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Burgers: anyone can make 'em, but few people cook 'em really (really) well. We're on a constant quest to up our game, so we checked in with Ron Silver, chef at Bubby's in New York City, which just introduced an entire burger menu (ahem, there's a Swiss-cheese-and-pastrami burger). Basically, we trust Silver with our dinner, and so should you. Here are five mistakes he sees in amateurs, plus some tips for achieving burger perfection.
As in, meat that’s too lean. According the Silver, ground beef that is less than 20 percent fat lacks flavor, and it's typically dry and difficult to cook. (If you're not sure, consult a butcher at your grocery store to find the right percentage.) “More fat equals juicy, flavorful burgers,” he says. You heard the man.
“After making the hamburger patties, right before throwing them on the hot pan, make sure to generously salt and pepper,” Silver says. These two kitchen staples bring out the flavor and create a nice crust. If you don't want a bland burger, this isn’t the time to be light-handed.
The pan or griddle you’re using should be just at the point of smoking while your burger cooks. “This is what will create a great sear and a crust on the outside of the burger,” Silver notes. A pan that’s not hot enough will not only cause the burgers to stick to the bottom, but will also mean that they’re steaming (instead of searing), so the burger will look gray and lack the salty, crusty flavor of a perfectly-cooked patty.
If you follow the above tips, you’ll have a mouthwatering burger for sure, but that doesn’t mean you can skimp on the details. For the perfect bun, Silver suggests toasting them on a buttered griddle for about a minute. As for toppings, the specifics are up to you, but keep them cold (unless, of course, they’re meant to be warm) until they go on the burger. That way, your pickles, onions and lettuce are crispy as can be, and your tomatoes are super fresh.
Per Silver, an eight-ounce burger should cook for approximately four minutes per side (about 120 degrees for medium rare, if you’re fancy and have a meat thermometer). And while we know you’re tempted to take a bite the second it’s done cooking, it’s important, Silver stresses, to let the burger rest for about six minutes before you eat. This allows the juices to disperse, and means you’re in for an even bigger treat. So be patient.