The Best Burgers – Tips by Top Chefs, Also Cheese Pairing Ideas and Topping Suggestions!!

Your Burger Experience – Take it to the next level!

You may have your favourite, tried and true way to enjoy hamburgers – creating your own mixture of meat and grilling to perfection. And that is great, however you might also want to consider the advice we have compiled from great chefs who know their burgers plus cheese pairing ideas and toppings we suggest that will elevate your hamburger to the next level.

Diner versus Pub-Style Hamburgers

There is the traditional griddled hamburger of diners smashed thin cooked crisp on its edges. And there is the pub- or tavern-style hamburger, plump and juicy, with a thick char that gives way to tender, often blood-red meat within. Which is best is totally a matter of preference.

Skillet instead of Grill

According to some of the best chefs you can make good hamburgers on the barbecue but you can only make GREAT burgers in a cast iron skillet (pan or griddle).

Many of the best chefs highly recommend cooking your hamburger in a skillet, pan or griddle so that the hamburgers cook in their own grease. One highly respected chef says that grease is a natural condiment to the hamburger which can only be enjoyed when cooking on a flat surface.

Fat to Meat Ratio

Another recommendation is that the meat to fat ratio should be about 80% versus 20%. Never lean as you get flavour from melted fat, yet if you have too much fat that can bring complications with how the hamburger cooks.

Traditional hamburger would involve ground chuck steak however restaurateurs will often add a mixture of your favourite meat like strip steak, pork, veal, brisket or other types of meat that add unique flavour.

Cook from Cold

Keep meat in the refrigerator untouched until you are ready to cook it. Hamburgers are one of the few meats you would want to cook cold. The fat modules need to be cold when placing on pan, griddle or skillet so that it may melt properly within the burger.

The Process

photo by Saltspring Kitchen Co.

Brush skillet with 1/2 teaspoon of canola oil and add a little butter. Quickly heat burger before butter smokes.

Diner Style – use ice-cream scoop of meat about the size of a golf ball

Heat on medium-high as you begin process. Immediately use a heavy spatula to press down on the meat, producing a thin patty about the size of a hamburger bun. This creates a nice crust and should be one of the few times the meat is touched while cooking. 90 seconds later after salt and pepper, flip burger. Add cheese if desired and cook through.

Consider adding another patty on top of first patty with cheese for larger hamburger.

Pub-Style – 7 oz of meat per hamburger

Don’t handle this meat too much or pack too tightly just so long as it holds together. Cook three minutes on one side and season with salt and pepper. Flip and cook three more minutes for medium rare. Add cheese the minute you flip the burger over. Adding cheese after it has been flipped adds rennet which gives nice flavour.

Never mess with a hamburger too much. Touch only when you have to turn, smash or add cheese as you want to just stand back and let the fat do its work within the patty.


The most common cheese for a classic hamburger is just plain old American Cheese. That is all well in good, however at Herma’s we like to offer other cheeses in order to elevate your tasting experience.

There are three requirements…Meltability, Taste Compatibility and Gooey (not to oily or runny).

Cheese Pairings for your Burger

Sharp Cheddar and Fruit Chutney

Blue Cheese with Smoke House Bacon and Caramelized Onion

Swiss Cheeses like Gruyere, Raclette and Appenzeller with Sautéed Mushrooms

Tip: Consider covering pan or bring lid down on grill while melting cheese after first flip.

Favourite Toppings from Herma’s

photo by Saltspring Kitchen Co.

Saltspring Kitchen Charcuterie Mustard – Likened to “mustard caviar”, it is made with Salt Spring Island Ales’ Heather Ale and nicely balanced with honey, it adds sophistication to your burger.

Saltspring Kitchen Spicy Tomato Savoury Spread – Salt Spring Kitchen’s signature spread brings fresh ginger, onions, jalapeños, and a cheeky heat to hamburgers as well as with grilled cheese and eggs.

Saltspring Kitchen Candied Jalapeños – These are hot and sweet, bringing any savoury dish to the next level. Top on hamburgers, burritos, nachos, hot dogs and omelets for something extra special.

Create your own house blend…

Consider combining

  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon your favorite BBQ sauce

The above is just an idea. You may want to have fun creating your own concoction. Choose from one of many of our mustards, horseradish, honeys, ketchups, chutneys, dressings and barbecue sauces.

We hope you found these suggestions and ideas helpful and inspiring.

Bon appétit!