Monday, September 20, 2010
Summer is officially winding down, so before it's gone we thought it was time to give away all our secrets for making an amazing burger. And don't worry, even with the grill in storage, you can always make great burgers in the kitchen.
Between restaurant trips and backyard barbecues, we've eaten hundreds (possibly thousands) of burgers over the years. Even with the burger juices running down our arms and ketchup clinging to our faces, we managed to take careful notes from the best restaurant chefs and grill masters across the country.
With a couple smart substitutions and techniques, you'll be able to make irresistible burgers and maybe win a competition or two!
1. The Meat
The best burgers we've eaten were made with freshly ground meat. Forget about that pre-packaged ground beef and head to the butcher counter or steak section. The Cadillac-level burger, like those from Epic Roasthouse in San Francisco, use a beef mixture that's equal parts brisket, short rib and sirloin. When you can't find those exact cuts, nearly anything with a reasonable fat content will do- we've substituted tri-tip for one of the meats and it was still delicious.
At most stores, the guys behind the counter will grind and mix the meats for you. If they won't or if you prefer to do it yourself, a large food processor or meat grinder will do the trick.
Next, form the meat into patties. Two key points with this step: (1) don't pack the patties too tightly, a loose form that keeps its shape is best and (2) using the bun as a guide, make sure the patties are the right size 'cause no one likes a burger dwarfed by a bun or one that's spilling out the sides.
Finally, season with some salt and pepper and you're ready to cook.
As you no doubt know from our grilling post, make sure the grill is hot and the grates are greased before putting the patties down. You'll probably need about 4 to 5 minutes per side for a medium-rare or medium burger and try not to turn it more than once or you'll risk losing the juice into the flame. Here, a meat thermometer is very helpful- for a nice medium-rare burger with a pink center, aim for 145 degrees, for medium go closer to 160.
You'll want to let the burgers rest for a minute or two after coming off the grill before serving.
2. The Cheese
Any one of your favorite cheeses will do, so don't be afraid to get creative or use more than one at a time! We always enjoy a nice sharp cheddar cheese. They key with any cheese is to make sure it's fully melted before serving, so lay those cheese slices on the patties a minute or two before the cooking has completed.
3. The Bun
A good bun is also important. While some national brands work just fine, those from a local bakery or the bakery section of the supermarket are even better. The best are light, buttery rolls such as brioche. Before serving the burgers, remember to toast those buns!
4. The Fixin's
Like the cheese selection, the ideal fixin's are a matter of personal preference. The classic toppings are a nice crisp lettuce and red-ripe tomatoes. Onions, whether raw or caramelized, are also a nice addition.
What, you may ask, do the pros use? We'll tell you now. First, thin slices of a nice sweet pickle (or pickled strips of any vegetable, like zucchini) add a great salty-sweet component to a rich and meaty burger. Second, a tart aioli (a garlicky flavored mayo) or secret sauce (a la In-N-Out's thousand island style dressing) takes any burger to the next level.
5. Putting it all together
Well, you probably know how to assemble a burger, so we'll keep this short. Start with that toasted bun. On the bottom layer, slather on any aioli or secret sauce. Then, place your perfectly cooked cheeseburger on top. Add a couple pieces of lettuce and thin slices of tomato to that. Spread your ketchup, mustard and any other favorite condiments on the top bun, press it down lightly, and you're ready to eat a delicious burger!
Have additional tips? Post them in the comments section!
Posted by FoodPair at 2:40 PM