Health & Food, Inspiration

The Best Way to Cook a Perfect Burger

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To find the optimal result, we put 12 pounds of meat through a trial by fire.

A palate-altering burger must possess three vital traits. First, it must be grilled. Obviously. Second, it must have a chin-drippingly juicy interior and a satisfying crust. Last, it must be simple. You can futz with flavors when you top your burger, but first master the basics—choosing the beef and forming the patty. We spent weeks perfecting the craft. Here are the results.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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2. After 5 minutes, flip. Wait 3 more, or until done to your specs (140°F for medium, 145°F to satisfy the USDA).

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3. A burger will tell you when it’s done. See the blood and juice seeping through the surface? Translation: “Eat me!”

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STEP 5: PILE ON THE TOPPINGS

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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.

AMERICANFRENCHBBQCAPRESE PESTO
CreamyMayon/aColeslawMozzarella slice
SaltyBaconChopped cornichonsPotato chipsPesto
TangyRed onion, dill pickle slicesDijon mustardn/aTomato slice
SweetKetchupCaramelized onionsBBQ saucen/a
FreshRomainen/an/aBaby arugula
GooeyAmerican cheeseGruyereCheddar cheesen/a
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