The grill is on. Guests are gathering. Now, it’s time for the burgers!
But, before we go any further, remember that no matter how you “dress” your burger, you have to start with two really great ingredients. First, great meat. Our recommendation is to go with ground chuck that is cut “70-30,” which is to say, you want beef that is 70% lean meat and 30% fat. This will give you flavorful and juicy burgers. The other ingredient that too many people don’t think about is the bun! You wouldn’t want a sandwich on cheap white bread, would you? So, don’t ignore the rolls you use for your burgers. There are too many varieties and local bakers to recommend a particular kind, though brioche is a good place to start. It pays to shop around until you find buns that add to your burger, not simply support it! Here are 4 fun ways to make your burgers better in the Summer of 2017!
One. Plain and simple. We’ve found that the key to a great burger, particularly one that isn’t hidden under a deluge of condiments, is to make the patties with as little “handling” as possible. Don’t jam that meat together on a cutting board or beat it into a dense little hockey puck. Instead, use as little force as you can to gently create the general shape, and then stop! Putting a small thumb-sized indentation in the top will help it from “plumping” too much as well. Season with flake or kosher salt, ground pepper and a dash of garlic salt. Finally, resist the temptation to mash down the burger once it’s on the grill. This does nothing except eject the juices and makes for a dry final product.
Two. Cheeseburger. Cheeseburger. Cheeseburger. This ingredient is the beginning of what makes burgers really special. Nearly any cheese will work, but be aware of their melting points! There is a reason the classic around these parts (for the non-nouvelle chef) is American cheese. Since it is often a combination of Cheddar and Colby, it has a melting point that is ideal for the grill. But what else can spark your burger buds? Brie is soft and creamy. Goat cheese is smooth. Gouda is gooey and delicious! But our secret ingredient is French Boursin, a spreadable cheese you will learn to love.Three. Sliders. Yes, the humble slider. Once a mainstay of early chain restaurants like White Castle, White Tower and Little Tavern Shoppes (“Buy ’em by the bag!”) there is still disagreement about the origin of the name, but no one will argue about how great they are. In recent years, they have popped up at fancy hipster restaurants everywhere. So how are they different than a regular burger? In their original incarnation they were often cooked on solid top grilles in a fast food place and were often square (less wasted space on the grill!) but what makes them awesome today, is that you and your guests can experiment with various toppings and still not feel stuffed. So, have fun. Anything goes.
Four. Lettuce Entertain You! But seriously, folks, if you want some of the classic toppings, make sure they are the best quality possible. While iceberg has been the go-to lettuce seemingly forever, we’d suggest trying romaine. It retains a great crunch, even under the heat of the meat. If crunch isn’t your thing, then dare we say arugula? It’s something of a gastronomic joke at this point, but its strong flavor really holds up to a powerful burger! As to that slice of tomato? Go the extra mile and get yourself two heirloom tomatoes, one yellow and one red. Slice them thin and pile both on. They’ll taste AND look better!