For burgers that cook up evenly and are easy to eat (an ideal balance of condiment, bun, and burger), here's your mantra: Don't pack.
- Put a touch of olive oil on both hands or wet them. They won't get goopy, and you won't overwork the meat, fish, or poultry. When mixing in flavorings, work gently.
- Shape a loose ball and hold it in your fingers. Press gently with the balls of your hands to form a patty. Don't pack. The more you pack, the denser the burger will be, and there's more potential for shrinkage.
- With the patty cradled in your fingers, press edges gently with your other hand cupped, turning the burger like a dial. Edges shouldn't be too shaggy, but they don't have to be perfect, either.
- Aim for patties a half-inch thick if you're working with meats such as beef, pork, lamb and poultry; fish burgers should be thicker, about 3/4-inch, to ensure juiciness in the center. To make sure you don't overcook the burger, stay by the grill and be sure the fire isn't too high. Turn the burger only once and never press on the patty with the spatula, which forces juices out, resulting in a dry burger.
10 Tips for Making the Perfect Burger
Tip #1: To Top or Not to Top
“To each your own for toppings, but I like grilled mushrooms. Porcinis are the best, thinly sliced and not too thick.” For some creativity and California flavor, Waxman loves putting guacamole on burgers. He also loves adding aioli, but not too much.
Credit: © Flickr/SimonDoggett
Tip #2: Ratio of Lean to Fat for Meat
“To me, traditional burgers are made with chuck meat, either rump steak or shoulder meat from the front. You don’t want to make a hamburger from filet mignon. One, it’s a waste of meat, and two, it doesn’t really taste that good.” Waxman recommends a ratio of 75:25 or 80:20 explaining that 90:10 is too lean and less than 75 is too fatty.
Credit: © Flickr/Virtual Ern
Tip #3: The Art of Simple Seasoning
Keep it simple. While people like to add a lot of things to the meat like diced onions, vegetables, cheese, eggs, etc., Waxman likes to stick to basics. For his burgers, he says to use sea salt, not kosher or table, but good quality, coarse salt, fresh pepper, and meat.
Credit: © Flickr/Happy Krissy
Tip #6: The Perfect Buttered Bun
"I love toasting my bun, so it can soak up the sauce, but I don't like it soft." Waxman's trick? "Buttering the bun after I grill it, not too much, but just a little. People are always like, 'what's that flavor?"
Credit: © Flickr/El Gran Dee
Tip #7: Griddle vs. Grill
There are a lot of good things about the griddle, but you don’t get the smoke, the char effect, or flavor from the grill. You could actually put a griddle on a BBQ, that’s kind of the Australian method. They cook over an open fire and put a griddle on top. It’s kind of cool because you can do both.
Credit: © Arthur Bovino
Tip #8: Seasoning the Grill
Make sure the grill is seasoned properly. Waxman recommends grilling up some bacon first so all the delicious flavor gets on the grill, then cooking the burger, and topping it with the cooked bacon. (Sounds like one of the greatest ideas we’ve heard in a long time.)
Credit: © Flickr/Daquella Manera
Tip #9: How Hot Is Too Hot?
Griddle or grill, how do you know when it's hot enough? “Medium heat is ideal: Not too low, and not too high.” Waxman says that for all grilling mediums, it should be the same, but it's relative to the type of grill that you’re using. If the grill is open-style, which means that the heat goes vertically straight up, then the burger doesn’t get the residual heat.
Credit: © Arthur Bovino
Tip #10: Take Your Time
“Everyone tries to cook too many burgers at the same time, so I tell them to chill out, have a beer or glass of wine, and then when the burgers ready, you’ll have a great burger.” That's why they call Waxman the Obi Wan Kenobi of the kitchen.
Credit: © Flickr/Magnus D
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