Burgers 101 with Chef Andy
By Andy Mueller
GREEN BAY – Being a professional chef requires one characteristic above all others – being passionate about food. If there’s one food I’m more passionate about than others, it’s the hamburger.
As comfortable on a fine dining steakhouse menu in New York as it is on a truck stop menu in Northeast Wisconsin, the hamburger will always have a home. With the summer still in full swing, opportunities await right outside your back door to create the juiciest, best tasting burger you’ve ever had.
With a few simple tips and an eye for quality, you will learn to be a Burger Meister in no time.
Simply grilling or frying a ground beef patty, placing it on a bun and dousing it with condiments can be considered a hamburger, but taking it to a level of memorable requires more effort. But in this case, the end definitely justifies the means.
Four factors can influence the outcome, and each one is as important as the other.
First we consider the grind. If you have a meat grinder, you’re a step ahead, and if you’re on a mission to create the juiciest, most flavorful burger ever, it’s an investment that will pay off in the long run. Use the medium blade and grind it twice. If you don’t grind it enough, your burger will be tough. If you grind it too fine, it’s meatloaf time.
The second factor is the blend. You don’t have to have six different kinds of meat to get the best burger. It is, however, quite fun to experiment with different cuts and the unique flavor, texture and finish each cut offers. I’ve found the best blend to be 50 percent chuck or round roast for that beefy flavor, 25 percent beef brisket for great texture and 25 percent beef short rib for that rich, buttery flavor.
The third factor in building a better burger is the ratio of lean to fat. There is nothing I walk by faster in the grocery store than the 95 percent lean to 5 percent fat or even a 90/10 blend. Fat is flavor – I would never pick out a ribeye with no marbling, and the same goes with a burger.
Ideally, I’m looking at 70 percent lean to 30 percent fat. You may think this is a bit much, but the difference in the aforementioned ratios are the difference between having to use one napkin or six. I want sweet chin music that makes my skin shine in the sunlight. If you put out a platter full of 70/30 burgers for your friends or family, it’s like throwing a cupcake into the middle of a Jenny Craig meeting.
The heat is the final major factor in the better burger process. Some swear by the grill and some prefer to sear the meat in a cast iron pan. I say do both.
Strictly grilling can dry out the meat as the juice will drip down and create unnecessary flare ups that don’t help the cause. Cast iron searing retains juices better, but you don’t get that smokey nuance only coals or hardwoods can achieve.
Cast iron can take almost any and all types of heat, including being placed on the grill. You get the cast iron sear over direct heat, then move to indirect heat while still in the pan off the coals and cover to finish cooking.
Buns are a little more personal, as they so often are. Soft, hard, chewy, crusty – this is where your personality comes out – I find the simple semmel roll works best as it doesn’t get gummy from excess juice and it has just enough chew to compliment the meat.
The hamburger is like a canvas to an artist – go ahead, get creative and paint your masterpiece.
Bleu Cheese Aioli Topping for Burgers
This homemade mayo is the perfect topping for your hamburger or steak.
Grill sear your burger in a cast iron skillet on the grill.
Start with direct heat to sear the burger on both sides then move the pan to indirect heat, cover and finish cooking.
Top with bacon, fresh lettuce, sliced tomatoes, pickles and this Bleu cheese aioli – serve on toasted semmel roll.
In a food processor add:
- 1 whole egg
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tsp. Dijon Mustard
- The juice of 1/2 lemon
- Salt and pepper to taste
- A few dashes of Tabasco
- 1 tsp fresh garlic
With the motor running, slowly drizzle in canola or avocado oil until mixture starts to thicken like a mayonnaise (approx. 2 cups). Transfer to a mixing bowl then add 1/2 cup bleu cheese crumbles, mix to combine – adjust seasonings to taste.
Chef Andy Mueller is Owner Chef of Galley 57 Supper Club in Bellevue – galley57.com.