So, I honestly can’t believe it took me so long to figure this trick out.
If you’re like me, you’ve made hamburgers or cheeseburgers at home plenty of times. And, if you’re like me, you’ve learned to unplug the battery from the smoke detector before you start cooking the patties because it’s going to undoubtedly smoke up the house a little. There’s even an episode of Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home in which Julia Child jokes that the best place to cook hamburgers is at your friend’s house, because it’s inevitably going to smoke the place up.
I mean, you want to get a good sear on those things, and since it’s ground meat, you definitely want to get it cooked well. Beef fat’s got a low smoke point, though, so by the time the patty is cooked, the beef fat has started to burn, and you end up smoking everything up.
But it turns out the secret is simple. For years and years, I’ve just thrown the patties into a dry pan because I knew they’d render plenty of fat when they cook, and I didn’t see any reason to add more fat. But the secret is to use a little bit of oil with a high smoke point to get the patties started. Just pour in maybe two or three teaspoons of something like canola oil into the pan (I prefer cast iron) before you put the burgers in, and that will raise the smoke point of the beef fat which renders as the patty cooks.
Simple and brilliant, and makes it much more convenient to cook hamburgers at home in a small apartment kitchen.