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How Do I Choose the Best Hamburger Marinade?

By Eugene P.
Updated May 16, 2024
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When choosing the best hamburger marinade, it is important to understand that most recipes attempt to accent the flavor of the meat as opposed to changing or challenging it. This means some common hamburger marinade ingredients are steak sauces, beef stocks and other strongly flavored liquids. There also are recipes that rely on premade spice mixes, powdered soup mixes and other ingredients that are convenient, matching the simplicity of the hamburger itself. Using a hamburger marinade involves both choosing the right ingredients and making sure the meat is ready to accept the marinade, to prevent it from falling apart when cooking.

Forming a patty that is going to be placed in a hamburger marinade does not follow the same rules as making a normal patty. The hamburger needs to be formed firmly before marinating and might even need a binder, such as an egg. This is because the hamburger meat will absorb a lot of the marinade liquid and could begin to break apart because of the amount of space inside the burger. Refrigerating the patties for 30 to 45 minutes after they are formed can help the hamburgers keep their shape while marinating.

One popular ingredient in a hamburger marinade is Worcestershire sauce. This is a very strongly flavored sauce with hints of steak and smoke. This can be combined with some oil to moderate the flavor in a marinade.

A simple hamburger marinade can be made from beef stock with salt and pepper added. This can help to keep the burger moist during cooking while also enhancing the beef flavor of the meat. The marinating time is very short, from 10 to 20 minutes at most.

A more complex hamburger marinade that provides a wider variety of flavors involves Worcestershire sauce, onion and garlic powder, soy sauce and olive oil. This can be complemented with parsley and basil. When absorbed by the meat, the marinade provides a rich flavor, especially when grilled.

There are Asian marinades that involve soy sauce, teriyaki sauce and ginger with red pepper flakes. This creates a spicy hamburger that can have a slightly sweet flavor as the soy sauce caramelizes. For an added sweet crust, more of the marinade can be brushed onto the hamburgers as they are cooking.

Finally, one of the more classic hamburger marinade ingredients is barbecue sauce. When mixed with steak sauce and ketchup and combined with some oil, beef stock and garlic powder, it makes a flavorful hamburger. If the hamburger is not going to be cooked on a charcoal grill, adding a few drops of liquid smoke to the marinade can help to give it a smoky, barbecued flavor.

When using hamburger marinades, the best flavor will come into the meat after about one hour in the refrigerator marinating. The meat can be left in the marinade overnight, but should not be left any longer than that. There will inevitably come a point where the meat has absorbed too much liquid and will no longer form a cohesive patty.

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Discussion Comments
By whiteplane — On Feb 02, 2012

Teriyaki sauce is my favorite kind of burger marinade. I like the way the sweetness compliments the richness of the meat. There are some other burger marinades that really overpower the flavor of the meat but I think teriyaki is the perfect compliment.

By summing — On Feb 01, 2012

There is a time and a place for a hamburger marinade but I think the best burgers have no marinade at all. A good burger is about appreciating the flavor of the beef.

If I have a really good quality beef I will usually eat my burgers with nothing more than a little salt and pepper. No cheese, no ketchup, no lettuce, just beef. I think that is the way a true burger is meant to be enjoyed.

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