"Burgers have always been a part of my life," says Richard Blais, whose first job was at McDonald's. "I think they are the iconic American food." The Top Chef winner and owner of Flip Burger Boutique restaurants debuts his first 12-episode series on Tasted, called Burger Lab. In his first episode (video below), Blais forms a mega-burger: his Smoking Gun Burger, a brisket burger topped with cole slaw and barbeque brisket on a potato bun. "Cole slaw is really important for the burger," says the chef. "It provides a lot of texture, and the crunch of that vegetable component is integral to how the burger tastes."
The instructive burger series captures everything from lamb burgers to a Super Bowl burger to, perhaps Blais's strangest creation, the raw burger. This tartare burger is uncooked and topped with fried oysters. While Blais gets creative with his burgers, he assures that he cooks in a classical style and won't resort to anything too fantastical just for spectacle such as the infamous burgers with donuts for buns. "It's all pretty classical stuff but done with a creative tone," says Blais. "Most of these [combinations], in some culture or in some point in history, have worked together."
While his burgers may look and sound difficult to make yourself, any one can make them in their own home, especially with a few tips from the expert.
For the "aspiring burger chef," Blais recommends buying a cast iron griddle. "They sort of mimic the char flavor you can get off a grill, and they are inexpensive," he says. Everything else you need, you should already have in your kitchen. In fact, the Burger Lab series was filmed in a home kitchen, not an industrial one.
Blais also emphasizes the need to be a smart shopper when cooking. Whether you are grinding your own meat (which Blais prefers because it makes each burger unique) or buying ground beef, check the fat percentage. For burgers, look for meat with around 20 percent fat. "Buying quality ingredients is the best thing you can do," explains Blais.
When it comes to flavoring his burgers, Blais says, it is all about seasoning, fat and acidity. Season your burger with salt but also pepper and other spices, and always add an acidic element, be it ketchup, vinegar or a squeeze of lemon. Experiment to find this balance and figure out what flavors you like. "Most mistakes are [still] delicious when you are talking about burgers," says Blais.
Still, the biggest technical mistake Blais sees people constantly make is over-manipulating their burger by squeezing it, smashing it and pressing it into the pan. By doing this, "you squeeze all the juice out of it and you squeeze all the flavor out," he explains. "I say it in this first episode [and it] is probably the hallmark of the whole series: treat a $6 burger as a $65 steak."
Catch new episodes every Monday on Tasted and check out the first episode below.
Image Credit: Ryan Bradley