Nothing commands respect like a perfectly cooked burger. Cheese is a given in my kitchen, but a perfect hamburger is amazing on its own.
Make no mistake about it, cooking a good burger is largely about knowing what not to do. This is one of those times where it's best to keep it simple.
When the patty is cooked, feel free to pile on as many condiments as you'd like! Bacon, mushrooms, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and my personal favorite: an over-easy egg; but when it comes to the meat itself, keep it relatively pure.
To make the patties:
Pick good beef. The best burgers are made from freshly ground high-grade 80/20 chuck beef. (The "80/20" refers to the fat content of the meat.) You can substitute with ground turkey if you're trying to be heart healthy, or with ground lamb or bison to change things up a bit. Just make sure the fat content remains high. (At least 18%.)
Place the beef in a large mixing bowl, season with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper.
You can add one or more of the following to help intensify the flavor: a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce, a teaspoon of Dijon mustard, a splash of red wine. Do NOT add onions; they will sweat out their juices and cause the patty to fall apart.
Mix the meat and the seasonings together by hand. Do NOT overwork the meat; it will cause the final product to be less tender.
Form the patties by first wetting your hands and then grabbing a single handful of meat and forming it into a ball. Repeat as many times as necessary.
Pat the patty gently into a puck with a thickness between 3/4 - 1 inch. An equal thickness among burgers is important in order to equalize cooking times.
When the patty is formed, put a dimple in the center by pressing your thumb into the patty about 1/4 inch. This will ensure an even final surface. Keep the finished patties cold until they hit the grill. This will help keep the juices in the meat.
Preheat a grill to medium-high heat. While the grill is warming up, cut an onion in half, and rub the cut side over the grate of the grill to season it and prevent the patties from sticking to the grill.
Use a brush to lightly coat the burgers with a high-heat oil such canola oil, grape seed oil, or vegetable oil. Olive oil will work too, but isn't ideal for this situation.
Once the grill is up to temperature, add the burgers to the grill and close the lid.
Flip the burgers only when you can lift the burger without having it stick to the grill. Ideally this should take about 3-5 minutes. Only flip the burger once.
Cook the burger for an additional 3 minutes for medium-rare, and another 5 minutes for well done. Do not press the burger while cooking, this will cause the flavor-rich juice to ooze out.
If you'd like to add cheese, now is the time to do it. Some popular options are cheddar, brie, smoked Gouda, & Monterey Jack. Goat cheese and Stilton are good options for people who prefer bigger flavors. American cheese works well too; but you won't be getting any points for creativity. Once the burger is done, move it to the cooler outer edge of the grill, top it with cheese, and close the lid for 1 minute to help the cheese melt.
Let the burger rest for at least 2-3 minutes before eating or cutting into it. This will give the meat a chance to reabsorb the juices.
Toast the bun over the grill if you can, pile high with whatever you'd like, and enjoy! Some common additions are bacon, sauteed mushrooms, grilled or fried onions, pickles, lettuce, and tomato. Be sure to leave out some mustard, ketchup, and BBQ sauce if you're cooking for a crowd.
If you really want to add some flare you can get extra fancy with the fixings! Things like pickled onions, Sriracha aioli, French onion marmalade, or secret sauce (homemade thousand island dressing) will elevate your burgers to a higher level that is sure to please a crowd!
Food & Wine Magazine: "6 Best Cheeses for Burgers"
Food Network: "How to Make a Perfect Burger"
Spruce Eats: "Tips for Perfect Burgers"