Published on August 15, 2013 · By benleventhal
You make an insane burger. It’s a vehicle of perfection. I know, I did, too. Then I spent the better part of the last decade tasting burgers, cooking burgers and throwing an annual competition called the Burger Bloodbath (it’s fun; you should come to the next one). I learned some things. I used to think great burgers were about eggs in the ground beef, the most expensive buns I could find, and bacon jam. They’re not. They’re about balance, simplicity, the right combination of ingredients, and, above all else, great cooking technique.
So, here’s this week’s hack. Five tips that’ll make your awesome burgers even better. No matter the design, no matter how good they already are. No matter what.
1. The secret to perfectly shaped patties is a plain round cutter. Also, your meat is not a piece of meat. It’s not meant to be manhandled. It’s not meant to be turned into meatloaf. If you’re adding onions, you’re about to lose. As long as you’re using high quality ground beef, all you should be doing is salting liberally on both sides just before grilling. This is the full extent to which the ground beef should be prepped.
2. Your grill should be very hot and you should flip your patties exactly once. Your grill is to temp when you can hold your hand a few inches above the surface for no more than two seconds. If it’s hotter than that, great. Once the meat is on the grill, cook your patties most of the way — way more than half — and then flip once. Just once. Add cheese right away. (In-N-Out swipes the patties with mustard just before the flip, which, if you don’t know now you know.) This is how you grill like a boss.
3. Always rest your meat on a resting rack. When your burgers are ready to come off the grill (I’m making an assumption about your ability to gauge temperature), send them directly to a resting rack. As the meat cools a bit its jus is reabsorbed by the patty and, to a lesser extent, drained (there’s some cellular chemistry here that’s beyond the scope of this exercise). Resting the burger before it hits the bun is how restaurants prevent buns from getting soggy and falling apart, and also why their burgers are almost always juicier than yours.
4. Toast your buns on both sides. That’s easy. Here’s some additional bun theory. The Martin’s potato roll is the perfect burger bun most of the time. The sweet flavor masterfully cuts char, mustard, salt, pickles and just about anything else you’d put on a burger; and the spongy consistency does wonders in keeping the whole thing together. But, other buns, if fresh, work, too. Our local bread bakery at Kitchensurfing is Runner & Stone and Peter Endriss’s brioche bun is spectacular. So is his pain au lait (you have to special order it). However you go, the rule is that if it’s not a Martin’s, it must be freshly baked. Here’s Peter’s take on matching bun to meat, and meat to bun:
"I would say that the leaner dough (pain au lait) would go better with a fattier burger and the fattier dough (the brioche), with a leaner, more savory burger. The fat from the fattier burger would be soaked up better by the pain au lait bun and the butter in the brioche bun would cut/mellow spicier/saltier/more acidic flavors in a more savory burger."
I also asked chef Josh Capon, whose Lure burger wins burger competitions like it’s its job, for advice, too. He added:
"I would say go Martin’s or something like that when you are doing a quick and easy burger. A brioche roll or something a little more "durable’ comes into play when you need a more substantial bun to carry the burger and all the toppings. Sometimes a potato roll doesn’t have enough "girth" and will disintegrate if asked to carry too big a load … "
5. And, like Coco Chanel says, “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.” Same applies to your burger. A good burger is a symphony, a chorus of ingredients coming together to create something greater than the sum of its parts. Burgers that win competitions are invariably the simplest ones. Do as the pros do and leave the corn relish in the walk-in.
For good measure, the burgers pictured here are (left to right):
1. 70-30 LaFrieda blend (salted just before grilling with Maldon) on a Martin’s potato bun; with shredded iceberg lettuce; 1 slice beefsteak tomatoes; 1 slice yellow american cheese; 50-50 Heinz ketchup/Maille mustard spread; and 3 Brooklyn Brine bread and butter pickle chips.
2. 60-40 LaFrieda blend (salted just before grilling with Maldon) on a Runner & Stone pain au lait fresh bun; with shredded iceberg lettuce; 1 slice beefsteak tomatoes; 1 slice yellow american cheese; 50-50 Heinz ketchup/Maille mustard spread; and 3 Brooklyn Brine bread and butter pickle chips.
3. 80-20 LaFrieda blend (salted just before grilling with Maldon; swiped with French’s yellow while on the grill) on a Runner & Stone brioche fresh bun; with shredded iceberg lettuce; 1 slice beefsteak tomatoes; 1 slice yellow american cheese; 50-50 Heinz ketchup/Maille mustard spread; and 3 Brooklyn Brine bread and butter pickle chips.
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