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Building The Perfect Burger
Everything that goes into (and onto) the best burger

SJ chefs know how to make the kind of big, juicy burger you want to sink your teeth into. We asked for some insider tips and tricks for cooking up the all-American classic, and these talented chefs happily shared their cooking wisdom. Get ready to make the burger of your dreams – cooked to perfection. 

 

THE TRICK TO FORMING PERFECT PATTIES 

The trick is the way my mom and grandmother did it before me: by hand. Cup the ball of beef in one hand and cover with the other hand, then gently massage out the beef until you have a saucer shape. Then, place the formed patty on wax paper on top of a cutting board and press your palm down on it, applying even pressure until the desired thickness and width is achieved. 
Stink Fisher
Owner, The Pop Shop, Collingswood  
Handle the burger mix as little as possible, and don’t over mix it. If you compact the mix too much, it will make your burgers cook unevenly. The meat needs to be looser, so it can properly cook and be moist.
Tom Bello
Sous Chef, Wegmans, Mount Laurel  
Most people prefer the free-form style of a handmade patty, since it gives the true essence of a homemade burger. However, if you want the perfect form, I would grab a mayonnaise lid for conformity. Fill the lid and use a knife to remove the patty.
Adrianne Griffith
General Manager, Dooney’s Pub & Restaurant, Delran  
If you’re going to be cooking your burger on a flat-top griddle, you should form the meat into a ball, almost like you’re making a meatball. Once it’s on the griddle, flatten it with a spatula. If you’re going to be grilling your burger, I like to add a little egg and panko breadcrumbs to the meat – they help bind the meat together.
Tim Eliason
General Manager, The Madison, Riverside 
Never smush the meat together. You should be able to see the separation of the meat. Otherwise you’ll end up with a mushy patty that won’t stand up to cooking. 

George Kyrtatas
Co-Owner and Executive Chef, Sweetwater Bar & Grill, Cinnaminson 
Keep the patty even and the weight consistent – 9 oz. is the weight I usually work with.
Chadwick Norman
Executive Chef Partner,  The Capital Grille 

 

CHOOSING THE BEST MEAT 

Utilizing brisket and/or chuck blend with a basic ground beef ratio will ensure a juicy and flavorful burger.
Ricky Scharadin
Sous Chef, Wegmans, Mount Laurel  
We recommend ground chuck with a 75/25 ratio on fat content. The fat is really where the flavor and moistness comes from.
Adrianne Griffith 
If you make burgers at home a lot, I think it’s worth buying a meat grinder so you can know exactly what’s going in your burgers. I like to grind chuck, brisket and top round together. I grind the meat together twice – and no more than that – so you end up with a great blend of flavor, fat and texture. Grinding your own meat also means you know you’re getting a clean, healthy mix of meat.
George Kyrtatas 
There are lots of hybrid options out there right now, like short rib or brisket burgers, but I think an 80/20 sirloin is the best. The fat content helps the burger hold its temperature while it’s cooking and gives it a nice sear on the outside.
Tim Eliason 
A great rule of thumb is the more flavorful the meat, the better the burger. I like to use chuck meat, rib or sirloin.
Chadwick Norman 
I prefer to use an 8 oz. angus 80/20 burger. The 20 percent fat may seem high, but most of it burns off; however, the flavor that comes from that fat melting makes a big difference.
Stink Fisher  

 

COOKING TO PERFECTION  

My favorite way to cook a burger is on a broiler. It gives a nice, crispy skin and stays perfectly juicy on the inside. I like my burgers medium – cook for 8-10 minutes, flipping only once after 3-5 minutes, depending on the temperature of your grill.
Chadwick Norman 
Cooking over an open flame makes the best-tasting burger. You should only flip the patty one time, and never put weight on it. The more you play with the burger, the tougher it gets. When the fat begins to pool around the edges, it’s time to flip.
Adrianne Griffith 
I like to take my burger patties out of the fridge right before I light the grill. That takes the chill off the meat. If you put a cold burger on a hot grill, you can actually see the meat shrink together really quickly, and that will make your burger tough. Once I’ve got the burgers on the grill, I rotate them 45 degrees when they’re a quarter of the way done. I only flip them once – the more you play with the patties, the less pretty they’ll look. You want to have those picture-perfect grill marks. And never, ever push down on burgers when they’re on the grill. That will make all the fat come out, and you’ll lose flavor.
George Kyrtatas  
Lately, I’ve been partial to cooking my burgers on a flat-top griddle. The solid cooking surface of a griddle makes the entire burger more caramelized, as opposed to just the lines from a grill.
Tim Eliason 
The best way to cook a burger, in my opinion, is over flame. I love the charbroiler for this purpose. You get high heat, char marks and great flavor. I am a big fan of the flip once mentality. For perfection to be achieved, your heat must be set correctly, otherwise you will scorch your burger and have nothing more than a burned hockey puck. I prefer medium-rare to no more than medium.
Stink Fisher  
Grilling adds a nice char and great smoky flavor. Flipping the patty should be done once – it ensures a proper char crust and even cooking to your desired temperature. Everyone has a preference, but burgers should never be cooked past medium, because you’ll end up with a drier burger.
Ricky Scharadin  

 

THE RIGHT ROLL 

I like a snowfall roll – it’s a roll that’s dusted with white flour on top. The key is to use a soft roll that’s easy to bite into. You don’t want the roll to destroy the meat.
Tim Eliason 
I love a nice pretzel bun. The softness of a pretzel bun and the touch of kosher salt gives the burger some delicious extra flavor.
Adrianne Griffith 
For a classic burger, you want something that’s thinner and doesn’t overpower the burger. You should also choose a roll that has plenty of butter – the fat content will complement the flavor of the meat. Experiment, because there’s lots of fun types of rolls out there. Something like an onion roll will give you a different flavor.
George Kyrtatas 
Brioche is the best choice due to its sweetness. It’s a good, strong base for any burger you create, large or small.
Ricky Scharadin  

 

TERRIFIC TOPPINGS 

I prefer cheese and ketchup, but if I’m feeling adventurous I will also add caramelized onions, pickles and chipotle mayo. But for the most part, in my book, the best way to truly capture the flavor of a good burger is American or cheddar cheese and ketchup.
Stink Fisher  
All kinds of different toppings are trendy right now, like egg, avocado, salsa and peppers. A burger should be fun – if you’re cooking for guests, you can have a toppings bar and let them make their own creation.
Adrianne Griffith  
A favorite is bourbon bacon jam with smoked blue cheese. But toppings are endless depending on the flavor profile you’re creating.
Tom Bello 
You can never go wrong with cheese, lettuce, tomato and onion. It’s classic.
Tim Eliason 
There are so many different ways to make a burger that the sky’s the limit. I’ve gotten crazy and done toppings like drunken onions and banana ketchup. You smash up ripe bananas and then add them to a sauté pan with a little onion, garlic and brown sugar and cook them down until they make this amazing ketchup. It’s out of this world.
George Kyrtatas 
My favorite toppings are mushrooms and candied bacon.
Chadwick Norman 

June 2018
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