8 Chefs Share Their Secret to the Perfect Burger
Today is one of the best fake holidays of all: National Cheeseburger Day! And you know what that means? It means I know what I’m eating for dinner. But I won’t be dining on just any old patty and bun… I’m going for the ultimate cheeseburger. What’s essential to the perfect burger? Every chef has his or her own opinion on that subject—and it’s often very contested. In hopes of total burger optimization, I’ve rounded up eight chef secrets for the perfect burger. From here, it’s only a matter of trial and error. One thing is for sure: I’m going to eat well tonight.
Chef Mike Rubino of L.A. restaurant Simmzy’s newly opened Venice location tells us the secret to starts with the patty: “Go to your local butcher and spend a little more on the higher-grade, all-natural beef. You will be able to tell the difference from what you purchase at the supermarket. The only seasoning that the patty needs is salt and pepper on the outside. No fillers like breadcrumbs or eggs are necessary. Let the beef flavor stand alone.”
Chef Joseph Stayshich of Karbach Brewing Co. in Houston, Texas, explains that a great burger begins on the grill grates. “Before I put the beef on the grill, I’m gonna season it,” he says. “I’m gonna add a liberal amount of salt and pepper and just get the grill ready by seasoning the grill with oil.”
Canadian chef Michael Smith, Food Network host of Chef Michael’s Kitchen, Chef Abroad, and Chef at Home, also argues that the key is in your meat: “Ground chuck is your best choice because it has a higher fat content than ground round or ground sirloin.”
The burger-making hack that celebrity chef Bobby Flay, who literally wrote the book on burgers, swears by is well known—and for good reason: It works. To make a burger that is juicy and moist, he recommends forming each serving of meat “loosely into a 3/4-inch-thick burger and [making] a deep depression in the center with your thumb.” In his book Bobby Flay’s Burgers, Fries, and Shakes, he explains that doing so “prevents flying-saucer-shaped burgers” that inevitably need to be pressed with a spatula to cook thoroughly, causing the juices to run out and your burger to taste like “a compacted, dry hockey puck.” His trick ensures you juicy, moist meat because “as the meat cooks and expands, the depression magically disappears, leaving with beautifully shaped and cooked burgers.”
Chef Sylvain Delpique of iconic New York restaurant 21 Club has the establishment’s famed burgers down to a science. “You have to look at the fat content ratio,” he says. “You don’t want to go above 15% to 18% fat, because if you cook the burger above rare or medium rare, you’re going to melt all the fat that the butcher puts in, so what’s the point? You could end up shrinking a 10-ounce patty down to five ounces.”
Los Angeles–based private chef Corey Burgan tells us, “The secret to my perfect burger is Dijon. It gives a nice bite and goes well with the fresh toppings.” And before you lather on that French mustard, he says, “never forget to toast your bread.”