Everything I’ve Ever Wanted To Say About Burgers

Disclaimer: Sorry Mom and Dad.

If you really want to bother me, overcook my burger.

The prelude to disappointment is when a restaurant asks you how you want your burger cooked and then it arrives well done, anyway. I always ask for medium rare and just hope it arrives a little south of hockey puck.

Growing-up, we ate burgers weekly and I avoided burgers into my mid-20’s because I assumed I hated them. I remember helping my mom divide one pound of beef into four balls and packing them into disks. We seasoned them with salt and pepper and placed them on the grill until they were charred on the outside and well done on the inside. It’s not that they tasted horrible; I just didn’t understand why anyone would go out of their way to eat a hamburger.

My perfect burger is simply a burger that isn’t messed up. There are burgers for every mood and occasion, but when I’m really craving a burger, I want a classic one. O’Connell’s Pub delivered our perfect burger this weekend. It was like my mom grilled us a burger on our deck and didn’t mess it up. Now, I’m left with intense burger feelings.

Use delicious beef! But not too lean.

Don’t overcook it.

Keep it loosely packed.

Season the beef, but cook it however you like.

Grill it or griddle it, I really don’t care as long as it’s medium rare and you do all of the things I just mentioned.

Take the time to toast the bun because, let’s be real, it only takes a second and makes a huge difference.

Hold the foccacia or ramen noodle or Texas toast bun and keep your wacky sauces for another time. 

Simple garnishes like raw onion and tomato are just fine and there’s no shame in the ketchup game. Crisp iceberg lettuce is OK, too. A good burger’s like good pizza. Too many toppings can be overkill. More guacamole, peanut butter, and chicken fried bacon burgers for everyone else!

Good burgers don’t have to be expensive. If your burger costs at least $12 and then I have to pay extra to upgrade the potato chips to french fries, I’m gonna get cranky. Especially if it’s overcooked. And double especially if it has canned mushrooms.

Much of a burger’s goodness is about the person who cooks it. Last month, I enjoyed a good burger at the Hilton Garden Inn by the Lambert airport. The chef cooked it to a perfect medium rare and served it with crispy, house-cut french fries. I’ve received far less burgers for a higher price and at fancier restaurants.

A simple burger cooked well is a beautiful thing.


  1. Beth Ann Chiles

    So glad your Hilton Garden Inn burger made the post. 🙂 I like my burgers cooked more than you but I totally respect your right to have it cooked your way. That is what life is about. Having things done the way you like them and not like everyone else’s! Power to the burger.

    • Jeni

      That chef was great-the whole staff was:)

  2. Sara

    Love this! One burger lesson I’ve learned in my adult years? (You know, since you asked…) Get the burger a restaurant is known for & don’t sub anything. Get it exactly as is described & take at least one bite of it that way, to experience what the chef had in mind. I’ve had the best burgers by “living on the edge a little”–stuff I never would have put together. I tend to prefer my burgers a little more done than you, medium, but like you said, a good piece of beef, prepared the right way, & it won’t matter how it’s cooked. Well–as long as it’s not a hockey puck.

    • Jeni

      That’s very good burger wisdom that I will remember. And now I want a burger on the edge:)

  3. Michelle

    I agree with all of this. Medium rare is my go-to order because meat usually gets overcooked at restaurants.

    If you want a really good burger and ever find yourself near Taylors Falls, MN, go to the Drive-In. BEST. BURGERS. EVER. (Yes, I’m shouting. They really are that good.)

    • Jeni

      Thanks for the suggestion! I hope I find myself there in the near future.

  4. Katy Flint

    I’m a medium well burger kind of person, BUT…I completely agree on toppings. No fancy sauce, no weird toppings…just lettuce, cheese (bacon if you’re fancy) and some ketchup! Keep it simple and let the beef do the talking!

    • Jeni

      You have so much great beef in Iowa.

  5. kimberly

    Yes, totally agree with you! I usually ask for med rare but prefer it medium. Almost all burgers I get from restaurants are medium well/well done. It is a very sad thing and I am not one to send my food back. I do love to add an onion ring on there, but as long as there is red onion – we are good! Enjoy your next burger 🙂

    • Jeni

      I’m not one to send food back either so I totally get that. Red onion is my favorite.

  6. Betsy

    The best of the best burgers: Bub’s (pronounced boobs, LOL) in Winona. I don’t remember which number on the menu it is, but it’s one of their “specials” on the menu. Meat cooked how you want it, drippy overeasy egg, classic toppings. Now I want a burger.

    • Jeni

      I’m cracking up at the name, but thanks for the suggestion! Jake loves runny eggson burgers. Hopefully we can visit some time.

  7. Donna Hup

    There is nothing like a good burger. I’m not a huge fan of ketchup. I do love mustard on burger.

  8. Laura Cunningham

    There is in fact, no shame in the ketchup game. Love this post Miss Jeni!

    • Jeni

      Hey, I think I’m going to see you at MN Blog Con, too!

  9. Lisa K

    I also thought I disliked burgers, but I had the opposite problem as you–my dad would serve me burgers that were so thick and TOO pink on the inside! Once I grew up and realized this was not the norm, my perspective on burgers changed. Glad you found a delicious burger at Hilton Garden Inn. 🙂

    • Jeni

      That’s kind of hilarious:) Oh, parents.

  10. Wendy

    To be honest, I am not much of a beef burger person (we do a lot of ground chicken or veggie burgers), but I agree that a chef listening to the requests of the customer, in order to prepare food they will like, is key to a delicious dining experience! As you said, that burger can come from a hotel restaurant, a local pub, or a gourmet restaurant. When the chef makes the food with care, the way you like it, happiness is the result! 🙂 Glad you enjoyed O’Connell’s. It has been around FOREVER. It was known for its real roast beef sandwiches (enough for a small army), and I love their fried mushrooms. We have had some tasty burgers (beef, veggie, and chicken) at Bailey’s Range downtown (STL), too. If you get to Chicago, try Kuma’s Corner. The best burger (of any meat) I’ve ever had!

    • Jeni

      We need to try O’Connell’s fried mushrooms next time! I’ve also heard good things about Bailey’s Range. Thanks for your recommendation!

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