7 Chef Secrets For The Best Burgers

Photo: Courtesy of Pat LaFrieda.
Few things in life are as satisfying as an amazing burger — juicy, meaty, and with just the right toppings (foie gras, truffle, bacon, eggs, what have you). But making one at home, without a grill? While it's a little tricky, let's be clear: You can create a perfectly delicious version sans charcoal. We chatted with a few food professionals around town for tips and tricks for the ultimate burger.

Step One: Get The Right Meat
For a moist burger, NYC butcher Pat LaFrieda says to use high quality meat with the right fat content — and chefs agree. "You want to select ground beef with at least an 80/20 ratio of meat to fat," says Mark Rosati, culinary director of Shake Shack. A 75/25 meat-fat ratio will also work.
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Step Two: Season The Meat — But Only A Little
"Mixing anything into burger meat makes is taste more like meatloaf and not like a burger," LaFrieda says. So the best way to season your patty? A little salt, right before forming the patty. Don't go too far, however, as too much salt will emulsify the fat. Think a pinch of salt for a half-pound of meat.

Step Three: Form The Patty

You can form the patty to your liking, but most patties are about 1-inch thick, the same thickness as a GG's burger in NYC's East Village. Right before cooking, "you could coat the outside in a little mustard" for extra flavor, LaFrieda says — but if you really like meaty burgers, skip this step.

Step Four: Cook The Burger
Here you have two options: A flat top, or the broiler. At GG's, the chefs cook the patties on a flat top on very high heat. Once the pan is hot, add canola oil, then sear each side of the patty for a minute or two on each side to get a nice char. Then put the pan (patties on top) in an oven preheated to 350 degrees, "One to two minutes for a six-ounce burger, or two to three minutes for an eight-ounce burger," says Emily Schumacher General Manager and owner of GG's. Put a slice of cheese on top during this step for ample melting time.

The broiler method is a favorite of LaFrieda's — sprinkle a little finely-ground brown sugar on the outside for a nice crust, and broil the patties for three minutes on each side, or until they're cooked to your liking. The amount of time will vary depending on the thickness of your burger, so you can put burgers in at minute intervals, remove at the same time, and see which version you like the best.

Step Five: Know When It's Done
Other than cutting into the burger with a fork and knife or using a thermometer, the chefs at GG's opt for the touch test. "The touch test is something like picking a piece of fruit, like an avocado," Schumacher says. "You're looking for a firm charred outside of the patty with a little give- not too loose inside. The hand test most people know if for steak rather than a ground beef patty, but the principles are the same. "

Step Six: Let It Rest
Not forever, just for about four minutes, Schumacher says. It's the best way to allow the juices to settle.

Step Seven: Add Your Fixings
Now is the time for bacon, ketchup, mustard, and onions — even black pepper. According to LaFrieda, the high heat of the broiler or a grill would turn black pepper bitter.
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