James Beard's Favorite Hamburger

James Beard

Author and Educator

"I learned this recipe years ago from a magnificent cook named Jeanne Owen, who wrote deliciously about food and cooked even better than she wrote." —James Beard


  • 2 pounds 93% lean ground beef chuck or round
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 small onion (about 3 tablespoons), grated
  • 2 teaspoons heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons salted butter
  • 4 potato hamburger rolls, toasted for serving
  • 1 small head little gem lettuce for serving
  • 1 avocado, sliced for serving
  • 1 beefsteak tomato, thinly sliced for serving
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced for serving


Place the meat in a large bowl and spread out evenly. Sprinkle salt and pepper all over. Add grated onion and heavy cream into the center, and gently blend together with your hands. Do not overmix.

Form into one large cake or divide into 4 smaller cakes. If you want the meat rare, make the cakes about 1 1/2-inches thick. Chill for 5 to 10 minutes; remove from the refrigerator just before cooking.

In a large heavy skillet heat the oil and butter over medium-high. When quite hot, add the meat and cook to your favorite state of doneness, 5 minutes per side for a rare burger. Turn once during the cooking process.

If you make one large cake, use two very wide spatulas to handle the difficult job of turning it. Let rest for 3 to 4 minutes. Serving suggestion: serve on a toasted hamburger bun with lettuce, avocado, tomato, and onion, along with sautéed potatoes and a tomato and onion salad.


Adapted from James Beard's original recipe. Recipe photo and food styling by Judy Kim.


4 servings