Well-Done Grilled Hamburgers

(note: this post contains some pictures of raw hamburger, so if that sort of thing squicks you out, you should probably stop right here.)

I put this meal on my menu plan so regularly, I thought it might be nice to actually have the recipe on my blog so that I can link to it.

I found this recipe on Cook’s Illustrated’s website (the only site I pay for…it’s sooo worth it. Lurvity-lurve Cook’s, I do!) a number of years ago, and I’ve been faithfully using it ever since.

Cook’s developed the recipe to turn out burgers that remain juicy even when they’re well done. Since none of us here at Chez Frugal Girl are big fans of rare burgers, this is perfect for us.

If you’ve been grilling pre-formed, frozen patties, I don’t think you’ll ever want to go back once you try this. It’s not hard to make your own burgers, and you’ll know exactly what went into them.

The food wizards at Cook’s found that making a panade out of bread and milk was key to keeping the burgers juicy (you probably use a panade when you make meatloaf or meatballs).

Before you start with the burgers, though, you should heat your grill. Burgers cook better on a grill that is thoroughly heated, and I usually find that mine is perfectly heated by the time I’ve mixed up and shaped the burgers (of course, if you have a charcoal grill, you’ll probably need to start it earlier).

To make the panade, tear up enough white bread to make 1/2 cup (I’ve used sandwich bread, French bread, and leftover buns with equal success. Just be sure to remove the crusts.) and pour in 2 tablespoons of whole milk (I have used milk with a lower fat content and the burgers were fine).

Mush it all together with a fork to make a homogenous mixture.

Next, stir in the salt, pepper, crushed garlic, and steak sauce. This will make a sort of disgusting-looking mixture which will make your burgers very much the opposite of disgusting.

Add the panade mixture to your ground beef, and mix until the panade is evenly distributed (I like to use a fork for this).

Cook’s recommends using 80% lean ground chuck. I use beef that comes from the cows that graze here:

So I haven’t the faintest idea what the lean/fat percent is. Whatever the balance, it’s super duper good beef. Local beef makes good burgers, people.

Shape your meat into patties. The original recipe calls for making 4 patties, but since some of us (Sonia and Zoe) prefer slider-sized burgers, I make six patties of varying sizes.

Before you put the burgers on, scrape the grill clean, dip a small wad of paper towels into some vegetable oil, and run them over the grill grates (using tongs, of course).

(I didn’t come up with that idea…Cook’s did. It does seem to help keep the burgers from sticking, though, so I recommend it.)

Cook the burgers for 2-4 minutes on the first side, them flip them and cook for another 3-4 minutes.

Serve on buns with desired toppings (I’ve recently discovered that avocado slices make a very delightful burger topping).

Well-Done Grilled Hamburgers
printable version

1/2 cup chopped or torn white bread (remove crusts)
2 tablespoons whole milk
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons steak sauce (I use Aldi’s brand)
1 1/2 pounds 80% lean ground chuck

(before you start, turn your grill on so that it has 15 minutes to heat)

1. Place bread pieces in a bowl, and pour the milk over the bread. Using a fork, mash the bread and milk together to make a smooth paste. Add salt, pepper, garlic, and steak sauce, and mix until smooth.

2. Add ground beef to the bread/milk mixture, and gently combine, using a fork.

3. Shape the beef into patties.

4. Using tongs, dip a wad of paper towels into a small amount of vegetable oil, and run them over the grill grate.

5. Place burgers on grill. Cook for 2-4 minutes on the first side, flip, and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes, or until burgers reach desired doneness.


Today’s 365 post: This is how many pencils…

Joshua’s 365 post: Paper Dolls



  1. WilliamB says

    Another tip; don’t press down on your burgers.

    I don’t use a panade, I use grated (not minced) onion, and grated potato. This is not a knock against the panade, but I’ve been using the grated onion & tater method since I learned it from my grandmother as a tot, and old habits are hard to change. I have used CI’s method for meatballs and like it a lot.

    • says

      The potato probably functions similarly to the panade, I bet.

      I never press on my burgers while they’re cooking…I figure the juice/fat that needs to exit will do so on its own during the cooking process.

  2. says

    I just use plain old ground beef. Never had the need to use a panade.

    I really do wonder what purpose frozen hamburger patties serve. To sell you inferior meat at higher prices and call it convenience? What we do is we make patties in an English muffin ring and then freeze them for later use. Ground beef (or beef in general lately) is never on sale and meat coupons are rare to non-existent so our freezer is our best friend for meat.

    Interestingly enough this summer we’ve been eating a lot of top round steaks which are a great bargain and are quite delicious when seasoned and cooked properly (seared and broiled to medium rare.)

  3. says

    I do very nearly the same thing, but I use breadcrumbs because we never have white bread in our house. I modified my meatloaf recipe for hamburgers. They were a hit at our barbeque this weekend.

  4. Debbie T. says

    Interesting method. Looking forward to trying this. Thanks Kristen. Hope you and your family had a good 4th of July. Have a blessed day!

  5. Therese Z says

    Never heard the word “panade” until this year. My family always makes burgers and meatloaf with gooshy bread/milk/egg.

    Why take off the crusts? Unless they are really, really hard and the milk doesn’t soften them enough, we leave them on and they don’t show up in the finished product.

  6. Wendy says

    I only subscribe to the same cooking website–you are right that it’s definitely worth it! Just as Jessie@Jessie:Improved, many of my staple recipes come from this website.
    I have also found this recipe for well-done hamburgers really turns out juicy delicious burgers every time. I admit in the past, I have purchased the convenient frozen patties only to often be disappointed. I’m now a convert to Cook’s Illustrated well-done burger recipe–so simple yet surprisingly moist & tender.

  7. Michelle says

    Made these yesterday as well (great minds think alike!). This is my absolute go-to for homemade burgers. Yummy!!! :)

  8. Megan McD says

    Looks yummy! Much better than the frozen patties. Have you made ahead and frozen? Results? I use the patties for a quick meal- but I am willing to make ahead on my days off for those crazy rushed days- if the results are good! Great photo too!

  9. atsquared says

    These look delish! We use a slight variation for yummy homemade burgers… a beaten egg and some rolled oats, along with minced garlic, Worcestershire sauce, onion powder, salt and pepper. And we make ours from local, pasture-fed beef too. There’s nothing better!

  10. atsquared says

    Oh, and another interesting, but amazing burger topping… peanut butter. Sounds terrible, but it’s oh, so good!

    • Kristen says

      I think I’m just going to have to trust you on that because it does definitely sound terrible! lol

  11. Jenny says

    I’ve used the bread and milk in burgers before, but never with the fancy word panade :-). It’s good for burgers cooked less well done too and does make them extra juicy. I’ve never thought to mix my other seasonings with it before adding to the meat though, but I bet that would make it much easier. I’ve also never thought to do this in meatloaf or meatballs, just used dry bread/cracker/potato chip crumbs, but that might have to change next time I make them.

    An alternative to using paper towels for the grill (I know you like to use less of them) is to take a clean cotton cloth (a t-shirt rag is perfect for this) and roll it up in a tube and tie with cotton string. Then dip in oil and rub on the grill (with tongs). This can be stored in the fridge in a ziploc bag (or I suppose a small container) in between uses, and can be used several times before it needs more oil, and the rag itself will last the whole season (or maybe more) as long as you keep it in the fridge to keep the oil from getting rancid.

  12. EngineerMom says

    Have you ever tried just using the seasonings and no panade? In my personal experience, the fat content of the ground beef makes a far bigger difference than anything that’s added to the meat.

    And as for pre-formed frozen hamburgers, we buy them. They are 100% ground beef (though not local), no fillers or even flavorings added. I keep them and buns (thaw in foil in the oven in the amount of time it takes to heat up our charcoal grill) in our chest freezer for easy grilling when DH and I are totally exhausted and need a super-quick and simple meal that doesn’t heat up our kitchen (like when it’s 90+ degrees outside at 6pm). Right now, buying ground beef, forming and individually freezing the patties sounds like way too much work (a 3-year-old and almost 40 weeks pregnant means I budget my energy wisely!), and the burgers I buy are never more than $2/lb (before cooking, of course) for a 5lb box of 1/4lb patties. They are convenient, and since it’s rare to find ground beef priced lower than that, I’ll take my frozen hamburger patties!

    • Kristen says

      I say if they’re working for you, then go for it! I’m just used to eating seasoned patties (I grew up eating them that way), and so to me, the unseasoned frozen patties are just…boring.

      I totally understand keeping an easy frozen prepared meal around though…much cheaper and healthier than most takeout!

  13. Carole says

    I am gluten intolerant and while this sounds good, if you are having guests or are at a cookout and furnshing the hamburgers the bread could cause a castastrophe for someone who can’t tolerate gluten and who thinks it’s 100% ground beef.

    • Kristen says

      Oh yes. Hopefully the gluten intolerant person would check, as a lot of burger recipes also call for oatmeal, which I know can be a problem for people who can’t tolerate gluten.

  14. says

    I’ve done the panade before – but didn’t know that’s what its called. My most recent method tho, is using quick cook oatmeal and ground flax with an extra egg…oh so moist and they don’t fall apart!

  15. says

    I made these burgers and they were great (the best I’ve ever made actually). This will definitely be my go-to burger recipe. The panade really makes a huge difference.

  16. elaine says

    BRAVO! My son said that the burgers I made using your recipe were the best he had EVER had. In true Frugal Girl style, I subbed a little soy sauce for the steak sauce since I didn’t have any one hand. Thanks for a great recipe. I love your blog!

  17. Lisa Johnson says

    This method works so very well with buffalo and deer burgers. When you have such a lean ground meat it tends to be very dry, a perfect solution ans oh so yummy!

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