by: Max M Rasmussen

Hamburger patties with gravy and Soft Onions - Danish "Hakkebøffer med bløde løg"

Hamburger patties (hakkebøf) with gravy is every Danes favorite dish. At least it is a close tie as the national dish along with the "frikadeller" meatballs. We take this dish very seriously, so I have made a very detailed explanation on how to do it "right".


Serves 5

The patties

  • 1 kg (2 lbs) minced beef
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tsp crushed pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika (Purists can do without.)

The fried onions

  • 1/2 kg (1 lbs) onion 

The sauce

  • 1/2 liter/quart of broth / stock (Yes, you can cheat and use stock cubes. But use two double the amount as they say on the package.)
  • 1 dl cream (can be omitted) 
  • 3 tbsps flour
  • Salt 
  • Pepper
  • Gravy darkener


  •  1 - 1½ kg (2-3 lbs) of potatoes 


The potatoes

Peel the potatoes and place them in a saucepan. Cover them with water.

When they do boil, let them boil for 20 minutes, until a sharp knife or fork can sink in without too much resistance. Think of how boiled potatoes usually feels when you cut into them at the table. That is how they should they feel.

The sauce - Part 1 

Mix the flour into the stock in a small saucepan (or flour in the water and stock cube) and bring to a boil. Stir a bit from time to time so it does not lump. That's easy to do while you fry the patties, so let it simmer while you cook the pattie. If it gets too thick then just put in a bit more water.

I do it that way because a sauce thickened with flour that is not cooked long enough tastes like wallpaper glue. It should cook for at least 20 minutes. If you wait until the patties are done, then you get either cold patties with a good sauce or wallpaper glue to with hot patties. If the sauce is pre-boiled while you fry the patties, you avoid this.

But do not be fooled by it. The concoction you have in the pan will taste terrible at this stage. I dare you to try and taste it :-) It will only taste good when we pour it onto the juices and bits left in in the pan by the fried patties.

The steaks - shaping

Quickly but gently mix the spices into the mince.

Form patties with your hands. I prefer a weight of approximately 150 g (6 oz) each. With the size my hands have, this is a lump that I can just about fold my fingers around. Like when making a snowball. If you are unsure about the size, you can just use a kitchen scale the first few times. Press them between your palms into the shape of a ball, so the mince stick together well. Again just like making snowballs.

If they weigh more than 200 grams, they are difficult fry enough in the center without burning them on the outside.

patties needs to be flat. You can chop at them gently with a knife until they are flat and round, and this is also the way to make them pretty, even so, I just push them just flat by hand, then I tug in the jagged edges, then I push them flat again, and so on until they are nice, round and the same thickness. It is more important that they have the same thickness than that they are equally wide. Since this is what determines how long they take to cook.

But do not knead the mince too much. Then you get "the problem of the bulge" and theu will become compact and chewy.

The fried onions

Peel the onions and cut them in half.

Cut them into half rings. About 1/4 inch wide.

Add plenty of oil and butter into a hot frying pan.

Put in the onions too, and fry until they are soft and golden.

Set them aside.

The steaks - frying

Fry them in equal parts oil and butter. This gives the best result. The entire bottom of the pan should be just covered in fat.

Fry them at relatively high heat.

If you see them release fluids that boils in the pan, then the pan is to cool. It should be hot enough that any released fluids evaporates immediately.

If the burn in the outside before they are finished, the pan is too hot.

They should be a dark golden brown and firm to the touch when they are done.

The sauce - Part 2 

When the patties fried then there is some fat and some "brown and black sprinkles" left in the pan. We don't really need the fats, so just pour as much of it out as you can, without the other remains following along.

"The sprinkles" are what we need. This is caramelised remains of the flesh with a lot of flavor. Pour the pre boiled sauce from the saucepan into the frying pan. Let the frying pan cool a bit before doing this though. Otherwise, you might very well get a dramatic reaction. It can generate a lot of steam.

Stir well, and cook the "sprinkles" as much as possible.

If the sauce becomes too thick during cooking (it almost always does) then just add some more water.

You can sieve the sauce through a sieve if there are to many clumps or too much "sprinkle" remaining.


Depending on how you prefer your steaks you can either serve it all as it is now, or you can put the steaks back into the sauce and let them cook a little longer. This gives a much better sauce, but the patties become a little more chewy. I usually opt for the better sauce:-s

Put some of the fried onions on each steak and serve.


The most important thing with hamburger patties is to choose some good meat. Minced hereford cattle or other types of beef cattle gives the best steaks by far. Unlike meatballs there should be as little "filler" in the dough as possible. If you put in even the slightest bit of chopped onion, or eggs in the mince it will taste like meatballs.

I have long been a purist who refused to mix anything into the flesh, but just sprinkled it with salt and pepper.

However, I have changed my mind and started to mix my spices into the mixture. If you only put them on the outside, then end most of the flavor ends up in the pan and the meat will be under salted/spiced. Then you have to use the salt and pepper on the table. This is unnecessary and does actually not taste as good as if it is mixed in from the begninning.

The only thing to be careful of is to muck around with the mince to much. Patties cooked from mince that has been "kneaded" becomes very compact ends up with a large bump in middle when they're fried. So mix in the spices as quickly and gently as possible.