To find the optimal result, we put 12 pounds of meat through a trial by fire.
STEP 1: DEPEND ON CHUCK
Every butcher we consulted for this project pointed us to 100 percent ground chuck—specifically from a boneless blade roast. This is because the blade roast tends to be more marbled with delectable intramuscular fat than, say, a shoulder roast would. You’re going to need 2 1/2 pounds of chuck blade roast to make eight burgers. Order accordingly.
STEP 2: GRIND IT OUT
Grinding your own meat lets you control what goes into your burger. You can have a butcher grind it, you can grind it yourself using a food processor, or—for the juiciest burger with the best bite—you can use a real grinder. Try the sturdy, durable STX International STX-1800-MG Magnum ($190, amazon.com) or the KitchenAid food grinder attachment for your mixer ($65, kitchenaid.com).
1. Cut the beef into 1″ cubes, place them on a baking sheet, and freeze them for 25 minutes. That way the meat won’t turn all gummy in the grinder.
2. Attach a fine grinder plate to the hopper. Fill a bowl with 2 tsp each of kosher salt, ground black pepper, and dried minced onion; these reinforce the beefy flavor.
3. Feed a few cubes through the grinder, followed by a pinch of the spices. Repeat. Our tasters preferred burgers with the spices ground in.
STEP 3: SHAPE THE PATTIES
The key is minimal handling; too much packing yields a tough burger. Gently form the meat into a 5-ounce ball (think tennis ball) and then flatten it to slightly wider than your bun. (It’ll shrink.) Do this shortly before grilling. Room-temp patties are juicier and contract less than cold ones.
STEP 4: GRILL WITH PATIENCE
Too many well-made burgers are ruined by being manhandled on the grill. The secret to a meaty burger with a good bite: doing nothing. Put the patties on a hot grill and then step back. Don’t press on them with a spatula. Don’t shuffle them around the grate. Don’t close the grill lid. Our repeated tests showed that the burger patties we flipped just once developed a better outer crust and juicier center than burgers we flipped frequently.
1. Wipe the grate with an oiled paper towel. Place the meat over direct medium-high heat. Set a timer for 5 minutes.
2. After 5 minutes, flip. Wait 3 more, or until done to your specs (140°F for medium, 145°F to satisfy the USDA).
3. A burger will tell you when it’s done. See the blood and juice seeping through the surface? Translation: “Eat me!”
STEP 5: PILE ON THE TOPPINGS
First, toast the buns to reinforce structural integrity. Next spread a protective fat layer on the bun (butter, mayo) to prevent sogginess. Finally, build within reason. Try to hit as many textures and flavors as possible. We like these combos.
|Salty||Bacon||Chopped cornichons||Potato chips||Pesto|
|Tangy||Red onion, dill pickle slices||Dijon mustard||n/a||Tomato slice|
|Sweet||Ketchup||Caramelized onions||BBQ sauce||n/a|
|Gooey||American cheese||Gruyere||Cheddar cheese||n/a|