Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Most Valuable Burger

From food trucks to high-end warehouses of fine dining, the burger has become this season's must have restaurant accessory. This trend has been growing for years, but recently may have reached critical mass. As NOLA Defender pointed out yesterday, three new burger spots are slated to open in the next few weeks. This is all fine and well. But you can make a much better burger at home than any place in town.

A burger is all about the meat. It starts and ends with high quality meat ground freshly and handled simply. You can add anything you want to your burger, but please start with freshly ground beef. The type and ratio of cuts is important as well. Fifty percent of your total should be chuck. Chuck will provide the body and structure to your burger. The remaining fifty percent is up to you, but you want something with a fair amount of fat (flavor). Brisket ideally, but as Dan Stein laments, "All these burger places using brisket is making pastrami expensive." A good substitute for brisket is skirt.

And how do you get freshly ground beef if you don't have a meat grinder at home? Ask the butcher. Simply walk up to the counter and ask the butcher for a "Pound of chuck and a pound of brisket , ground through a thick grind, but not as thick as your chili grind."

To make your patty, be very careful. First, do not add anything to the meat. No salt, no Tony's, no  family secret marinade, nothing. I find six ounces is the perfect size. Make a patty by forming a ball and then lightly pressing down to the desired thickness. I like a quarter of an inch. Now park the patties in the fridge for about 30 minutes. This is a good time to heat up your grill or cast iron pan, which are the only two ways to cook a burger at home. Season the patties with salt and pepper just prior to cooking. I like to cook the burger until medium. At medium the fat has had time to melt and baste the meat, making for a juicier burger. Anything less and the meat can be chalky. This meat won't dry out if cooked more, but it will lose its appealing rosiness.

As for toppings, I like tomato, thin slices of onion, cheddar cheese, arugula, and Larkin sauce. Larkin sauce is a one to one ratio of mayo and stone ground mustard. You can find good buns at a decent grocery store. Buy them and toast them with some butter. Enjoy your Independence and a great burger.


Fleurdelicious said...

Totally agree with the arugula instead of butter or iceberg lettuce. Those peppery greens were MADE for burgers. I'm attempting some turkey burgers tonight inspired by FLIP burger in Birmingham, AL. Turkey, tomato, melted cheese, avocado and sprouts. Happy 4th to y'all and yours!

Anonymous said...

Cutting a chuck steak/roast into smaller pieces/chunks and pulsing in the old food processor for a few minutes turns out a mighty fine home ground burger.

Pontchartrain Pete said...

All good, I'll have to try getting the custom blend. I usually go with regular ground chuck.

I do one thing differently that I found works really well. I salt and pepper the meat prior to forming the patties.

Double Chin said...

Rene speaks the truth...the 50/50 chuck/brisket combo is absolutely the way to go. Like he said, keep it simple stupid. Don't put anything other than salt and pepper on the meat. Save all the extra crap seasonings for the poor souls that are cooking with 90/10 combos.

For those who don't know, Rare Cuts has these 50/50 babies pre-packaged and ready to throw on the grill. I picked mine up this weekend.

Peter said...

As a tangential aside, your title and your reference to Larkin sauce reminds me how much I miss your Slim Goodies Sunday night pop-up.

willifred said...

Actually , Flap meat would be just as good if not better than Skirt, more volume. I love the rich flavor. In fact it is my go to steak when people come over. Not like they are on many menus. La Boca does a special from time to time. It's the real Vacio, not the Flank they have on the regular menu.

Anonymous said...

sounds like a hamburger steak