By Logan Yost
THE PERFECT CHEESEBURGER
I have to be totally honest. Until about two months ago, I had never really made a cheeseburger. I’ve certainly eaten them, but the main reason I’ve never made them is that I prefer them very well done and most people do not. All that cooking for different amounts of time can really add stress to having people over, so I always ended up making something that everyone likes. Well, I finally decided to bite the bullet and make it my mission to discover the perfect burger. I wanted to really get into it and make sure that when I was done with my experimentation, there would be no way possible that it could be any better. I managed to achieve my goal on the first try. I used Julia Childs cooking method and my own brain for the recipe, and the result is absolutely the best burger I’ve ever had.
Here are a few tips:
1. You want the meat itself to be flavorful. This requires a higher fat content and salt.
2. You want a cheese that doesn’t fight with the meat like I feel a lot of them do, so I went with an extra-sharp white cheddar. It can hold it’s own, but it still allows the burger itself to be the star.
3. You want a really good crispy crust on the outside, so using a searing hot dry pan accomplishes that.
4. You want to insure that regardless of the desired doneness, the meat is still moist. The searing plays a large part, but so does 1 tablespoon of butter placed right on top before the cheese.
5. You want to use really good bread, not that nonsense you can find in the bread aisle, but GOOD bread. Get something from the bread counter or the bakery. Brioche is fantastic, so is a good Kaiser roll or a potato bread. Just make sure not to overwhelm the burger with too much bread. The ratio of meat to bread is important, and so if necessary, you can always trim a little bit of the bun off from the inside of each side.
6. A simple mustard aioli, because I feel the bun needs something to not only keep every bite moist, but add even more flavor.
While I maintain that this version is the best I’ve done, I am also a fan of using Swiss cheese and truffle butter instead of cheddar and aioli. It’s also very good with white cheddar, arugula, thinly sliced tomato, thinly sliced red onion, good bread & butter pickles, mayo, and Dijon mustard. When it comes right down to it, the burger is one of those perfect things that, when prepared correctly, can be done in an endless combination of ways. From outdoor picnics to fancy dinner parties, the burger is and will always be a great American tradition. Just like marriage between a man, and his five wives!
PAN FRIED BURGERS:
- 2-lbs fresh ground beef 80/20 (20% fat)
- 1-teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for cooking
- ½-teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper, plus extra for cooking
- 1 large egg
- Vegetable oil
- 6-tablespoons unsalted butter
- 6 slices extra sharp white cheddar, 1/8” thick and about the size of the burger
- 6 good brioche rolls, toasted
- Mustard aioli, recipe to follow
Preheat the oven to 300* F
On a half-sheet pan, place the bun halves, cut side up, and toast them for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove and set aside for plating.
In a mixing bowl, mix the beef, 1-teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, and egg with clean hands. When mixing, do it as gently as possible, so as not to compact the meat any more than necessary. Divide the beef into 6 and lightly form them into patties slightly bigger than the buns. (They will shrink considerably when they cook.) Set aside for 10 to 15 minutes to allow the patties to come to room temperature a bit. I’ve noticed it makes a huge difference in how they cook.
When it’s time to cook the burgers, sprinkle the upsides of them with pepper, and brush them with vegetable oil. Using a large open stainless steel fry pan (13-14” is best), heat the pan over high heat for a couple minutes. You want the pan to be screaming hot! You can test the heat by wetting your hand and flicking your fingers at the pan. If the water forms balls and bounces around quickly, it is not ready. If the water almost immediately evaporates, it’s HOT! Sprinkle the pan liberally with kosher salt and place the burgers, oiled side down, into the pan. Pepper the other sides and again brush with oil. Flip the burgers, according to preferred doneness. (Time suggestions below.) Three minutes prior to them being done, add 1-tablespoon of butter to the tops of each, followed immediately the cheese, and loosely cover the pan with foil. While cooking the second side, add the aioli to both sides of the buns and as soon as they are done, assemble and serve!
RARE: 3-4 minutes on each side
MEDIUM: 5-6 minutes on each side
WELL: 7-9 minutes on each side
SLIDERS: 2-4 minutes on each side
- 1-cup good mayonnaise
- ¼-cup grainy mustard
- 1-tablespoons white wine vinegar
- Pinch of kosher salt
- Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
In a medium bowl, whisk all ingredients together. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Aioli will keep in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 weeks.
Like pizza, tarts, pancakes, or pasta… The cheeseburger can be anything you want it to be. Remember that all you need is a solid cooking method and your imagination to create an endless variety of incredible burgers.. Oh, and Bee Tee Dubs, if you don’t have a hood above your stove, your kitchen will for sure look like a New York bar prior to the smoking ban. You’re not doing it wrong, it’s just one of the hazards we endure for really great food!