The Perfect Burger

April 2nd, 2014 | Simcha Weinstein | Comments Off on The Perfect Burger

Burger2Now that warmer weather is beginning to land, it’s time to dust off the grill and begin cooking outdoors. Of course, everyone’s grill favorite is the juicy, delicious hamburger. But creating that perfect burger, well… it’s actually more challenging than you might think. So, to make it as simple and as easy as possible, below are some burger tips from a true master of the grill – Jeff Weinstein (no relation).

Jeff is the founder and owner of The Counter, a premiere burger restaurant, which has its roots in Santa Monica, California. These tips for forming and cooking the perfect burger are re-printed from Michael Parks’ article in the Kitchen Daily. With grilling season now upon us, and particularly if you plan on grilling for company, these insightful tips will help you become a burger grilling master as well.

1. Don’t Push Down on the Meat: Consider this the cardinal rule of cooking burgers. “It squeezes out the juices, and the juices are the flavor,” says Jeff Weinstein, founder and owner of the Counter burger restaurants. “Would you rather have a juicy product that took an extra minute or a non-juicy product that came a little faster?”

2. Chill the Meat First: Before you form the patties, put the meat in the fridge for a half hour or so. You don’t want your body heat to melt away the fat as you shape it so getting it colder helps it withstand the treatment. Weinstein even washes his hands in cold water before working with it to reduce the temperature.

3. Don’t Overwork the Meat:
 People tend to ball up the meat as they form their patties. Don’t do that; less handling is better. The more you push down and compress, the tougher the meat will be.

4. Use Both Hands to Form the Perfect Patty: Pull the meat apart into equal pieces, then pat down into a patty on a hard surface with one hand while forming the rough edge with the other. Resist the urge to slam down! Some people use the caps of big mayonnaise jars instead, which is fine. Weinstein prefers a thickness of 3/4 of an inch to an inch.

5. Dimple the Patty: When beef patties cook, they contract, and leave you with a rounded and uneven burger. Push a little well into the center of the meat, about an inch or two wide and a quarter-inch deep. The burger will be perfectly flat when it’s done.

6. Back in the Fridge: After you’ve formed your patties, put them back in the fridge to cool down again for 30 to 45 minutes.

7. Use the Right Buns: Too many people put all their effort into the meat and then forget the bun! Try for a meat-to-bun ratio of 1:1. Buns about 4 inches to 4-1/2 inches wide are generally good. You don’t want a super-thick burger overhanging the bun — but rather a taste of every element — meat, bun, toppings — in every bite.

8. Get the Grill Really Hot: “The hotter the better,” Weinstein says. “You want to sear or char the meat really quickly so you have nice color on the outside and barbecue flavor on the inside.” Weinstein likes to put wood chips in his grill for that added smokey flavor.

9. Salt and Pepper: Add the spices just before the burgers go on the grill. Weinstein says he doesn’t like to add salt before this stage because he doesn’t want the salt to dry out the burger.

10. Put It on and Leave It Alone: Place the burger on the grill well-side up and leave it alone. “The biggest mistake people make is pushing the burger around because they want to look like a grill master,” Weinstein says. “Stick it down and leave it. You want to touch the burger three to four times at most. You’ll know if you have a sear if it comes right off. If it sticks to the grill, you haven’t let it sear long enough.”

11. Get a Nice Crisscross Pattern: Here’s the secret to that nice pattern people love so much: After you get the first sear, do a quarter turn, leave it alone for a little longer — a total of 5 to 6 minutes for that first side. Then flip it, cooked-side down, leave it for another three to four minutes, then do another quarter turn, let it get its marking, then take it off the grill.

12. Put on the Cheese Before It Leaves the Grill: Add cheese after your last flip or turn, while the burger’s still on the grill. It’ll start to melt slightly and be oozing nicely by the time it gets to the table.

13. Rest the Meat:
 After you take it off the heat, let the burger rest so it redistribute its juices –for two to three minutes — just like you would any steak. This way it won’t immediately lose its juices at the first bite.

14. Have Plenty of Toppings on Hand:
 Everyone’s got a different idea about what tops the perfect burger. Besides the standards — lettuce, tomatoes, pickles — try at least five or six less common options. Consider pepperoncini, jalapenos, or dried cranberries and break out of the American-cheddar-Swiss triumvirate of cheeses. Or think Havarti, Manchego, or Brie…

Happy grilling, and happy eating!