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