Building A Better Burger

After a recent visit to Burger & Barrel Wine Pub in New York City, where I discovered quite possibly the best burger I’ve ever eaten, I wondered why I hadn’t stepped my burger game up in a while.  To know me is to know that I love a good burger.  It is simply one of my favorite things to eat.  And other than a good chicken wing, a juicy burger is the only food that I actually get cravings for.  The decision to build a better burger was made and thus I put forth great energy and effort to construct one.  So join me Hominids as I ManUp and attempt to build a kick-ass burger.

The Past

I suppose I’ve made good burgers in the past.  At least that is what the family has told me.  I’d grab some 80% ground chuck packaged in styrofoam and would start from there.  From time to time I’d grab some ground lamb for lamb burgers or ground turkey for turkey burgers to switch it up.  But I digress.  The beef burger is the subject at hand.  From that point, seasonings and toppings dominated the design elements.  And I think that’s where I became less concerned about the meat and more concerned about seasonings and toppings and, thus, began to buy preformed patties from the grocery store.  The meat is clearly king and I treated it more like the court jester.  We err, we learn.

The Quest

Understanding my past shortcomings, I began with the very foundation of a burger and chose to ditch the preformed patty offered by the local grocer and called on a local butcher (Mazzye’s Meats) for more flavorful meat combinations.  I wanted a juicy burger so I knew I needed decent fat content, but I also wanted a richer taste to my beef.
You are more likely to get a butcher to create a special blend of meat for you than your grocer.  I asked Mazzye’s to blend beef short rib (decent fat content) and brisket (richer beef taste) in equal parts and that combination produced a blend that was roughly 30% fat according to the butcher.
I plopped down the $7.26 for my 1.6 pounds of special blend ground beef and headed for the old homestead.  With rich blend in hand, I could now give thought to topping my new kick-ass hamburger.  I wanted some spice, crunch and extra flavoring.  Hmmm.  Let me come back to that after I consider the chariot in which my flavorful burger will ride.  I would like to have scored a few brioche buns to get the job done but, for the life of me, have never been able to find any in the Syracuse area.  Thus, I settled on a soft Vienna roll with the Mr Clean sparkly shine on top.
Bun now selected, my attention was back on flavoring and toppings.  I generously seasoned the patty with salt and pepper.  I did not mix it in the meat.  When you mix and mash your ground meat, it can alter the texture of your finished product and not in a good way.  You are not kneading dough.  A looser formed patty will be more succulent and juicy.  Don’t mix in sauces, eggs, bread crumbs etc. because it screws with the texture and the flavor of the beef.
I decided on a flavorful cranberry, chipotle cheddar cheese for extra flavor and spice kick.  For crunch I flash fried shallots and added a slice of man candy AKA bacon.  The final garnish was an avocado, garlic, mayonnaise spread.  You should choose garnishes that float your boat and not necessarily what I settled on.  I grilled my seasoned patty to medium well (some pink) to ensure juiciness, topped it with aforementioned ingredients and served it with some seasoned sweet potato fries (frozen from a bag because I’m too lazy to make my own).  Note:  Don not press your patty on the grill while it’s cooking.  All of the juice that drips out when you do so drains the burger of flavor.

The Verdict

Taking the time to visit a butcher for a unique blend of meats paid off and opened the door to numerous blend possibilities.  The result of my chosen blend was a juicy, flavorful burger with the rich, earthy beef taste that I wanted.  And while it fell short of the heaven on a bun I experienced at the B&B Wine Pub in NYC, the family really seemed to appreciate the taste and the effort to build a better burger.
When next you get a hankering for a good burger, put in a little effort to select good meat and you and your fellow diners will be rewarded.  If you are already a master of burgers and want to share your tips, feel free to do so.  My mouth (and mind) is always open.