How to Make the Perfect Burger

by Luke Zahm

July 14, 2021

by Luke Zahm

I’m here to help you make a mouth-watering burger! Everyone has a different idea of a perfect burger, but we think this homemade burger recipe fits the description. It’s quick, it’s delicious, and it’s a must-have at summer cookouts. Check out this easy recipe for the Best Cheeseburger with Special Sauce and three simple tips to prepare and cook a delicious diner-style cheeseburger that your family and friends will love.

We use these tips at my farm-to-table restaurant, The Driftless Café, in Viroqua, Wisconsin.

  • Add 1 tablespoon of heavy whipping cream to 1 pound (16 ounces) of grass-fed ground beef. Trust me, this simple secret ingredient adds depths of flavor and juicy goodness to your everyday homemade burgers. Add salt and a bit of ground pepper, then use your hands to blend and squish everything together. You can make four hamburger patties from 1 pound of beef.
  • Pat the burgers into thin (think “thin to win”) patties to ensure an even and quick cooking time. This not only helps the burgers cook evenly, but also gets food on the table faster! Put the griddle on medium/high heat and place the burger patty. Hear that sizzle? When the beef has golden, crispy edges, give it a flip (about 2 minutes per side). After you flip the burger, cover it with a slice of American cheese and let it get gooey.
  • The secret sauce: I know that the combination of ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise isn’t out of this world on paper, but I promise that once you taste them together, you’ll be hooked! Use equal parts ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise. Sometimes it’s the simple things that are best.

This is everything you want in a burger—simple and delicious!

But if you want to go beyond simple, now that you’ve got the perfect burger, let’s dress it up.

The Bun...Or Not

  • Put a pat of Organic Valley butter on the griddle. Once melted, put the buns on the griddle face side down to give them a bit of light brown crispiness.
  • Not a fan of buns or prefer gluten-free? Wrap your burger in lettuce or replace the bun with grilled portobello mushrooms.
Hands hold a Chipotle Cheddar Chicken Burgers wrapped in lettuce.

Try this Chipotle Cheddar Chicken Burgers recipe and finish your burger wrapped in lettuce instead of a bun. Photo and recipe by the Real Food Dietitians.

Topping the Perfect Burger

Staples like red onion, lettuce, tomato, pickles, and sautéed mushrooms are great toppings, but cooking a perfect burger when entertaining is also a chance to get creative. Let your guests experiment with their favorites by providing a “topping bar” at your next gathering.

Take a trip to your local farmers’ market to find a multitude of topping ideas, from fresh veggies to home-canned goods like sauerkraut and salsa. Other fun burger toppings:

  • Fried eggs are not only healthy, but a great addition to any cheeseburger.
  • Like a little kick? Top a burger with jalapenos and add pepper jack cheese or go with pickled jalapenos and sprinkle on blue cheese crumbles.
  • Add Swiss cheese, Thousand Island dressing, and sauerkraut to create a Reuben burger. Skip the traditional bun and lightly toast rye bread.
  • Cooked crispy bacon or ham deli slices with Muenster cheese.
  • Avocado or guacamole.
  • Onion rings, crispy fried onions, or caramelized onions.
  • Potatoes are popular: Some people enjoy hash browns and others prefer french fries on their burger.
  • Cheese, cheese, and more cheese—you don’t have to stick to American Cheese, and nothing says only one slice of cheese is needed on the perfect burger.

A delicious cheeseburger is simple to create, cook, and build, and you can create endless combos. Whether you prefer just sauce and cheese on your burger, or a stack of endless toppings, do what’s perfect for you.


The perfect cheese burger ready to enjoy!

Luke Zahm is chef and owner of Driftless Café. He also hosts “Wisconsin Foodie,” an Emmy Award-winning independent television series dedicated to discovering the stories behind the food we eat. Luke and his wife, Ruthie, have a daughter, Ava, and two sons, Benjamin and Silas.