How to cook beef burgers

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Beef burgers have become a signature of American culture, as drive-in restaurants hang black-and-white photos as proud mementos of yesteryear. Homemade burgers can be easily customised, to suit your tastes and those of everybody else at your table.

While the days of five-cent burgers are long past, you can still create a relatively inexpensive version of this classic yourself.

Season your beef. A mix of your favourite dry seasonings can be sprinkled lightly and evenly over the surface of the beef to give it flavour. Use clean hands to mash and knead the minced meat between your fingers to help mix the seasoning into the meat. Use salty and bold flavoured seasonings sparingly. When you are ready for more advanced seasoning techniques, chop some fresh onion, chilli peppers or even garlic, and add it to the beef as you prefer. Try wet seasonings such as Worchestershire sauce--but make sure you don't add so much it makes the meat too wet to form patties.

Separate the minced meat into equal portions. Form each divided beef chunk, using clean hands, into a patty shape. Flatten the patty slightly so that it can cook evenly. Since heat has to penetrate to the inner portions of the patty, thicker patties will take longer to cook. Patties are usually a quarter to a half pound each.

Place a non-stick frying pan on medium-high heat on your hob. Put a few drops of water in the pan; when they have evaporated, your burgers are ready to be placed in the pan. Arrange the patties so that their sides are not touching. You can also cook your burgers on a girll, such as a George Foreman grill or your barbecue grill. Grilling on a barbecue grill adds a smokier flavour to the beef and drains grease from the patty as it cooks.

Flip your beef burgers over when the side that is touching the pan is brown. (You may not need to flip the patties if you're using a grill that cooks both sides at the same time, such as the Foreman.) This process usually takes between 8 and 14 minutes, depending on heat level and patty size.

Embellish your beef burger. After the patties have cooked thoroughly, place them on their final resting buns. Embellish your burger any way you wish. Some of the more traditional additions include a slice of cheese, pickles, onions, lettuce, tomato, mustard, ketchup or mayonnaise.

Try something new to tickle your fancy and stimulate your taste buds. Add fresh spinach and feta cheese for a Greek burger, on a fresh kaiser roll. Add Worcestershire sauce and Jack Daniel's for a whiskey burger, or blue cheese and lettuce for a Buffalo burger.