Chef John Tesar from Knife stops by Good Day to teach you how to build a better burger.
The Ozerksy Burger
5 ounces 80/20 ground sirloin
½ teaspoon butter, softened
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 slices American cheese
Thin slice red onion
1 potato bun, lightly toasted
I’m a fan of classic burgers, and of a certain simplicity that combines potent flavors and lets them be heard. My motto: keep strong flavors simple and clean. Here are a few tips you should know, before I go into the step by step recipe.
The cost of hamburgers in America is on the rise, and one of the reasons for this, besides a general uptick in the price of beef, is that people are putting short rib and brisket and all sorts of special cuts into their burger meat. That’s all well and good, but for me, the integral flavors come from ground sirloin. The best blend for ground beef is 80/20, meat to fat. Trust me, I’ve done the experimentation.
Forming The Patty
The right amount of meat is 5 ounces. Weigh it out. Too big a patty destabilizes the burger and makes it too meaty. Too small a patty and you only taste condiments, not meat. Five ounces is the perfect amount, right in the middle.
Form the patty in your hands. It’s no different from Play-Doh in school. Smash it. Work it pretty hard, but do it quickly, as you don’t want fat melting all over your hands. Don’t worry about compacting it too much. Use your whole hand: palm and fingers. Make sure that the circumference is clean and smooth, as you don’t want end crumbs cooking and falling off. The burger will shrink and buckle when it starts cooking, so the integrity of the patty needs to be solid.
The bun is of utmost importance! The two crucial aspects are that the buns need to be durable enough to hold the burger together when you pick it up to eat it, and it has to be something that’s absorbent and spongy, but not so much that it gets soggy and soaked. I use a potato bun at Knife and Knife Burger.
How to Cook a Burger Properly
Let me get this out of the way quickly: Don’t cook burgers on the open fire-grill. No matter how iconic the imagery of Dad flipping burgers on the grill out by the pool, the fact is that burgers both cook and taste better when seared in a pan. We don’t use the grill because the rendering fat inevitably causes flames to leap up and char the burger, giving it a lightly burned exterior and drying the meat. At the restaurant, we use a plancha or griddle, but at home use a cast-iron or blue steel pan to perfectly cook a patty without giving up all the juices.
To start, pat the ground sirloin into a thin patty, a little bit bigger than the potato bun. Smear softened butter over one side of the patty – this isn’t for flavoring, but to kick start the browning process. Then dust that side of the patty with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.
Add a dash of vegetable oil to the hot pan and let it heat for a few seconds before dumping out the oil – this cleans the pan, lubricates it, and moderates its temperature. Now, add a touch more oil and place the burger in the smoking hot pan, seasoned-side down.
It’s extremely important to develop a crust on the outside of the burger, which is why we use the pan. I recommend about 4-4 ½ minutes. While sizzling, season the top side of the burger with salt and pepper and baste it with the fat in the pan.
Next, Flip the burger. If you’re adding cheese, do it just as the burger has finished cooking and lay the cheese slices on top of the burger so they form an eight-pointed star. You can cover the pan at this point to help melt the cheese faster. Cook for another 4-4 ½ minutes.
Finally, with your lightly toasted or griddled bun, simply place onion on the bottom bun, followed by the meat. I don’t butter the bread or add any condiments, but you are welcome to do so to your preference. If you’re using lettuce or tomatoes, try not to let them extend beyond the span of the bun. Few things look worse than a sloppily built burger. Complete with placing the other half of the bun on top.