May is National Burger Month and today is National Burger Day! Although let’s be honest – there is not a single day that wouldn’t be better with a burger. There are some that claim a burger is a burger not a sandwich – but indeed a burger is one of the purest representations of a sandwich – meat sandwiched between bread. Admittedly, the burger has become so iconic its name now stands on its own but at its core it one of the greatest sandwiches ever invented. What are the secrets to a great burger? Here are some burger tips on how to make better burgers everyday of the year from burger experts across America. #burgersaresandwichestoo
Many of our Experts Use the Same Burger Tips Which Fell into Five Major Categories
- The Meat
- The Seasoning
- The Bun
- The Toppings
- Preferred Cooking Method
All our experts had the quality of the meat at the top of the list. An important component to all our experts was a fat content high enough to ensure a juicy burger. The ratio of 80/20 was considered by most of our experts the minimum ratio for a proper burger. Christie from Girls can Grill suggests “for a juicy burger use beef with at least 20% fat” and be sure to form the patties larger then the bun so when the fat renders and the burgers shrink, you will have a perfectly sized burger.
Rob at Lucky 13 uses fresh never frozen meat with an 80/20 ratio and Billy of Billy’s Burgers recommends a fat ratio of 20-30% and has his butcher grind him a nice chuck roast putting it through the grinder twice. Gentleness in handling was also important to our experts. The meat should be cold and handled as little as possible. Rob at Lucky 13 says too much handling will adversely affect your finished burger.
2 x Burger Champ Wade Fortin tells us no matter what protein you are using, make sure the fat ratio is enough to keep the burger moist. His World Championship burger relied on fresh ground ribeye with its beautiful marbling to create a moist and delicious burger. Wade encourages a variety of burger proteins but warns if using a lower fat content protein, be sure to grind in enough fat to keep the cooked burger moist. Wade also puts a divet in the middle of his burger so it cooks evenly and doesn’t bubble up.
Chef Aaron Brooks, the Executive Chef at Edge Steak & Bar, insists on a good meat to fat ratio – as high as 70/30 and likes beef burgers made with a blend of chuck and short rib. He is doing something right, The Edge Burger has been named one of the top five burgers in Miami. He also suggests using alternatives to the beef burger and often features an Aussie grassfed lamb burger on the lunch menu at Edge.
Season the burger before cooking so the flavors sear into the burger was the consensus of our experts. Billy’s Burgers has created his own seasoning to take his burgers to the next level and he will be launching NFA Seasoning this summer. Christie’s tip is to season a burger as you would a steak and not to mix in other ingredients unless you’re looking for a meatloaf texture. Jason Stucki always seasons both sides generously with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper right before cooking. World Sandwich Champ Jennifer likes to use salt and pepper and other dried spices like coriander and cayenne to create a savory bite with a little heat. Chef Brooks uses a house blend on all his burgers that includes a dash of heat. He seasons the burgers generously at least five minutes before cooking with a generous rub of olive oil so all the flavors can permeate into the meat.
Bun to burger ratio was important for many of our experts. Merry Graham of a Merry Recipe warns not to let the bun “outweigh the burger” while Jason reminds us to “keep the bun to burger ratio in mind.” For most burgers, Jason prefers brioche or challah buns with their slightly sweet eggy flavor, great texture and golden crust. Billy warns not to let the bun detract from what’s in between the bun “you can pick the best chuck roast, perfectly grind the meat, cook it to your preferred temperature but if you choose the wrong bun, all of your good decisions will be for naught.” Billy’s go to is a Martin’s Potato Roll. Chef Brooks favorite is “brioche all the way, buttered and toasted til golden brown on the griddle.”
A burger is delicious in its simplest form, perfectly seasoned and cooked with melty cheese and a soft bun. Nothing more is needed to have an amazing burger experience – simple and perfect. But today’s burgers have become vehicles for all kinds of flavors profiles and toppings. World Sandwich Champ Jennifer likes to use the burger as a canvas for a variety of flavors and themes. She takes inspiration from her favorite dishes or vacations. One of her favorites, the Caprese Burger.
Chef Aaron Brooks favorite burger uses toppings inspires by the flavors of home, he calls this one the Aussie Burger with “caramelized onions, a fried egg and beets yeah beets, its a thing down under!”
Merry Graham likes her toppings to have contrasting flavors, textures, and colors to add to the burger. She advises “think sweet, crunchy, creamy, and pickled.”
Lucky 13 encourages you to let your imagination run wild but be sure to maintain the same quality in the toppings that you put into selecting your meat. A burger from the Lucky 13 menu that raises some eyebrows but has a loyal following is the Nut Butter Burger topped with house smoked bacon, cheddar cheese, and peanut butter. Rob, Lucky 13 General Manager says “Try it – it just works!
Jason provides great advice on how to layer the different toppings onto a burger. “After the burger has been flipped, place cooked or hot toppings directly on the burger followed by the cheese. Place cold toppings like sliced tomatoes on the burger while plating, and sauces under the toasted top bun.”
The Cooking Method
Our most scientific tip came from two time World Burger Champ Wade Fortin who stressed the importance of the Maillard Reaction, a chemical reaction that causes the caramelization of meat when it is seared on a hot surface. Have you ever been at a cookout and had a reaction to the glorious scent of the meat cooking on the grill? Immediately your taste buds are salivating and you want that burger NOW! Your senses responding to this beautiful thing that happens when food is cooked properly. To ensure this beautifully caramelized meat be sure to have a hot enough surface to properly sear the meat. Wade relies on his Bull Grill which is designed to reach high enough temperatures to grill the perfect burger.
Lucky 13 advises you cook your burger like a steak – crusty on the outside and more rare in the middle. Lucky 13 gets their crusty exterior from a hot cast iron pan which is also a favorite method used by Christie and Billy who like the consistent hot surface which sears the meat beautifully.
Chef Brooks likes it old school – char grill or wood grill for the meat. You can’t beat the flavor of grilling over fire.
Here is a Quick Recap of Burger Tips from our Burger Experts
Wades Winning Burger – The El Jefe – Ribeye Steak Burger with Agave-Glazed Bacon, Roasted Corn Pico de Gallo, Avocado Aioli, Chihuahua Cheese and Picante Ketchup on a Brioche Bun with a Fried Tortilla Garnish
The Edge Burger at Edge Steak and Bar with Vermont Cheddar and House Pickles – One of Miami’s Best Burgers
Thank you to our contributors for sharing their burger expertise. Find out more about them below and follow them for more great burger tips and pics.