SAN JOSE, Calif. There are burgers and then there are burgers.
The ones that make you channel a steamy Kate Upton cheeseburger commercial, moaning with every bite as juices and condiments run down your arms and some wiseacre at the next table says, Ill have what shes having.
But burgers at home rarely attain those ecstatic heights or rather, they dont if youve peeled a preformed patty off a frozen chub and then slammed the spatula-squelched meat between supermarket buns.
So we turned to Bay Area experts, chefs known for their burger prowess including Hubert Keller from Fleur de Lys and Burger Bar, Adam Fleischman from Umami Burger, Amy Murray from Revival Bar+Kitchen, and Elena Duggan, whose Original Joes burgers have used the same foolproof recipe since 1937.
We asked them for help in crafting the perfect classic burger with the following guidelines: No esoteric meats. No wild yeast buns or molecular gastronimified anything. And no time-killers.
Heres what they said;
A burger is only as good as the meat. Look for freshly ground, good quality meat with enough fat 20-30 percent to keep it juicy. Buy a piece of chuck at a butcher counter and ask them to grind it while you wait. Or buy a steak and use a food processor to grind your own. It will often grind better if you cut it into chunks and freeze it.
Be gentle with meat the grinding and shaping determine whether youre going to serve a beautifully textured burger or a hockey puck.
Go light on the seasoning. Fleischman says: Put stuff on them after theyre cooked, not before.
Get buns from an actual bakery, not a polka-dotted plastic bag on a supermarket shelf.
If youre adding veggies, start with the toasty bottom of the bun, then add the lettuce to protect the bread. Tomato slices go next, to protect the lettuce from the hot patty which has rested after coming off the grill then the meat, the onions and everything else.
Heat the grill (or cast iron pan or griddle) until very hot. Season the patties with salt and pepper, and place them on the grill. Do not press them with a spatula or touch them for 3-4 minutes.
Flip the patties. (If they dont want to loosen from the grill, theyre not ready to be flipped. Let them cook another minute and try again.) Let them cook another 3-4 minutes, undisturbed.
Add cheese and let it melt a little. Then remove the patties to a plate, tent with foil and let them rest for 2-3 minutes.
Meanwhile, toast the buns.
PHILS SLIDERS SPECIAL SAUCE
Makes 1 1/4 cups
1/2 small red onion, diced
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish
1 large or 2 small plum tomatoes, medium dice
1 tablespoon chipotle puree
1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1. Lightly caramelize the onions in olive oil with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Remove from heat and let cool.
2. Combine with remaining ingredients, adjusting seasonings to taste.
Hugh Groman, Phils Sliders
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 thickly sliced onion rings
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. In a small mixing bowl, mix the mustard, honey and olive oil.
3. In a grill pan, cook the onion rings just enough to mark them. Transfer to a sheet pan and brush with mustard glaze. Roast 15 to 20 minutes, basting with mustard glaze every 3 to 4 minutes.