December 16, 2015 — American

Classic American Burger

  • 20 minutes
  • 2 PEOPLE
  • easy

‘..Dad’s Classic American burgers are influenced from his childhood in the States. They’re easy to prepare, look good but more importantly taste amazing, it’s all about the flavour of the meat!’

'Sometimes gourmet burgers are just too much, and leave you way too stuffed. So try something classic...'

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Share this yummy recipe with a friend on WhatsApp

Follow us on Instagram — @WhatDadCooked

What you need

4 oz – 6oz  (113g – 170g) minced beef, minimum 15% fat – more if possible

Sesame bun

Iceberg lettuce

Slicing tomato

Dill pickles


Tomato Ketchup

American yellow mustard

Salt and pepper

Crisps and milk or beer to serve



Dad's Recipe Tales

I should know a thing or two about burgers.

I was practically brought up on them. This is why I smile at the current trend of the burger and its extravagant evocations.

What a burger means to me

A burger was always eaten as a light and casual supper or lunch. It was never intended to be a gourmet meal. We didn’t fuss over our burgers. If we wanted a fancy burger we added cheese – if waned a wanted a really fancy burger we added blue cheese.

We didn’t seek ‘real, authentic or genuine’ burgers – most available US burgers were already the ‘real McCoy’. And contrary to the hamburger addiction depicted by the Wimpy character in Popeye cartoons, burgers were an occasional meal…

What is the difference between a burger and a hamburger?

Americans call burgers ‘hamburgers’ – this may help define the difference. A hamburger is colloquially synonymous with the raw material, i.e. mince. The logical inference is that a hamburger is made of hamburger and nothing else. Indeed, adding eggs, onions or other seasonings and ingredients turns the hamburger into a flat meatball or a slice of meatloaf. Something altogether different.

So how did hamburgers become so popular if they are so plain?

Five reasons:

  1. The cut of meat is cheap, flavourful and full of fat. American’s will use 80% lean mince to 20% fat in their hamburgers (even up to 30%). The high fat content keeps the burger juicy.
  2. A hamburger is best eaten medium rare, when the texture will be tender and soft.
  3. A hamburger is a hot ‘sandwich’. We made them at home as a snack – so they need to be quick and easy. Simply shape a patty of hamburger and fry for about 4 minutes.
  4. The garnishes are equally quick and easy – in approximately 4 minutes there is the time to slice an onion, tomato, lettuce and a pickle. We mainly used plain bread. Buns too, usually for an outdoor barbecue.
  5. Hamburgers are seasoned with basic condiments – mayonnaise, mustard and tomato ketchup. That’s all.

Moral to the tale

Don’t guild the lily. A classic American hamburger is a humble yet elegant construction. It should be simple to prepare, easy to assemble and rewarding to eat. Here, it’s the flavour of the meat that is being celebrated – so don’t disguise or dilute it with amalgamated fillers or stacks of unnecessary extras.


How Dad Cooked It

First make the hamburger patty (see story above).

How much? Think ‘Quarter Pounder’ or 4 oz (is this too much or too little). In terms of protein needed 4 oz is sufficient. I checked with the American Woody’s Burgers menu (a old favourite) and they serve 7 oz. This is nearly half a pound. 6 oz is very generous. My supermarket sells 15% fat as the highest fat content. Of course it may be healthier to limit consumption of fat – but it does make a drier burger. Shape the burger into a patty and season well with salt and pepper.

Fry the burger

Heat a non-stick pan to a medium high heat. Add a little oil and put the burger in the pan. Try to brown the burger without burning. Turn over and brown on the other side. Add some butter during cooking if you have low fat content meat.

How would you like your burger cooked?

Now there’s a good question… ideally rare. But we are advised against this now.  The USDA recommended guaranteed safe from pathogen temperature is 160 F or 71 C (which is well-done). You must take a view on how to manage this. I can only advise to stick to the correct temperatures. There are many explanations and workarounds online. But these add to the complexity. I buy good quality mince and go for medium rare. Just a hint of pinkness.

Prepare the garnish
Slice red onion, tomato, lettuce and dill pickle.

The bun
Toast the bun and spread a generous amount of mayonnaise on the cut sides.

Display elements on the plate as if for a side salad or assemble into a burger.

Tomato Ketchup, American mustard

Get yourself some Frenchs American Classic Mustard!

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