Father's Day may be behind us, but Steven Raichlen's Man Made Meals: The Essential Cookbook for Guys is sure to be a welcome addition to any guy's culinary arsenal, especially if their recent Father's Day gifts included a grill or some fancy new kitchen gadgets. Raichlen offers straightforward advice and step-by-step instructions to help any dude find his footing in the kitchen—from using a blowtorch to sear salmon to shaking up a mean martini. Guys (and gals!) looking for the perfect summer backyard burger should try out this recipe for the Ur-Burger, and discover firsthand why Man Made Meals is our Top Pick in cookbooks this month.

Photo credit: Lucy Schaeffer/Man Made Meals

Shop: My dream ground meat mix combines ground sirloin (40 percent), chuck (40 percent) and brisket (20 percent). Make friends with your local butcher and ask him to custom grind it for you. Brioche rolls (French egg bread) make great buns. Add ripe heirloom tomato and leaf lettuce or arugula. Perfection lies in the details.

Gear: Your basic kitchen gear including a large (10 to 12-inch) cast-iron or nonstick skillet and an instant-read thermometer.

What else: I prefer my burgers hot off the grill (surprise), and on page 113 you’ll find instructions for grilling burgers. But apartment dwellers without grill access can take comfort in the knowledge that many an iconic burger (California’s In-N-Out Burger and Umami Burger to name two) is cooked on a griddle, and you can achieve the same result using a skillet.

Time: About 20 minutes

The perfect burger. Platonic idea? Or beef patty that actually exists? If you start with the right meat, patty shape and bun and keep the flavorings subordinate to the beef, any burger has the potential for greatness. In the following pages you’ll find some favorites. We start with the Ur-Burger (from the German word ur for original, fundamental, or basic), which you can customize to taste. 

Makes 4 burgers


  • 1½ to 2 pounds ground beef, well chilled
  • Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon salted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 freshly baked hamburger buns or brioche rolls
  • “Secret Sauce” for Burgers (page 542) or your condiments of choice
  • 4 Boston or Bibb lettuce or 8 arugula leaves, rinsed and patted dry with paper towels
  • 1 luscious red ripe tomato, thinly sliced
  • Your choice of embellishments for the burgers (see page 107 for suggestions)

1. Divide the beef into four equal portions. Shape each portion into a patty about 1-inch-thick and slightly larger in diameter than the buns (lightly wet your hands with cold water before handling the meat). Work with a light touch, handling the meat as little as possible. Make a slight depression in the center of the patties; they should be slightly concave. You can form the burgers up to 6 hours ahead. Arrange the burgers on a plate lined with plastic wrap and cover them with more plastic wrap. Refrigerate the burgers until you are ready to cook them.

2. Just before cooking, generously season the burgers on both sides with salt and pepper, turning them gently.

3. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the burgers, spacing them 2 inches apart. Cook the burgers until the bottoms are browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Using a spatula, gently turn the burgers over and continue cooking them until done to taste, about 5 minutes more for medium. To test for doneness, insert an instant-read thermometer through the side of a burger. When the burger is cooked to medium the thermometer will register 160°F.

4. Transfer the burgers to a warm plate. Place a tiny pat of butter (about 1 teaspoon) on top of each burger and let the burgers rest for
1 to 2 minutes. (Chefs call this “tempering” the meat and it helps produce juicier burgers.)

5. Meanwhile, spread the insides of the buns with the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. Pour off the fat from the skillet and wipe it clean with paper towels. Toast the buns, cut sides down, in the skillet over medium-high heat until golden, 1 to 2 minutes. You may need to work in several batches.

6. To assemble the burgers, spread the buns with “Secret Sauce,” if using, or whatever condiment(s) you prefer. Place a burger on top of the sauce and top it with a lettuce leaf and a tomato slice and any embellishments you like. Add the top of the bun and dig in.

Excerpted from Man Made Meals: The Essential Cookbook for Guys © 2014 by Steven Raichlen. Photography by Lucy Schaeffer.  Reproduced by permission of Workman Publishing. All rights reserved. Read our review of this book.

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