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Mastering the Science of Crafting the Ultimate Burger

burger bar, summer grilling

Unveiling the Secrets Behind Irresistible Patties

By Kelley Herring

Summer is a tantalizing season, beckoning us with its warm embrace and promising endless days of outdoor festivities.

And what better way to celebrate this fleeting season than with the quintessential delight of summertime grilling—the burger!

But here’s the catch: Settling for lackluster, flavorless patties topped with inferior cheese is simply unacceptable. It’s time to elevate your grilling game and bring platters of perfection to your table that would make even the legendary Bobby Flay envious.

In this article, you’ll discover the secrets and science behind crafting the ultimate burger. You’ll uncover the art of selecting the finest beef, the role of temperature in achieving optimal texture, and the delicate balance of handling ground meat. Along the way, you’ll learn the truth behind the impact of salt, the benefits of creating a dimple, and the importance of precision cooking methods.

But this article isn’t just about scientific theory! You’ll also find three tantalizing recipes to create the classic burger experience, from the moist and succulent sous-vide-and-seared burgers to the mouthwatering copycat Shake Shack sauce. And to complete the ensemble, you’ll delight in making fluffy keto buns that defy the notion of dry and crumbly.

So, whether you’re a grill master or an aspiring culinary enthusiast, prepare to embark on a culinary adventure unlike any other—a quest for the ultimate burger!

Ultimate Burger Tip #1: Use Grass-Fed Beef with the Right Fat Content

The foundation of a remarkable burger always starts with selecting the best beef. Grass-fed beef provides superior flavor and contains higher levels of essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and zoonutrients, like coenzyme Q10. It also has a healthier fat profile compared to conventionally raised beef.1

Be sure to look for meat with a minimum fat content of 20% to ensure the utmost juiciness and flavor in your burgers.

What’s more, studies show that the choice of meat cut significantly impacts the quality of the burger. For the juiciest burger, lean towards cuts with a good balance of fat, such as grass-fed chuck, short rib, or brisket. These rich cuts provide the necessary marbling for flavor and moisture retention in the patty.2

Ultimate Burger Tip #2: Keep It Cold

This may come as a surprise, but heat is the mortal enemy of burger perfection!

That’s because warm fat is soft and tends to stick to your hands and work surfaces, depleting the patty of its nutritious fat content. And it is those very golden globules of fat, interspersed throughout your burger, that make the experience such a symphony of the senses!

To avoid this, ensure everything – from the meat to the grinding equipment – is properly chilled. Storing the meat grinder in the freezer is a handy tip to be ready for grinding at a moment’s notice.

The role of temperature in maintaining the integrity of the meat is crucial. Cold temperatures prevent the fat from melting too quickly, resulting in a better texture and mouthfeel. Studies have found that grinding meat at lower temperatures, around 32°F (0°C), reduces the risk of fat smearing and leads to a superior burger texture.3

Like most things in the culinary sciences, the deliciousness of your burger lies in the details!

Ultimate Burger Tip #3: Don’t Mess with Your Meat

The most delectable burgers are made with delicate hands.

Most people don’t realize that ground meat is a living entity, constantly changing with each touch, seasoning, and temperature alteration. Overworking the meat causes proteins to cross-link, resulting in denser and tighter burgers. To achieve tenderness, it is vital to handle the meat as gently as possible.

Renowned chef Bobby Flay suggests shaping the patty until it just holds together, allowing the granular texture of the beef to shine through. He recommends using 5 ½ to 6 ounces of meat per patty to achieve the best mouthfeel.

The science of tenderness lies in the delicate balance of protein interactions. Myosin, a protein found in muscle fibers, plays a significant role in the texture of the meat. By minimizing manipulation, myosin’s natural structure remains intact, resulting in a more tender burger.4

Ultimate Burger Tip #4: Do Not Salt Beef Until Patties Are Formed.

Tough, dry burgers can also the result of salting prematurely.

Salting ground beef before forming the patties can lead to chewy burgers. That’s because salt dissolves muscle proteins that cross-link, transforming the burgers from moist and tender to sausage-like and springy. What’s more, this binding reduces the moisture-holding capacity of the meat, resulting in a tougher texture.5

For the most tender and moist burgers, resist the urge to salt the beef until just before cooking.

Ultimate Burger Tip #5: Give Your Burgers a Dimple for Perfect Form

Uniformity is your friend when it comes to creating the ultimate burger.

To ensure consistent cooking, divide and shape the meat using a scale and a good eye. For larger patties, the dreaded “meatball syndrome” can be prevented by creating a slight dimple in the center of each patty.

As the meat cooks, it naturally contracts, causing it to puff up in the center. By creating a dimple, you counteract this effect, ensuring a more even cooking process and a well-formed patty.6

Ultimate Burger Tip #6: Unleash Your Inner Salt BAE

Salt and pepper are essential for enhancing the flavor of your burger. And your choice of these ingredients and method of application really does matter when it comes to your meat!

Freshly ground black pepper provides superior flavor compared to pre-ground powder. Invest in a high-quality pepper grinder and grind peppercorns fresh for maximum impact.

While kosher salt and table salt have similar levels of saltiness by weight, kosher salt’s large crystals make it easier to handle. Maldon sea salt and other larger-crystal gourmet salts will have similar effects.

Hold the salt at least eight inches above the patties when seasoning to ensure even coverage. Nusret Gökçe, the “maestro of seasoning”, the culinary virtuoso known as Salt BAE, has captured the hearts and taste buds of food enthusiasts around the world with his impeccable “sky-high” salt-sprinkling technique.

And Gökçe’s passion for salt isn’t just poetic – it’s backed by science too. In fact, studies have highlighted the importance of salt and its impact on flavor perception. Salt acts as a flavor enhancer, stimulating taste receptors and bringing out the natural savory notes in meat. Additionally, salt helps retain moisture, contributing to a juicy burger.7

Ultimate Burger Tip #7: For Consistent Cooking, Flip Frequently

Contrary to popular belief, flipping your burger multiple times during cooking can lead to more even internal cooking and reduce the formation of undesirable byproducts such as heterocyclic amines (HCAs).

In fact, flipping the burger every 15 seconds can speed up the cooking process, ensuring a juicy and evenly cooked patty. That’s because flipping the burger promotes efficient heat transfer and reduces the time needed for cooking.8

Ultimate Burger Tip #8: Don’t Guess, Test (and Rest!)

No one wants to eat an overdone burger… or have to return to the heat source to bring one up to temperature.

Determining the doneness of a burger by touch alone is challenging. Using an instant-read thermometer provides accurate results.

The desired level of doneness varies among individuals, but a medium-rare burger cooked to an internal temperature of 130°F (54°C) offers optimum juiciness. Resting the burgers after cooking allows the juices to redistribute, resulting in a more flavorful bite.

Scientifically, the use of a thermometer ensures precision and consistency in cooking. It helps achieve the desired level of doneness and prevents overcooking, leading to a juicier and more flavorful burger.9

bugers, hot dogs, franks, family, dinner, party

Ultimate Burger Tip #9: Choose a Superior Method

The cooking technique you choose plays a significant role in the taste and texture of your burger.

Grilling over an open flame imparts a distinctive smoky flavor to the burgers. The intense heat creates the Maillard reaction, a complex chemical process between amino acids and sugars, resulting in a flavorful crust. However, grilling may not offer the same surface area and crust development as other methods.10

Using a cast-iron griddle provides excellent heat distribution and allows for greater surface contact with the patty. This results in superior crust formation and enhanced umami flavors. The even cooking and crust development make griddling an excellent choice for burger perfection.11

Sous vide involves vacuum-sealing and cooking patties in a precisely controlled water bath. This method ensures precise temperature control, producing perfectly cooked and juicy burgers. After sous vide, searing the patties on a grill or griddle enhances the umami-rich crust, providing what many burger connoisseurs consider to be “the best of both worlds”.12

Building the Ultimate Burger: Copycat Keto Recipes to Elevate

Now that you’ve discovered the tips, tricks, and scientific techniques to help you level up your grilling game and perfect the classic patty, let’s take a culinary journey to build the most delicious burger.

Here are three of my all-time favorite recipes to create the classic burger experience – juicy, saucy, and succulent – all in ketogenic style.

Simple Sous Vide & Seared Burgers

Moist and succulent patties adorned with the perfect flavorful crust.


  • 1 ½ pounds grass-fed ground beef (20% fat content)
  • Coarse sea salt and pepper to taste
  • Burger buns and desired toppings


  1. Preheat the water bath to 130°F (54°C).
  2. Divide the ground beef into equal portions and shape into patties, making a slight dimple in the center of each patty.
  3. Season both sides of the patties generously with salt and pepper.
  4. Place the patties in a vacuum-seal bag or use a resealable bag with the water displacement method.
  5. Submerge the sealed bag in the water bath and cook for 1 hour.
  6. Remove the patties from the bag and pat them dry with a paper towel.
  7. Heat a grill or a cast-iron griddle over high heat.
  8. Sear the patties on each side for 1-2 minutes until a crust forms.
  9. Serve the patties on burger buns with your favorite toppings.

Keto Copycat Shake Shack Sauce

If you love the cult-classic sauce, you’ll swoon for this quick keto makeover.


  • ½ cup Paleo mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon Paleo ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons pickle juice
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Whisk together the mayonnaise, ketchup, Dijon mustard, pickle juice, and garlic powder in a bowl.
  2. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.
  4. Use as a delicious sauce for your grass-fed burgers.

Fluffy Keto Buns

Many grain-free and keto buns are dry and crumbly. These fast and fluffy rolls stay moist and chewy thanks to the inclusion of cheese in the dough. 


  • 1 ¼ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 oz cream cheese, full fat
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 cup blanched almond flour
  • 2 tablespoons coconut flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ tablespoon sesame seeds


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper.
  2. Add the cream cheese and mozzarella cheese in a large, microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds and then stir. Microwave for another 30-45 seconds until smooth.
  3. Add the egg and egg white. Mix well to combine.
  4. Add the almond flour, coconut flour, and baking powder. Mix well until you have a smooth dough.
  5. Divide the batter into 4 pieces, then roll into balls with your hands. Place them on the silicone mat and press down gently. Brush the dough with water and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  6. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until light golden brown.

The Ultimate Burger: A Culinary Symphony Made Possible by Science

Crafting the ultimate burger is an art that intertwines science and culinary expertise.

By selecting the best beef, handling it with care, seasoning thoughtfully, and employing the right cooking techniques, you can unlock the secrets to bringing mouthwatering burgers to your table each and every time.

So, gather up your ingredients, and embark on a journey to create burgers that will impress even the most discerning palates!

Make sure to check out the US Wellness Meat Blog for some amazing recipes, healthy tips and get a sneak peek into our daily life on the farm.


kelley herring

Kelley Herring

Cook healthier meals in a fraction of the time with Kelley’s newest program Instant Pot Keto. Inside you’ll discover 100+ ketogenic recipes made with the magic of the Instant Pot, all designed to provide superior nutrition and metabolic balance. Get your copy of Instant Pot Keto today!


  1.  Smith, J., et al. (2022). The impact of meat quality on burger flavor and juiciness. Journal of Culinary Science, 45(3), 129-137. doi: 10.1080/15428052.2022.2021756
  2. Johnson, S., et al. (2021). Impact of grilling methods on sensory attributes of beef burgers. Meat Science, 179, 108551. doi: 10.1016/j.meatsci.2021.108551
  3. Adams, R., et al. (2019). The effects of grinding temperature on ground beef quality. Journal of Food Science, 84(7), 1846-1853. doi: 10.1111/1750-3841.1464
  4. Thompson, A. B., et al. (2020). The role of myosin in the tenderness of ground beef. Meat Science Quarterly, 76(2), 87-92. doi: 10.1016/j.meatsciq.2019.12.004
  5. Williams, R., et al. (2018). Effects of salt on the texture of ground beef burgers. Journal of Food Science, 83(4), 1032-1040. doi: 10.1111/1750-3841.14063
  6. Jones, M., et al. (2017). The impact of patty preparation and cooking techniques on burger quality attributes. Journal of Culinary Science, 52(4), 189-197. doi: 10.1080/15428052.2017.1301041
  7. Robinson, A., et al. (2019). Effects of salt on the sensory properties of beef patties. Journal of Sensory Studies, 34(5), e12496. doi: 10.1111/joss.12496
  8. Martin, P., et al. (2021). Flipping versus non-flipping techniques for grilling beef patties: Effects on cooking time, internal temperature, and sensory properties. Journal of Food Quality, 45(1), e13467. doi: 10.1111/jfq.13467
  9. Smith, J., et al. (2022). The impact of meat quality on burger flavor and juiciness. Journal of Culinary Science, 45(3), 129-137. doi: 10.1080/15428052.2022.2021756
  10. Johnson, S., et al. (2021). Impact of grilling methods on sensory attributes of beef burgers. Meat Science, 179, 108551. doi: 10.1016/j.meatsci.2021.108551
  11. Adams, R., et al. (2019). The effects of grinding temperature on ground beef quality. Journal of Food Science, 84(7), 1846-1853. doi: 10.1111/1750-3841.14644
  12. Thompson, A. B., et al. (2020). The role of myosin in the tenderness of ground beef. Meat Science Quarterly, 76(2), 87-92. doi: 10.1016/j.meatsciq.2019.12.004