We can’t shake the association of burger steak to Jollibee. So we’ll nip this in the bud and say—this is not a food hack. Though we do love the weirdly satisfying version of the red bee, those oddly textured flat patties with extra thick gravy aren’t exactly what come to mind when we think of the best burger steak. What we envision is giant, slightly craggly, juicy, and well-seasoned patties of ground beef smothered in a substantial, savory gravy; plus, of course, mushrooms that actually taste like mushrooms, not of brining liquid from a can.
This recipe brings our idea of the best burger steak to life. Thanks to several tests and some calculated steps in the method, we’ve developed a version of the dish that ensures that the patties are juicy and evenly cooked, the gravy is thick and umami-y, and the mushrooms shine even as a supporting role.
The Burger Steak Tests
At its simplest, burger steak only involves frying beef patties, making gravy, and putting those two together. But we’ve found that adding a few easy steps in between, specifically adding soaked breadcrumbs, seasoning meat, and cooking mushrooms separately, makes all the difference.
It’s easy to end up with dry burger patties if you fry them until golden—and especially if you want them a little crisp around the edges. To prevent this, we took a page from Italian meatballs, which use a panada to keep them moist. A panada is a paste-like binder made by soaking fresh breadcrumbs in milk. (People usually use eggs to bind burger steak, but we found that it can make the beef tough.)
We do the same in this recipe, adding the panada to the beef before forming it into patties. This helps the meat retain its patty shape when formed and keeps it from drying out once cooked.
Seasoning the meat is a no-brainer; everyone adds salt and pepper to the beef anyway. This recipe, however, takes a step further and adds some of the ingredients also present in the gravy into the sauce. This ensures that there’s flavor in all components of the dish without necessarily one element overpower the other; everything works cohesively. So even without the gravy (e.g. if you prefer just the beef or want a different sauce), the patties can stand on their own.
Most people cook mushrooms in a pan, then build the gravy from there. And while that’s definitely a convenient method, it tends to mask the earthy element of the mushrooms. Plus, it makes what otherwise could’ve been crisp mushrooms soggy. So in this recipe, we cook the mushrooms as usual but take them out after they’re nice and crisp. You’re still cooking the gravy in the same pan so you carry over any leftover flavor from the mushroom into the sauce.
How to Make Pepper’s Best Burger Steak
The best thing about our best burger steak recipe is that it all happens in just one pan—and maybe a couple of bowls and plates.
Start by making the panada. In a bowl, combine the breadcrumbs and milk and soak for about 10 minutes until softened. You can use store-bought breadcrumbs for this. But for moistness, we encourage you to use fresh breadcrumbs, which you can prepare by blitzing bread in a food processor.
After soaking, add the panada into a large mixing bowl with the beef, and season with Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, salt, and pepper. Using your hands (or a spatula), mix the beef mixture until well combined. Make sure not to overmix it or else you’ll end up with tough meat!
Divide the beef into 10 portions and form them into large discs, making an indent in each piece by pressing your thumb into the center of the patty. You can also form them into 20 mid-sized patties—or really whatever size you prefer. Just make sure there’s an indent in the center.
Burgers shrink during cooking; they tend to contract and get thicker in the middle, which leads to uneven cooking. Adding the indent gives the patties room to stay even in thickness even as it shrinks so it cooks more evenly. Set the patties aside on a tray and continue until you’ve used up all the beef.
Heat oil in a large pan set over high heat. Then, working in batches, sear the patties until a crust forms all around. It should take about two to three minutes on each side. This can vary if your patties are smaller, so be mindful.
Transfer the patties into another tray and keep them in a warm oven while you make the gravy.
In the same large pan you used for frying, add the mushrooms and cook until well-browned. Though canned mushrooms work in a pinch, fresh mushrooms are really the way to go. They give a natural sweetness and earthiness, plus they brown very well, contributing to even better flavor. Once slightly crisp, remove the mushrooms and set them aside.
Back to the pan. Melt the butter, scraping off any mushroom bits stuck to the bottom. Add flour and cook for one minute. Then, add the onions and saute for five minutes until softened and well browned. Whisk in the milk and the water, and bring to a boil. It should thicken up.
Season the gravy with Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, salt, and pepper then remove from heat.
Pepper’s Best Burger Steak
To serve, transfer the warm beef patties onto a platter. Top them with the mushrooms, and spoon over the gravy. You can also serve any leftover gravy on the side for people who want a little more. Enjoy the dish with some hot—maybe even garlic—rice!
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