I would rather eat one of my own hamburgers than 100 of the flat fast food variety stuffed between a squishy, cakey-sweet bun, or 1000 of the fancy-pants variety topped with Roquefort or spinach or béarnaise sauce. My hamburger is my best evidence of why eating home is better. It's thick, it's seasoned with care and even, dare I say, intelligence, it's cooked the best way there is, and it's a proper and fairly safe medium.
Pace A Hamburger Today, I'm pretty sure it's a good idea to put things in your burger. Veal Florentine might be stepping over the line, but a good bit of seasonings can make something delicious into something ultradelicious. I actually also like a burger seasoned with nothing but salt. I am even amenable to the Jacques Pépin burger that is completely unseasoned. All you taste is beef. (Perhaps Jacques salts after cooking). But my favorite is this one.
To a pound of ground chuck I added about a tablespoon of finely grated onion (I have no idea how to grate this small amount, about a fifth of a small onion, without drawing forth a melodrama's worth of tears), a teaspoon of garlic minced to a paste, a pinch each of cayenne and finely ground white pepper, and a tablespoon or a bit more of kecap manis, the Indonesian sweet soy sauce that I love as I love Revolver or Blonde on Blonde. I never tire of it and I want it all the time.
I mixed all of this up with my hands and let it sit awhile. Overnight works well, actually, but five minutes will do. Meanwhile I heated up my cast iron skillet until it was smoking hot. I made two patties out of this for dinner last night and saved the rest for my lunch today. Now the next step is optional but highly desirable. Just for me today, I crushed about twenty black peppercorns on my board with the bottom of a heavy saucepan and pressed the crushed pepper into one side of my burger. Then I sprinkled a pinch of coarse salt on the surface of the skillet. This draws out moisture when the meat hits the pan and gets it sizzling, and this promotes browning. Some culinary pros frown on this because they believes it causes too much loss of moisture from the meat. I say if you don't overcook your burger then loss of moisture is inconsequential--and I don't overcook my burger.
I seared it on the first side about four minutes without touching it once. This is extremely important: you don't get a proper sear if you move the burger around in the pan too much. Then I flipped it and cooked another four minutes, just until the patty felt firmer than mushy. (If you start with a cold burger, as I do, then eight minutes is about the right amount of time. If you start with a room temp burger, your burger cooks faster.) I served it on a wheat bun with mayonnaise, very thinly sliced red onion, and a thick slice of a fresh, local tomato. Sauteed onions are also pretty great on this burger. Cheese, bacon, other veggies, other condiments, butter (a local fave): no, thank you.
The drippings from the meat, the mayonnaise, and the tomato juices combined to create an über-sauce running off the sandwich and onto the plate, and I gleefully dipped my burger into this before each bite.