss the beef so the seasoning is worked through but the ground beef still retains its consistency.
  3. Patting lightly, form the ground beef into 6-to-7-ounce patties, a little wider than the diameter of a coffee mug. Gently press a dimple into the center of each patty — this keeps the burger's surface even and prevents rounding. If you have time, refrigerate 30 minutes to set the fat.
  4. Place the patties on the hot pan and leave untouched — this is where the crust forms and the fat outside renders; poking and prodding the patty too much will hamper that. When about three minutes have gone by, check to see if the patty can move easily. If it sticks, a crust hasn't formed.
  5. Flip the patty and cook for another three minutes for medium doneness. Remove from the pan and serve immediately with the bun and condiments of your choice.

Here's Sam Sifton's video on how to cook a burger indoors: