Make women swoon – and your mates cheer – as top chef Tom Pemberton designs the perfect FHM Burger...


Formerly head chef of top UK eaterie St. John Bread and Wine, Tom Pemberton now owns the Hereford Road restaurant in London…

“As the summer barbecue season reaches its peak, I’ll never understand why people buy ready-made burgers – making your own is cheaper, far tastier and, with almost no effort, makes you look like a pro. As a purist, I always use beef rather than lamb, pork or chicken. But you must remember the three essentials: the quality and cut of the meat, and the fat content of the burger.”

The Burger: Serves 4

1kg minced chuck steak
Sea salt
Black pepper
Cucumber pickle


“The ideal burger is made from minced chuck steak, although good alternatives are skirt steak and rump, which is pricier. Talk to your local butcher – if he’s good he should be able to mince it for you.”

“It should be 20-30% fat, which stops the burger drying out and gives it flavour. If there’s not enough fat in the meat naturally the butcher should be able to add some more.”

“Mince oxidises quickly so it’s best to shape and eat the burger as soon as possible after it’s ground. Season it with sea salt and a small amount of freshly milled black pepper throughout, rather than just on the outside. Form the seasoned mince into roughly 225g/8oz burgers, then lightly brush with oil. The protein in the meat holds the burger together so there’s no need for eggs or anything like that. And don’t add any herbs or spices as they only detract from the beef.”

“Chuck them on the middle of the grill – this is the hottest part. Cooking times will vary depending on charcoal, distance from heat and thickness of burger, so test one to see if it’s cooked. Don’t be afraid if it’s a bit pink. People should have their burgers as they have their steak. For me four minutes each side is about right.”

“Buy the best quality buns you can and toast them very lightly on the grill. Avoid overly sweet, ‘commercial’ burger buns. Add a couple of slices of ripe, organic tomato, thin slices of red onion, some little gem lettuce, Dijon mustard, a dollop of home-made tomato ketchup and some cucumber pickle.”

Cucumber Pickle

2kg of baby cucumbers
700g thinly sliced brown onions
120g salt plus half a handful for salting cucumber
700g caster sugar
700ml white wine vinegar
2 tbsp mustard seeds
2 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp turmeric
Pinch of cayenne pepper

How to make Tom’s catch-all burger goo

“This is an absolute piece of piss to make, and tastes amazing with pretty much anything. First, slice the baby cucumbers into one-centimetre rounds. Then give them a good sprinkle with half a handful of salt, place in a sieve over a bowl and leave to stand for four hours.
“Put the sugar, salt, spices and white wine vinegar in a thick-bottomed pan. Stir the ingredients together to dissolve and bring to the boil. Just before it does, add the onion and take off the heat. Allow to cool slightly for ten minutes before adding the cucumber. Once cooled, place in sterilised jars, taking care to make sure the liquid completely covers the cucumber. Dump it generously over the burgers for a taste quite unlike anything else.”