Let’s be honest. We don’t need a month dedicated to something that is celebrated every other day of the year. But, we’re not complaining. May is National Burger Month and we are beefing up our love for this American classic and showing off the best of the best in burgers at our restaurants. We decided to break down the components of what makes a burger good vs. REAL GOOD, and we tapped some of our favorite burger-makin’ chefs to hear their insight on perfecting the buttery bun, the impeccable patty and what makes a top-notch topper.
Now, the foundation for every good hamburger: The bun.
You can really put a burger on anything and it would probably taste great, but what makes it stand out? Is it toasted? Is it buttered? It is pretzel?
Jeff Mahin, Chef/ Partner at Summer House Santa Monica uses a non-traditional approach to a hamburger holder: a housemade English muffin. These babies are unique in that they have a nice sourdough flavor, while being thick enough to withstand the components of the burger.
Chef Mahin says, “The lightness and crispiness of our double-toasted housemade sourdough English muffins holds up well to our prime burgers.”
Let’s get to the meat of the matter: The patty.
“For me, the greatest burger blend is beef brisket and ground chuck. The chuck gives the patty juiciness; the brisket imparts that deep beefy flavor,” says Chef Psaltis.
“I like to make sure the blend is 75/25 meat to fat ratio. To make sure the meat and fat don’t lose their integrity, pack the meat gently into patties while it’s still ice cold.”
“For skinny or ‘smashed’ patties, I like to use about three oz. of meat each, and for bigger patties, like the ones at RPM Steak, I like to use 8-10 oz.”
“I then season the patties completely with salt and freshly cracked black pepper, then griddle over medium heat to achieve a great caramelization. This highlights the sweetness of the beef flavor – just be sure not to char or burn those patties!”
This brings us to perhaps the most important part of a quality hamburger: The grilling.
Executive Chef Joe Decker of Wildfire, gave us his expert tips on grilling vs. griddling and how to ensure maximum juiciness.
“The question of grilling vs. griddling is very subjective. Many people love a griddled burger for a little more juiciness because it cooks in its own fat,” says Chef Decker. “Others choose grilling for the great char flavor that comes from the grill and the slightly healthier effect since some of the fat burns off the burger during the process.”
“The two most important steps in cooking a burger I actually learned from Lettuce Entertain You founder, Rich Melman!”
1. When grilling, do not move the burger often. Only move it to flip it over to cook the other side.
2. Do not smash the burger down with a spatula to speed up the cooking. If you follow these two steps, you’ll produce a very juicy burger.
We like the sound of that!
And to top it off: The condiments.
The toppings on a burger not only gives it its own personality but also adds the necessary flavors that everyone knows and loves so much. What are the best things to top a fine patty with? Here’s what Chef Psaltis says:
“Personally, I like to keep things simple with condiments. A strong Dijon mustard or an atomic horseradish is all you need!”
“I like to use a condiment that has a nice balance of acidity and sweetness. The red onion jam for the Black Truffle Burger at RPM Steak and the yellow mustard and KC barbecue sauce at Bub City are two prime examples. The acidity helps cut through the richness, especially in a decadent burger like the Truffle Burger, where you have truffle aioli, foie gras butter, a buttery brioche bun and of course, the meat. The onion jam is essential and makes the perfect combination of flavors.”
“The combination of crispy fried onions and bleu cheese dressing alone are amazing which is what we use for the Fritzy’s Special Burger at Mity Nice,” explains Mity Nice Bar & Grill’s Executive Chef / Partner John Chiakulas. “To have those piled on top of a juicy peppercorn burger is just magical.”
And there you have it! Burger tips from the pros themselves in honor of this most delicious month. Celebrate National Burger Month with us all May-long. For a tantalizing round-up of some of our favorite burgers, check out our dedicated burger Pinterest page.