How to Prepare Hamburger Patties

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Nothing identifies you as a master of the grill like a perfectly formed, perfectly cooked hamburger. The preparation of the perfect burger starts with the perfect patty. Here’s how to make a great hamburger patty, ready for grilling or broiling.

You’ll need:

Start with some nice, fatty ground beef. 20% is great, although 15% is also fine. If you’re going for a healthy burger, use leaner beef or even mix in some ground turkey. Put the ground beef in a large mixing bowl and mix in some of your favorite seasonings with an electric mixer. I like a bit of chili powder, a splash of A-1 sauce, and some black pepper. Some people will add an egg, a packet of onion soup mix, or Tabasco. It’s really up to you.

Decide how large you want your burgers to be. 1/4 lb will give you a relatively small burger. 1/3 lb is pretty typical, and some people will go as large as 1/2 lb per burger. Let’s say you want to go with 1/3 lb. If you bought a 3 lb. tube of ground beef, you would divide it into (3×3) 9 equal sections. Use your kitchen scale to measure these balls of beef to make sure they’re equal in size.

Now the fun part. You’re going to need a hamburger press here. Only a press will get you perfectly-formed patties. Most presses will also put a dimple in the center of the patty that will allow the patty to shrink correctly on the grill, rather than swelling up into a big ball of grease. Start by spraying your press with nonstick cooking spray. Put a 1/3rd lb. lump of ground meat into your hamburger press. Press gently and evenly to form a perfect patty. Invert the mold and tap gently or use a butter knife to remove the patty from the mold. Set the patty on a cutting board. If you’re ready to grill or broil the hamburgers, you’re all set. If you want to freeze these for future use, keep reading.

When the cutting board is full of patties, put it in the freezer. We want to freeze these patties just enough so that we can stack them later and they won’t mush together into a giant solid lump of frozen meat (trust me – you don’t want that). Repeat this process until all the meat has been used up.

If you have patty paper, you’re ready for the next step. No patty paper? If you bought the ground beef in the deli section of your local supermarket, the butcher probably wrapped it in butcher paper – the tough paper that’s waxed on one side. You can fold this paper several times and then use a pair of scissors to cut it into squares approximately the size of your patties as a substitute for patty paper.

After the patties have solidified in the freezer (should take several hours), remove them and stack them with patty paper in between each patty. When you’re done, wrap them in plastic wrap or an empty plastic bread bag.

After wrapping, put your patties back in the freezer, where they can stay for up to 4 months. Beyond that, they are still safe to eat, but will deteriorate in flavor and potentially get freezer burn.

There you go – perfect patties.

How to Make a Charcoal Grill Out of a 55-Gallon DrumNothing says summer like an afternoon spent grilling in the backyard. If you’re the type to entertain large crowds, you may want to think about building your own grill out of a 55-gallon drum. This grill will be sufficient for any large gathering.

The first thing you’ll need is the right drum. Choose a 55-gallon drum that is sealed (not one with a lid). It’s best to use a food-grade drum rather than one that has previously contained oil or chemicals.

To cut the drum, you’ll need a cutting torch (even a small one will suffice), a jigsaw or sawzall with metal cutting blades, or even (if you’re desperate or looking to save a few bucks), a hacksaw. You’ll need stainless steel door hinges and bolts to connect the lid of the drum to the rest of the grill. Finally, a small welder will help to attach legs to support the grill.

  1. Start by standing the drum up and cutting it in half from top to bottom so that it is divided into two halves resembling clam shells (see the image above). Choose one of these to be the top half and the other to be the bottom.
  2. Attach three stainless steel hinges to the inside of the drum to allow the grill to be opened and closed.
  3. You will need three handles on the grill, ideally made of stainless steel with wooden handles. These handles can be purchased at any large home improvement store. Two of the handles will attach to the ends of the bottom half of the grill. This will allow you to move the grill when necessary, either by dragging or by lifting with the help of a friend. The third handle will attach to the middle of the top half of the grill to allow you to open/close the grill.
  4. Use several stainless steel brackets inside the bottom half of the grill to hold the grilling grate in place. L-shaped steel brackets work best.
  5. You can use just about any grate that you can find to serve as your grilling surface, as long as it’s stainless steel. Freezer racks, old oven racks, or old grill racks will work well if they’re made of stainless steel and unpainted.
  6. Tack weld steel or iron legs (angle iron works well) to the bottom of the grill. If you don’t have a welder or don’t know how to use one, bolting can also work well.
  7. Paint the grill with flat black heat resistant grill paint. You can find this in most large hardware stores in aerosol cans. You’ll need about three cans to cover a 55-gallon drum well.
  8. Fill the bottom section of the grill with charcoal and lighter fluid and fire it up. You’re going to want to go through one load of charcoal without grilling any food. This will burn off impurities inside the barrel and release fumes from your grill paint. After letting this burn for an hour or so, your grill will be safe to use for food.

Enjoy, and make sure to send any photos of completed grills to and I’ll publish them here.