The Great Burger Debate
Here, we break down the components of what makes a REALLY GOOD. We tapped some of our favorite burger-makin’ chefs to hear their tips on perfecting the buttery bun, 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? Is it ramen noodles? Check out what Executive Chef Tim Hockett of M Burger has to say about his favorite bun:
“While it’s true that a burger tastes great on almost anything, considering the size and build of your burger is important when choosing the perfect bun,” says Hockett. “When I cook a smashed skinny burger I love to choose a classic Chicago style “Rosen” bun. This is the simplest of burger buns and has a very neutral and slightly sweet flavor that really lets the caramelized flavor of the burger stand out.
“For a slightly thicker (1/4 lb burger) burger, I like a bun that is a little more dense and flavorful. Martin’s Potato bun or a great brioche bun are my favorites to pair with a thicker burger. These buns won’t fall apart as you are eating your burger and they will nicely absorb the juices and actually improve the way your burger tastes.”
“For special occasions, and a shout out to the original burger joint in the USA, Louis’ Lunch, I like to make a great patty melt with my burger. I love to throw some onions on the griddle to cook with the burger (and some coopers cheese!) and place it on some great white or multi-grain toast with a little Dijonaise. The soft crunch of the bread with the creaminess of the cheese makes a great burger meal.
“Finally – Toasted or untoasted? Always toasted when possible – but NEVER OVER-TOAST! There is nothing worse than a dry overtoasted bun! When in doubt, don’t toast it too much. I love to use a little brush of melted butter on my buns to give them that rich toasted flavor – and for a real treat, I like to dap in in the beef juices (fat J) as the burger is cooking and toast my buns next to the burgers on the same griddle.”
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 dish. Happy eating!