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The perfect burger

perfect burgerMemorial Day officially marks the start of grilling season and with this holiday around the corner, some of us start wondering what makes the perfect burger? Consistently juicy, perfectly seasoned and cooked to perfection. The patty is charred on the outside and juicy on the inside.


THE RIGHT CHOICE OF MEAT But before you get to cook the burger, you have to choose the right meat. 

If you are grinding the meat yourself with a food processor or a mixer’s grinding attachment. Chuck and brisket is preferred, and put them in the freezer first and chill them to 30 degrees. The fat percentage is a matter of preference but do not be afraid of fat a 25-30% fat content makes it juicier.

A NICE ROUND SHAPE Next, you form the patty.

Handling the raw meat too much means you’re going to end up with a brick of meat. Lightly shape the patty refrigerate for an hour or two before cooking. This will help it hold better. 

Michael Mina, founder of the Mina Group, which includes the recently RN74 in Seattle, rolls each patty into a ball, then presses it flat to get a nice round shape.

Alternatively, jar lids are popular with chefs. Some swear the lid of a mayonnaise jar makes the best possible burger mold.

Dimpling the patty, helps it cook evenly, and you won’t be tempted to smack it down and lose all the juice.

All the chefs agree that salt is crucial. Whether you’re using kosher, table or sea salt, you should be pretty liberal with it. Beef can take more salt than you think. Most chefs recommended seasoning the burger just before cooking it.

HOW HOT DO YOU GO? The beauty of a burger is its seared crust, and the only way to get it is to make sure the grill, skillet or flat top is hot, hot, hot. 

Testing for doneness is always a challenge for the home cook. Seamus Mullen, the chef and an owner of the Boqueria restaurants in the Flatiron district and SoHo, uses a wire cake tester. (Any thin, straight piece of metal will work as well.)

“We stick it in the middle through the side,” he said. “If it’s barely warm to the lips, it’s rare. If it’s like bath water, it’s medium rare. The temperature will never lie. It takes the guesswork out of everything.”

AND THE PERFECT BUN These chefs are focusing their laserlike attention on the bread around the meat, too.

Every chef believes that the buns should be warm and crispy.

SWEET, SOUR BUT FRESH FIXINGS Nothing is taken for granted, not even pickles. 

Cheese receives the same attention. Joey Campanaro, the chef and owner at the Little Owl in the West Village, uses American cheese.

What matters most to him when selecting cheese?

“Meltability,” he said. So if a cheese like Gruyère doesn’t melt easily, he grates it, then presses it into a disk the same size as the burger.

The chefs had some final tips for creating a memorable burger. Choose lettuce that’s crisp and serve it cold. Use only really good, ripe tomatoes; a bad tomato waters down the burger without adding any taste. 

Ultimately, though, it’s not just the ingredients that make a burger great, good company can make all the difference. Happy Memorial Day!

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