You, like many of us, might have been making burgers by reaching for a package of pre-ground beef at your grocery store and calling it a day. With more and more home cooks looking for ways to be more hands-on in the kitchen, many of us are looking at how we can perfect our own burger blends. There are a lot of reasons for this, from rising food costs to wanting more control over what we're eating to simply wanting a better burger.
We've looked to some of our most popular celebrity chefs to see how they make some of their favorite burger blends and we found some good ones for you. As different as the toppings are, there are a few constants with the burgers themselves. Grinding fresh meat seems to be one of the most important things you can do for taste and quality, whether you invest in the equipment yourself or get friendly with your local butcher. Next, touch that meat as little as possible to keep it tender and juicy. Finally, sometimes all a perfect patty needs is a little salt. Let's dive into some delicious burger blends.
Alton Brown Goes For The Grind
The first (but not the last) celebrity chef on this list to espouse grinding your own meat at home, Alton Brown insists it's the only way to go. Using a mixture of 10 ounces each chuck and trimmed sirloin, Brown's recipe for perfect hamburgers from scratch only uses one additional ingredient — kosher salt. Cubing the beef first and then quickly pulsing it in your food processor (only 10 pulses should be needed) will give you a terrific texture without overdoing it. Overhandling your burgers is one of the most common mistakes everyone makes when cooking burgers, so don't go wild when you're chopping. Too much handling will only break down the protein structure of the meat, leading to compact burgers that are tough and dense.
Brown also recommends chilling the patties once you've formed them, in order to let the fat re-solidify so that the burgers keep their shape when grilling. Or deep-frying, like Brown's recipe for "reloaded burgers", which uses peanut oil to give your patties a juicy interior with a crispy exterior.
Andrew Zimmern's Got Game
Another fan of making beef burgers by grinding the protein yourself (or asking your butcher to do it for you) is Andrew Zimmern, known for wild game and home-style cooking. His go-to burgers for entertaining use freshly ground red meat, including chuck roast and occasionally bison. If you've never tried bison, it's similar to beef but is leaner. Zimmern makes up for this by adding other cuts to his burger blend so they don't end up dry and crumbly.
One way to do this is to make sure that your mixture contains cuts with a decent amount of fat, which is one of Zimmern's secret steps to leveling up his own burgers. He uses a combination of chuck, some short-rib meat, brisket, and fat. The chef will often save the fattier trimmings from other cuts of meat and add those to the grinder when making burgers at home. His preferred ratio is 75/25 protein to fat because he admits that he likes his burgers a little fattier, but you can go as low as 80/20 and still grill up a nicely juicy burger.
Bobby Flay Takes Shape Seriously
Flay doesn't make much mention of using carefully considered mixtures of meat in his burgers — he seems to be a mostly ground chuck kind of guy. He does, however, go with an 80/20 mix in his superbly juicy burger recipe, although you could go with a lean 90:10 ground turkey mixture if you really wanted to. Aside from ground beef, Flay doesn't add much else to the patty except for salt and pepper in order to the taste from veering into meatloaf territory.
One other tip the chef has for making perfect burgers has to do with helping them to keep their shape, without having to smash them down during the cooking process. His tip for perfectly shaped burger patties is quick and easy, too. Making a little indentation in the center of each raw patty helps to avoid swollen middles and shrunken burgers. The heat from the grill makes the protein contract so the outer edge gets smaller and that forces the center to bulge. By giving your uncooked meat that little divot, you're making room for the expansion while also making the patty larger to compensate for the shrinkage.
Curtis Stone Avoids Splurging For Salivating Flavor
After reading about chefs like Brown and Zimmern grinding cuts like sirloin for their burgers, you might think that even more expensive cuts will make an even better burger. But let us, and Chef Curtis Stone, convince you otherwise. Dropping a ton of money on something like Wagyu or a big hunk of ribeye might sound like a way to ensure that your mid-summer barbeque is the only one people talk about but it's also kind of a waste, according to Stone. While those cuts make for an incredible steak dinner, you're losing the beefy flavor that comes from the meat that goes into ground beef. Tougher, more muscular cuts, like chuck, are where you're going to find the kind of flavor that can stand up to grill marks and loads of toppings.
Stone also doesn't shy away from adding lots of ingredients to his burger patties, like the shallots, garlic, mustard, egg, and more that make up the meat portion of his Italian-style gourmet burger. Served with prosciutto, fontina cheese, and his own handmade ketchup, we think they might make the case for skipping grinding up the most expensive cut of beef you can get your hands on.
Giada De Laurentiis Uses Elevated Ingredients
Trust Giada De Laurentiis to take the humble burger and elevate it. Similar to Curtis Stone's burger, De Laurentiis uses ground chuck and flavors it to perfection, as well as topping it with her own signature ketchup — this time giving it the truffle treatment. Ingredients like Parmesan, truffle salt, and tomato paste give the patty a definite Italian vibe, while melted provolone cheese, arugula, and ciabatta buns her Italian truffle burgers a luscious-sounding way to spend your dinner hour.
If you're looking to boost the flavor of your patty from within, De Laurentiis also has a solution for that, too. Her genius tip is simply to add a spoonful of pesto to her ground beef before forming the patties. Using the same burger meat and amping it up with a touch of basil and Parmesan will give your dinner a hint of flavor, as well as moisture from the olive oil, without being overwhelming. Take it one step further and add pesto to some mayo for a topping that will boost the fresh Italian inspiration even more.
Geoffrey Zakarian Keeps It Simple
Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian prefers a blend of brisket, chuck, and ribeye in equal measure when he's whipping up the Iron Chef burger. Again, you can feel free to get your butcher to do this for you but if you've decided that burger perfection is your life calling, then you might want to look into a kitchen appliance that will make the job a cinch. Either way, we urge you to experiment with your burger ingredients to see what all the fuss is about. Zakarian's mixture uses brisket and ribeye, along with chuck, to enhance the beefy flavor and add a little more fat.
As for cooking these beauties, Zakarian keeps it simple. He doesn't add anything to the beef patties, except a flourish of salt and pepper at the end. However, one special touch he relies on is starting the onions first and then pressing the raw patty into the rings as they cook. That way, you're getting a little bit of caramelization on the onion as well as infusing the patty with a little extra flavor.
Gordon Ramsay Butters Things Up
A handful of chefs on this list encourage the liberal use of butter on your patties and Ramsay is one of them. He has admitted to using a lot of butter as his favorite juicy burger hack. Not only that, he uses the fatty flavor booster in two different ways when building a better patty. First, he will often grate frozen butter right into the meat mixture in order to give the patties a more lush texture. Next, he loves to baste the nearly cooked patties with a little extra butter, a trick that is used in all his restaurants to add more flavor. He also encourages home cooks to try out compound butter, like one infused with red wine or chipotle, to add their own flair to the patty.
Like others, Ramsay also likes a mixture of short rib, chuck, and brisket in his burger recipe for the loads of flavor it delivers. In his recipe, he encourages cooks to invest in a mincer for "a lifetime of great burgers". Either that or get on a first-name basis with your butcher, if you plan on eating incredible burgers every week.
Ina Garten Selects Simple Chuck
Garten's recipe for Niman Ranch burgers is a pretty simple one, but it still yields terrifically tasty results. Her preferred beef of choice is simple ground chuck (in an 80/20 combination) that has been freshly ground. As well, she doesn't believe in adding too much to the meat — only salt, pepper, and a bit of dry mustard. In this recipe, Garten just brushes the grill with olive oil but she isn't averse to using a little butter in her burgers for extra oomph on occasion. In her blue cheese burger, she actually buries a thin slice of butter right inside the patty, much like Gordon Ramsay.
Garten has a cool hack for making perfectly formed burgers, too. Once the patties are mixed and shaped, she stows them in the freezer for exactly 15 minutes. this will help the fat to resolidify so the patties keep their shape once they hit the grill. As well, you'll get a great sear on the outer beef, while the interior stays juicy (especially if you add a secret cache of butter).
Jamie Oliver Slathers Spicy Toppings On Simple Patties
If you've never experienced Jamie Oliver's Insanity Burger, this might be your sign to give it a go. The patty gets brushed with a mustard and chipotle hot sauce mixture as it cooks, giving it a tasty crust that seals in the juices. While this burger is part of his "showing off" recipe section on his website, his other burgers all rely on the same, simple one-ingredient patty. As well, Oliver relies on freshly ground (starting to see a pattern, yet?) chuck for flavor. Keep in mind that freshly ground can mean up to 48 hours, so don't feel like you need to buy that meat the second you start preheating your grill.
Like other chefs, Oliver makes simple burgers from his ground beef, opting to add flavor during the cooking process and with loads of flavor-packed toppings. He also places the patties in the fridge while prepping the other ingredients, preferring to grill them chilled. Finally, Oliver also recommends swapping out half of the beef for ground pork, as a way to change up this particular blend for something a little different.
Matty Matheson Breaks Out The Brisket
Known for some pretty over-the-top recipes and antics, Canadian chef Matty Matheson has a particular love for burgers. He recently partnered with A&W to promote his own version of their grass-fed, prime rib burger, topped with cheddar, grilled onions, fried pickles, and garlic aioli. Not only that, Matheson has opened a tiny take-out-only spot in Toronto, called Matty's Patty's Burger Club, serving only five different variations on the burger (including two plant-based options). Orders have to be placed in advance and sell out almost immediately. Like we said, this guy is all about the burgers.
For his Ultimate Burger, Matheson uses ground brisket, seasoned with only salt and pepper. Minced brisket gives the patty a terrific depth of flavor with a decent amount of fat (about the same as ground chuck, 80/20). If you often cook brisket at home, this might be another incentive for you to pick up that meat grinder. Save the trimmings from a few brisket dinners and you'll be able to pad out your burgers without a huge expense. Better burgers for fewer bucks? Sounds like perfection to us.
Martha Stewart Sinks Into Short Ribs
You might think that burgers wouldn't be Martha's thing but the Duchess of Domesticity has always had a few surprises up her sleeve. Obviously, her burgers aren't your typical frozen patties slathered with ketchup and melted American cheese. Rather, this recipe for her Steak-House Burger is just as posh as you might expect and we're definitely dying to try one. Stewart uses a mixture of boneless short ribs and sirloin steak in equal measure, freshly. ground. As for seasoning, Stewart is another stalwart who uses only a sprinkling of salt before grilling. Topped with red onions, blue cheese, and Dijon mustard, this burger does ooze sophistication.
Stewart also warns against overhandling your burger meat, like Alton Brown, in order to keep the protein from breaking down. When grinding, Stewart first puts the cuts through her grinder separately (using the coarse plate) and then combines the two ingredients for one final pass through the small plate. Once that's finished, she deftly forms the beef into patties without overworking them. And, it's interesting to note that she also uses the Bobby Flay indentation technique to keep the patties from bulging during cooking.
Michael Symon Smashes His Blend
Michael Symon's Fat Doug Burger is made from one-third each of sirloin, brisket, and short rib for the ultimate texture, fat, and flavor. One of the reasons Symon prefers to grind his own beef, aside from knowing exactly what you're eating, is that he likes a coarser grind that gives his patties a more luxurious and meatier texture. He also likes a 25% fat content but no less than 20% for the best finish. Symon also adds nothing else to his patties, aside from a liberal sprinkling of kosher salt and black pepper.
What if you wanted to try this burger blend but were also in the mood for a smash burger? Symon says that the best way to achieve the crispy crust that makes it so crave-worthy is with force and a little bit of oiled butcher paper. His simple tip for the perfect smash burger actually consists of two things. Make sure to slip a piece of oiled butcher paper between your meat and the implement. This will prevent the meat from sticking and coming apart — and ultimately destroying that crispy crust. Finally, be aggressive with the smashing. Use a burger press if you can and make sure the meat is in full contact with the grill for best results.
Rachel Ray Goes For Good Ol' Ground Beef
Rachel Ray's Beef and Chorizo Burgers with Chimichurri Sauce make use of simple ground beef to make these game-day delights quicker to whip up. The addition of ground chorizo sausage adds a major flavor boost, along with Worcestershire sauce, and salt and pepper. The self-proclaimed "Queen of Burgers" has lots of opinions on the best ways to make burgers, but she's also definitely taken the time to experiment with every possible combination, earning her some credibility in the field. And, in most of her burgers, the Queen relies on plain old ground beef for the patties. She doesn't say much about grinding her own meat but we assume that, as a burger lover, she's at least getting her butcher to do it.
She's always ready to share secrets for perfect burgers, including making a tiny patty to test your meat before cooking up a whole batch of underseasoned meat and what she prefers to cook those burgers on. Hint — it's not a grill. While she admits that those sear lines look impressive, her cookware of choice is a good old cast iron pan. Ray loves the even caramelization she gets from cooking on a solid surface.
Tyler Florence Suggests Plenty Of Fat For Patties
Take a spin through Tyler Florence's burger recipes and see that the chef uses all sorts of blends for all sorts of burgers. The one thing that remains constant, however, is that he's not adding a ton of seasoning to the meat, aside from salt and pepper. His recipe for The Burger Bar, hamburgers with a full-on tableful of toppings, relies on only ground brisket. He does recommend a decent amount of fat, at least 25%, in whatever protein combo you choose.
He's also a fan of making smash burgers at home and has a few tips for making them. In the recipe, he doesn't specify any particular blend of protein so we assume he's gone with ground chuck with a good percentage of fat. To avoid overworking it, he simply rolls the meat into a ball and drops it onto the grill, where he flattens it with a spatula. Not only does this keep the beef tender, but it also helps to get those crispy, smashed edges that we all love.
Read the original article on Tasting Table.