The Ultimate Burger: what’s yours?

Sharon Jessup Joyce

Blog homemade burger

No, I haven’t fallen into the sin of arrogance. This post’s title refers to the search for the ultimate burger, not a claim that I’ve created it. For someone who doesn’t eat a lot of meat, I’ve enjoyed plenty of burgers, mostly beef, but sometimes vegetarian, chicken or fish (Halifax’s 2 Doors Down should take a bow for the best haddock burger ever, by the way). So I decided I wanted to create a beef burger in the spirit of the gourmet burger many restaurants brag about, with house-ground meat and house-made bun and sauces. I often make homemade hamburger buns and always make homemade ketchup and BBQ sauces, so we knew the potential there. The question was whether grinding the beef at home would help take our burger to the next level.

The obvious first step was choosing the right cut. I know fatty cuts are more flavourful, but they upset my finicky digestion; Bob and Adrian have also become accustomed to leaner cuts. I arrived at our butcher shop assuming I’d pick up sirloin. But Trevor spontanously offered me a great deal on a small and awkwardly-shaped ribless prime rib beef roast. The meat looked beautiful and the price was too good to pass up. So that was the beef taken care of. I figured I could always compensate for the higher-fat cut by making smaller patties.

Blog homemade saucesAt the market, I bought three varities of new onions, which I planned to caramelize with maple sugar. We already had some Cabot cheddar on hand, as well as homemade chipotle tomato ketchup from last fall’s preserving. (I’ll post that recipe in a few weeks, if anyone is interested.)

I decided to trim most of the fat from the beef and then add back some fat with olive oil. I know that sounds weird, but the Blog ground prime ribresults were delicious. After ruthless trimming, we had just under one kilogram of meat (see photo). I added 1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 teaspoons sea salt and 1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper. We ended up with seven 140-gram (five-ounce) patties.

I sauteed the onions in some olive oil, salt, maple sugar and a bit of leftover red wine.

A favourite homemade hamburger bun at our house is honey-oat, but I wanted to limit the number of flavours, so I decided to make maple-oat hamburger buns to reinforce the maple flavour in the onions.

We kept the finished burgers simple, with a mix of extra old and chipotle Cabot cheddar melted on the bun, and caramelized maple onions and homemade chipotle ketchup on the meat patty.

Grinding the meat ourselves just before cooking really did make a difference. I won’t claim this was The Ultimate Burger, but it may have been the best-tasting burger I’ve ever made. Now we just need to find the perfect craft beer to go with it.

Maple-oat hamburger buns

IngredientsBlog maple oat hamburger buns

  • 1-1/2 cups ground oatmeal
  • 2-1/2 cups flour of your choice (I usually use a roughly equal proportion of King Arthur bread flour, Five Roses unbleached all-purpose flour, and Five Roses whole wheat flour)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 2/3 cup warm water
  • 2 tablespoons oil or melted butter
  • 1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 2-1/4 teaspoons yeast

This recipe is for a bread machine, but you can make it by hand. Here’s a great blog that gives easy steps for converting bread machine recipes to by-hand or mixer versions:


  1. Grind oat flakes in a coffee grinder until they have the consistency of a fine flour.
  2. Mix oat flour and other flour(s) and salt together.
  3. Beat egg into buttermilk and add warm water and maple syrup or honey.
  4. Put wet ingredients into bread machine case.
  5. Sprinkle dry ingredients (except yeast) over liquid ingredients.
  6. Spoon yeast on top of dry ingredients.
  7. Use dough setting on bread machine.
  8. Once the dough setting is finished, shape the buns. Use about 70 grams of dough per bun. Roll dough into a round ball, then flatten it very ruthlessly (see photo, above).
  9. Leave, lightly covered, in a warm place until buns almost double in size.
  10. Cook in a 375 F oven for about 15 minutes.


Sharon divides her time between Kingston, Ontario and St Margaret Bay, NS, and has enjoyed some splendid burgers in both spots.
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After a good dinner, one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.”

– Oscar Wilde, A Woman of No Importance


28 thoughts on “The Ultimate Burger: what’s yours?

  1. Do you have any favourite veggie burger recipes? I find that most of the ones I’ve tried end up mushy in the centre and if I cook them longer to unmush the centres, the outsides get dry. So I usually end up suggesting to Tim that we go out for burgers so I can just get a beef burger and he can have a vegetarian patty. But I’d love to have a good, reliable recipe for veggie burgers. Any thoughts?

    • I asked Olivia to chime in on this, as she’s made some veggie patties she likes. I used to buy lovely vegetarian patties at Loblaws. They weren’t the President’s Choice ones (which I found to be very disappointing — mushy and bland), but came from a Toronto company. Sadly, it’s been a while since I have seen them at our local store. They were packaged in different world cuisine varieties. The Middle Eastern falafel-style was my favourite, but there was an Indian cuisine-inspired one that was also tasty.

      Most veggie burger recipes I’ve seen include ground nuts and/or mushrooms, so they don’t work well for me. But I did see an interesting recipe recently that calls for black beans, chickpeas, grated beef, rice and a bunch of spices.

      Anyway, now I’m on quest, Alana! Anybody care to contribute a veggie burger recipe they like?

  2. We had burgers too last night. Topped with truffle butter I bought in Paris and served over grilled vegetables. Not traditional, but delicious 🙂 Unfortunately, although the ground meat here is high quality, it tends to be dry and lacking in flavour, and my colleague Gerard and I suspect it spends a long time in the deep freeze before being sold. I’m on the search for better-tasting ground beef now.

  3. One of the most delicious burgers I’ve ever had!! The maple in the bun was a perfect complement to the flavour of the burger.

  4. You’re right Summer. The Truffle Butter Burgers were just fine, because of the ta da! truffle butter, along with the roasted eggplant and summer squash (roasted in strips to a nicely caramelized tender but chewy texture). We used the roasted vegt in place of the bun.
    However, my bread type preference for a burger most often, is a nice thin flatbread to wrap the burger and accoutrements up in a nice little pkg, to then crisp/seal on a double sided grill or a fry pan with a small lid or plate on top.
    Now, if we’re talking about a seriously traditional contemporary cuisine burger. You have to use a bun and preferably, one that you make. Sharon… you remember the ones that Irene Broedeurs made for our beach or backyard bbq’s? Btw, your burger looks great! Have you ever made a sourdough bun!

    Alana……cooked and then somewhat oven dried black beans with mashed up roasted Hubbard squash, caramelized onion, ground toasted pumpkin seeds, North African spice and some bread crumbs or potato starch, makes a nice one. Bake in the oven instead of frying, brushed with melted butter or oil. And always make enough to freeze for those quick suppers. I love tempeh and that can be steamed, grated and mixed with buzzed and pan cooked/dried mushrooms, tamari, ginger, onion and some rice for a nice Asian inspired burger. Again, “oven fry”. To note: vegetarian burgers don’t typically hold together in the same manner, as meat burgers without adding a lot of rubbish. Another thing for us to remember…….we can’t expect a pile of wet mushy vegt to magically take into the texture of meat.
    *The Wild Oat makes a nice spelt or g.f. wrapped burger on the grill, known as The Wild Burger.
    And no, I can’t give you the recipe, but it’s a great place to go for a very reasonably priced organic vegetarian burger, that you don’t make for yourself.

    • It does seem to be a bit of a production to make a nice-textured veggie burger, but worth it if you find one that is firm but moist after it’s grilled.

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