The hamburger is the centerpiece of American cuisine, plain and simple at its most basic – burger, bun – but also a canvas for endless creativity and refinement – sautéed mushrooms, avocado, sprouts, and so on. You can buy them cheap by the box at a corporate superstore; Serendipity 3 in New York City served Le Burger Extravagant with white and black truffles, caviar, and a fried quail egg for a smooth $295. Some people stuff them with cheese. Big eaters stack multiple patties and tons of toppings. My friend drizzles Bud Light on his as they grill.
For those who want to elevate their patties from burnt picnic grub to epicurean, we’ve outlined some tricks of the burger-flipping trade, courtesy of Alex Emrich, the chef behind the gourmet burgers on the Street Thyme food truck.
But before the practical advice, a bit of Emrich’s philosophy for maximizing great taste – “Put on some music you like, get in a good mood, and be positive while doing every step.” And now, the tips:
Step 1: Select local, grain-fed beef, which will result in a tastier burger because it has higher fat content, and as with most foods, local is typically better. It’s fresher and has been handled less, always a plus for good meat.
Step 2: Pull golf-ball-sized chunks of beef from the package and place in a large bowl, which also helps reduce the amount of handling, keeping the beef tender.
Step 3: At this stage, season with whatever you’d like – dry seasoning, chunks of cheese, bacon, etc. – but don’t salt the meat until it hits the grill. It will dry out the beef if it sits too long.
Step 4: Form the beef into patties, about three quarters of an inch thick.
Step 5: Heat the grill to about 375 degrees.
Step 6: Place the patties evenly over the flames, salt, and close the lid.
Step 7: Wait a few minutes then check on your burgers, and guesstimate how thoroughly cooked they are. When they’re cooked 75 percent through, flip them one time only. This practice assures all the juices are seared into the burger, creating the best possible taste. Being a good grill master requires educated guesses, and it makes it more fun, too.
Step 8: Use your spatula to gently press on the meat and feel how tender it is. A trick: relax your right hand, then touch your right thumb and right pinky finger. Use your left hand to squeeze the fleshy area of your right hand between the base of your thumb and your pointer finger – that is what rare feels like. Now touch your right ring finger to thumb and feel the same area with your left hand – that’s medium rare. Middle finger to thumb is medium, and pointer to thumb is medium well.
Step 9: Add cheese and any other toppings you want melted on top your burger. It will take very little time to finish, so plan accordingly with how you like your burger cooked. Remember to let the burgers sit and finish cooking after you pull them off, which will also allow the juices to spread evenly through the meat. Toast your bun now, if you like.
Step 10: Top your burger with any veggies or condiments you like and enjoy!